An Uber driver in Chicago made the news in late July for the wrong reasons. The driver, a 27-year-old from Midlothian, allegedly was driving drunk when he struck a police officer’s vehicle on I-94 near 76th Street. The officer was injured and required hospitalization.
If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunken Uber (or Lyft) driver, would you know what to do? Would you know who to pursue for compensation for the harm you suffered? For answers to these and other essential questions, be sure to seek out the advice of an experienced Chicago car accident attorney.
In that type of situation, you’d probably recognize that you could sue the driver. But, what do you do if the driver has few assets only has minimal insurance coverage, while you have piles of medical bills and other damages? Can you sue Uber? The answer is: potentially yes.
Generally, it can be very, very hard to sue Uber or Lyft for the negligence of one of their drivers – and win – if you’re seeking damages under the legal theory of vicarious liability. That’s the legal concept that generally allows injured people to seek compensation from an employer when an employee is negligent. Companies like Uber have gone to great lengths to structure their contracts such that they can argue that their drivers are not employees but are independent contractors. (In Illinois, if the relationship is an independent contractor one rather than an employee-employer one, then there typically cannot be vicarious liability.)
So, you may have a big mountain to climb on vicarious liability. That doesn’t mean you can’t win, though. You may be able to pursue a winning case by asserting that the rideshare company was itself negligent, and was therefore directly liable, not just vicariously liable.
How does that work?
There may be several things you can pursue. If you have proof that there were “red flags” on the driver’s driving history before the rideshare company contracted with him, you can assert that the rideshare company was negligent in hiring him. If the driver ran afoul of the law while contracted with the rideshare company, then you may have a case against the rideshare company for its negligent retention of the driver. (That means that they were negligent when they didn’t fire the driver after the problems emerged.)
When you set out to do this, you’ll need the right evidence. For example, proof that the rideshare company was negligent in checking the driver’s background can help. Last year, CNET reported that Uber and Lyft had been using background screening companies that were cheaper than those used by most of the taxicab companies in operation. These cheaper checks were also less thorough, according to a lawsuit that claimed that the checks wrongfully failed to identify more than two dozen driver candidates with criminal histories.
If you find yourself injured by an Uber or Lyft driver, you need the right legal counsel to help you get the compensation you deserve. The knowledgeable Chicago Uber accident attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson & Bareck have been helping injured people for many years and are ready to discuss your case with you. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.