If you think about companies that have revolutionized modern life, you’d do worse than to think of Uber and Lyft. Ridesharing services have become so ubiquitous, such a part of modern travel that it’s hard to remember a time without them.
Think about it: when’s the last time you traveled somewhere and realized you couldn’t call an Uber? How discombobulating is it to realize you’ve gone to another city or town and you can’t hitch a ride with a Lyft if you’re in need?
But the truth is that being popular isn’t the same as being great, and there’s a lot of room for improvement with rideshares, especially when it comes to protecting passengers. House Bill 2231 would consider rideshare services, such as Uber and Lyft, as “common carriers,” which means that the company would now be able to be held responsible for any injuries and accidents that riders suffer while using the rideshare service. Currently, only drivers are held responsible for injuries and accidents, keeping the company protected from liability.
In Illinois, other forms of transportation are already classified as “common carriers,” such as taxis, subways, trains, elevators*, buses, and more. This means that if someone is hurt while riding an elevator, taking a subway, or even while in a taxicab, the company can be held liable instead of only the driver/ operator. Since these companies have been making profit while also being considered “common carriers,” it is believed that Uber and Lyft can do the same.
(*Yes, elevators – though technically, it’s the building operator who is held liable, not the machine itself.)
Uber and Lyft will have the same level of liability as taxicabs and other public transportation options if House Bill 2231 is passed. However, this is not the only issue that Uber is currently facing in the state of Illinois. Increasing the level of liability for Uber and Lyft will help victims of rideshare accidents in their time of need.
Why is Uber against this new bill?
In 2014, the Transportation Network Providers Act stated that Uber and Lyft were not “common carriers.” The law explained that rideshare services “are not common carriers, contract carriers or motor carriers, as defined by applicable State law, nor do they provide taxicab or for-hire vehicle service.” Illinois is hoping that the common carrier exemption for rideshare services will be removed and will take effect on January 1, 2024. In fact, House Bill 2231 is aiming to remove the entire Transportation Network Provider Act by September 2028.
As of right now, Lyft is neutral regarding this new and amended bill. They asked for the bill to not be effective immediately, which caused them to remain neutral towards the policy. However, Uber is wholeheartedly against the bill. Some of the reasons that they are giving for being against this bill include:
- It will increase costs for passengers.
- It will increase eligibility and qualification requirements for drivers.
- It will develop unobtainable hurdles and challenges for new drivers joining Uber.
- It will decrease reliability.
Why does Illinois want to consider Uber and Lyft as common carriers?
This bill emerged due to a traumatic situation that occurred in Chicago in 2017, which was finally settled in 2022. A woman went on the Lyft app and ordered a Lyft ride after spending time out with her friends. She dozed off in the driver’s back seat and was driven to an alleyway, where she was tied up, had a knife held to her as a threat, and raped.
The woman took the case to court and continued to argue that Lyft should be held accountable for the sexual assault that she experienced. However, due to the company’s exemption of being a “common carrier,” the company was not considered liable. Instead, the case ended up being settled outside of court before it ever made it to the Supreme Court.
The supporters of House Bill 2231 are seeking to ensure passengers who use rideshare services have an added level of protection, making them safer when hailing a ride to get from point A to point B. This will make it easier for riders who become hurt or injured to receive compensation, recover their damages, and hold responsible individuals and companies accountable for their negligence or wrongful acts.
What Uber and Lyft drivers want from the rideshare companies
Even though Uber and Lyft are dealing with the legal issues that House Bill 2231 may bring, that is not the only problem the company is facing. At the beginning of May 2023, drivers met up at the Uber hub on the North Side of Chicago to protest their working conditions. They stated that they still want better pay, more job security, and overall safety while driving for these companies.
While the new bill focuses on the riders’ safety, many drivers mentioned that they are often attacked by riders as well. According to WGN 9 Chicago police alerted the public about ten vehicular robberies occurring in the area in early May: more than half of these robberies were of drivers for the rideshare companies. Therefore, they want more protection when these situations arise.
Drivers also claimed that while their safety risks have increased, their pay continues to decrease. Many drivers also suggested better suspension and termination practices. However, so far, Uber is refusing to make any updates or changes.
Tips to stay safe while taking an Uber or Lyft ride this summer
With many people expected to travel this summer, there will be more people taking Lyft and Uber to get around – you may even be one of them. So here are a few things you can do to help you stay safe:
- Always wait for your Uber or Lyft ride in a place that you feel is safe.
- Make sure that your ride matches the description given on the Uber or Lyft application.
- Do not provide any personal information to your Uber or Lyft driver.
- Click on the “share your trip” feature in the app to allow your friends or family members to see your locations.
- Remain awake and alert throughout the entire ride.
- Make sure you can access the “emergency services” button provided by Uber or Lyft (or for your provider in general).
- Wear a seatbelt and remain seated at all times. If your driver makes any mistakes while driving, you can use the Uber or Lyft app to file a complaint, letting the company know about the behavior.
If you were injured in an Uber or Lyft accident, you may be wondering what your legal options are. Our Chicago personal injury attorneys at Gainsberg Law, P.C. are here to assist you through this difficult process, ensuring that you fully understand your options and what your case may entail. We offer free consultations. Call our office or complete our contact form to schedule yours today.