Uber and Uber Drivers
Ride-share accidents are common. Drivers are often distracted and inattentive. A common defense by the ride-share companies, such as Uber, is that they can’t be held at fault because the drivers are not employees. The California legislature recently struck a blow to that defense.
ASSEMBLY BILL 5
Recently California lawmakers passed a landmark bill that threatens ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft. The legislation, called Assembly Bill 5, will require ride-share workers to be reclassified as employees instead of contractors. The bill is set to go into effect on January 1, 2020.
IMPORTANCE OF ASSEMBLY BILL 5
Uber downplays the law’s impact and argues it will not apply to its business. We have experience with ride-share litigation. This new law will make it more difficult for companies to escape the conclusion that they are transportation companies and their drivers are employees.
HOW THE LAW WORKS
In California, an employer is responsible for the wrongful acts of its workers committed during the scope of employment. In contrast, the employer is not responsible for the actions of independent contractors.
Ride-share companies have taken the position that they are nothing more than technology companies that generate leads for drivers.
The California Public Utilities Commission has already dismissed that assertion. The PUC concluded that Uber requires a license as a transportation provider.
Also, many courts have rejected Uber’s assertion that it is not a transportation provider. As an example, in O’Connor v. Uber Technologies, Inc., the United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied Uber’s motion to dismiss based on the argument its drivers were only independent contractors.
The Court concluded that drivers were presumed to be employees because they performed services for the benefit of Uber.
The Court further found that whether an Uber driver was an employee or independent contractor could not be decided as a matter of law. A jury must resolve the question.
The Court believed there were many facts material to the employee/independent contractor determination in dispute. As examples of disputed facts, Uber argued it was not a transportation company. However, the O’Connor Court found that Uber had previously represented itself as a transportation company, referring to itself as an “On-Demand Car Service,” and “Everyone’s Private Driver.”
Uber further argued that it was nothing more than a lead generating company. The O’Connor Court disagreed, finding that:
1) Uber was deeply involved in marketing its transportation services,
2) qualifying and selecting drivers,
3) inspecting the vehicles a driver uses,
4) regulating and monitoring the performance of drivers,
5) disciplining (or terminating) drivers who fail to meet Uber standards, and
6) setting prices.
If you are injured because of the negligence or wrongdoing of an Uber or Lyft driver, you have a viable claim against the driver and the ride-share company. We know how to prosecute these cases against the driver and the company. Schedule a free consultation so we can maximize the value of your case.