Here in Illinois, the state has strong laws regarding using cell phones while driving. This summer, the penalties for causing an injury accident (or fatal accident) due to distracted driving are going up – to a potential maximum of a $1,000 fine and a one-year driver’s license suspension, according to the Chicago Tribune. One of the groups of people who depend heavily on their phones, and are at a high risk of driving distracted, are Uber and Lyft drivers. Their job involves lots of driving and their access to new riders involves lots of interfacing with a cell phone app, so the potential for danger is clear. If you’ve been injured by a distracted Uber driver, then you may be entitled to compensation through a civil court action. By reaching out to an experienced Chicago car accident attorney, you can get the information you need about your legal options.
Dealing with the need to use a cell phone app frequently while also driving frequently is something that all Uber drivers must deal with. Regrettably, some do it better than others. Posts on Uber message boards contain multiple “horror” stories like one Chicago-area rider who stated in 2019 that “I took an Uber ride a couple years ago in River North where the driver was holding his phone on his lap. I didn’t feel a strong sense of safety during that ride.”
It sounds like that rider got home safely, but not all riders are similarly fortunate. In Toronto, Canada, a man’s Uber ride to the airport was his last. According to a report by The Star, the Uber driver transporting the man and his girlfriend first went the wrong way on the expressway, managed to navigate onto the correct expressway going the correct way, but then lost control of his cell phone. The driver pulled over to retrieve the phone from the floor of the car, but did not get his vehicle completely outside the far-right travel lane before stopping. Another driver crashed into the Uber driver’s car, fatally injuring the passenger and severely injuring his girlfriend.
In lawsuits by injured passengers in the United States, Uber often bases at least part of its defense on the driver’s status as an independent contractor, arguing that it cannot be liable for the driver’s negligence because the driver was not an employee.
Even though the laws of Canada and the laws of Illinois are different from one another, there are some aspects of this Canadian lawsuit that may be useful to people injured by distracted Uber drivers here in Illinois. The Canadian lawsuit alleged that the Uber driver involved in this crash was so poor at getting around Toronto that he could not navigate to a desired destination without paying constant attention to his phone, thereby creating a safety hazard. The complaint also discussed extensively the lack of training that the driver received from Uber, according to news reports.
Building claims that assert Uber’s liability due to its direct negligence
Similar allegations can be important to a lawsuit in Illinois. Even if Uber manages to escape vicarious (indirect) liability for the negligence of its driver in an injury lawsuit, it cannot use a driver’s employment contract status to escape liability for its own direct negligence. Examples of types of direct negligence that a hiring/contracting entity can face include negligent hiring and negligent training. Proof that an Uber driver was, like the Toronto one, so poor at navigating that he must pay constant attention to his phone to get anywhere may go toward establishing that the rideshare service engaged in negligent hiring. Evidence of an obvious lack of sufficient training, as the plaintiffs alleged in the Toronto case, could be the basis for a successful negligent training claim.
Uber and Lyft riders should be able to feel safe when they step inside the vehicle. When it is an unsafe distracted driver or a driver who commits sexual attacks, too many passengers are not as safe as they should be when they’re riding with Uber or Lyft. If you’ve been injured during an Uber or Lyft ride, then you may be entitled to compensation from that service. Reach out to the experienced Chicago car accident attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca to get the help you need. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.