My June 27 column addressed serious safety problems with Lyft, Sidecar and other rideshare services. These articles are an essential read for anyone either thinking of riding in or operating one of these vehicles.
While I too am not a big fan of waiting for taxis, I would rather wait than risk my safety and waive my legal rights by riding in one of these cars.
Read Sidecar's and Lyft's terms of service. In my opinion they are detestable. In Sidecar's terms, in at least four places it says it will bear no responsibility for your injury or death. This is true even if you are attacked or raped by the driver, injured because of defective maintenance, or hurt because the driver is high or drunk.
Here is a sample of how these companies feel about you: "In no event will Sidecar be responsible for any damages (including personal injury, death, property damage, lost time or wages, etc.)." Sidecar does not stand behind its drivers and runs from any responsibility: "each Driver (not Sidecar or its affiliates) bears sole and absolute responsibility for all aspects of a ride, including safety, driving practices, conduct, as well as securing all required licenses, insurance, and registrations, and compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws, rules, and regulations."
In case you missed that, in all capitals it says: "USE OF THE SERVICE IS AT YOUR OWN RISK ... IN NO EVENT SHALL SIDECAR, ITS AFFILIATES, AGENTS, DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, SUPPLIERS OR LICENSORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, PUNITIVE, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL OR EXEMPLARY DAMAGES."
If that doesn't show you how this cool and groovy new rideshare company feels about you, by using its platform, you waive your constitutional right to a jury. It also gets you to waive your rights to participate in a class-action lawsuit so, if it takes a little bit from each passenger and/or driver, it will probably get away with it as no one will sue over $1 or $2.
If you are a passenger and a Lyft driver is using a borrowed car, has not maintained the car in good operating condition, "misrepresents" anything about Lyft, breaks any law (vehicle code?) or does anything else Lyft does not like, Lyft can, unilaterally, deny its touted $1 million in insurance.
Drivers get screwed, too. If Lyft denies the driver protection under the $1 million policy, the driver may have his or her wages garnished, be forced into bankruptcy, or lose his or her house, car or bank account. Insurance industry groups have stated that they consider these drivers to be engaged in a business, thereby canceling out their private car insurance pursuant to a business exemption.
In the event of an accident, taxi companies provide their drivers with insurance, a lawyer and, in many instances, workers' compensation if they get hurt. Lyft and Sidecar drivers get no workers' compensation. Unbelievably, Sidecar has drivers sign a complete release and waiver of all claims that drivers could ever have against it. Like passengers, Lyft and Sidecar drivers also give up their constitutional rights to a jury trial.
Taxis and taxi drivers are common carriers and owe passengers the highest degree of care, meaning they must take every safety precaution in inspecting, maintaining and driving taxis. Lyft and Sidecar, and their drivers, expressly state they are not common carriers, thereby offering a lower standard of care to riders. Lyft and Sidecar undertake no responsibility to make sure the cute little cars are inspected or properly maintained on a regular basis.
By law, each taxi in San Francisco must be equipped with a video camera that is tamper-proof. This law came about after several taxi drivers and passengers were robbed, raped and killed. No such protection exists in rideshare vehicles. Basically you are getting into a car with a total stranger. What did your mother say about that?
Next week, I will conclude my analysis of taxis vs. rideshare services. In the meantime, call your city supervisor and urge regulation of these rideshare services.
Christopher B. Dolan is owner of the Dolan Law Firm. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.