Back in February, Patch.com reported on an Uber driver who seriously injured two people when he crashed into a banquet hall in suburban Chicago. The accident caused substantial harm to a valet and a bystander standing at the front of the banquet hall in Streamwood.
This accident may trigger you to ask, what can you do legally if you’re injured by an Uber driver or a Lyft driver? Can you sue the rideshare service or is going after the driver alone your only option? Does your ability to sue the rideshare service go away if the rideshare driver was off-duty at the time of the accident? A recent case from here in Cook County offers potentially good news. As with any injury scenario, if you find yourself in that situation, you should reach out to a knowledgeable Chicago injury attorney promptly to discuss the details of your accident.
In the recent Chicago case ruling, an injured man was able to proceed against a rideshare service, even though the rideshare driver was off duty at the time of the accident. In that circumstance, the injured man was allegedly struck and injured by M.H., a driver for Uber. The injured man sued the driver and also sued Uber Technologies, Inc.
The rideshare service asked the judge to dismiss it from the case. The key to Uber’s argument was that M.H. allegedly was “offline” (a/k/a off duty) when the accident happened. This potentially matters a great deal in cases like this. Rideshare services like Uber often may attempt to avoid liability for the negligent acts of their drivers by arguing that the service and driver did not have the sort of relationship required under the law to impose liability on the service. This argument of insufficient relationship is a very common one from defendants facing potential vicarious liability obligations. (That’s because, if there is an insufficient relationship, then the service may only be liable for its own direct negligence.)
In this case, Uber argued that, once a driver is offline, he stops being an Uber driver and becomes just another private person driving a personal vehicle for personal reasons, meaning that the service couldn’t be liable for the driver’s conduct.
The outcome of the hearing was a very informative one for people injured by Uber, Lyft or other rideshare drivers. The trial judge ruled for the injured man, meaning that the injured man potentially gets his day in court against both the driver and Uber. The key to the injured driver’s success was the issue of “control” as it relates to the relationship between service and driver. In order to extend vicarious liability to an entity like a rideshare service (such as Uber,) you have to demonstrate something that the law calls an “agency relationship” between the driver and the service. To do that, you often need evidence that the service exercised a certain required degree of close control over the driver. If you can show sufficient control, you have evidence of an agency relationship and can go after the service in court.
The judge in this Chicago case concluded that legitimate issues of fact remained regarding just how closely Uber controlled offline drivers. It was possible that, even though M.H. was offline, the service continued to exercise such a high degree of control over him that an agency relationship still existed and Uber was still possibly liable for the Chicago man’s injuries.
If you’ve been hurt by an Uber or Lyft driver, you need to know where to turn. Talk to the experienced Chicago injury attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson & Bareck. Our attorneys have many years’ experience helping injured people, and are here to help with our case. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.