By: J. Blake Ledbetter, Conoscienti & Ledbetter, Attorneys at Law
Driving for a rideshare company can be an excellent way to make some extra money or even a full-time income. In order to protect your income and stay on the road, you should be thinking about more than just 5-star ratings.
There are a number of frustrating situations that can arise when driving passengers that you might be faced with. Learning the important laws and practices associated with rideshare driving can help you avoid trouble like a suspension, stay safe, and improve profits.
Choosing the Right Insurance
If you decide to work as a rideshare driver for Uber or Lyft, you will encounter what is termed the “insurance gap” that exists between coverage the rideshare companies offer their independent contractors and what your personal vehicle insurance offers.
Most standard personal vehicle insurance policies will not cover your damages if you are working as a rideshare driver. At the same point, both Uber and Lyft have specific conditions that must be met in order to receive compensation under the terms of their insurance policies.
This insurance gap could leave you liable for damages to your own vehicle and any other vehicles involved, as well as medical payments for injured passengers. The guidelines detailing when drivers can benefit from the rideshare company insurance policies is unclear, so you could find yourself in a legal battle over who will pay for the damages.
Uber and/or Lyft’s policies may not offer you adequate protection, so it’s in your best interest to get a personal vehicle policy that will offer you, your vehicle and your passengers thorough coverage.
Look for policies that will cover all of these four stages:
- En route
- On trip
Look for policies that have a personal coverage extension for when you work rideshare. Some companies offer hybrid policies that will cover personal driving as well as work-for-hire rideshare trips.
Rideshare company insurance policies have three specific stages. In the first, when you have turned on the app but are waiting for a customer, the rideshare policy will cover property damage and medical bills when you are at fault. If another driver is at fault, you could make a claim against the other driver’s insurance. When you are actively engaged in a job, Lyft will cover damages in excess of your personal policy.
Uber’s coverage is different, paying for damages and injuries caused by underinsured or uninsured drivers. Collision and comprehensive coverage is contingent on the circumstances. When you shut off the app, you are covered solely by your own insurance.
How to Deal with Traffic Violations
Getting a traffic ticket as a rideshare driver has additional implications for your future in working for Uber or Lyft.
In addition to having to possibly pay fines or go to court like when you get a ticket in your personal driving, you could run the risk of the rideshare company suspending you or even prohibiting you to work as a driver.
If you do get a ticket, take all possible measures to fight it, including hiring an attorney to help ensure that the ticket doesn’t become part of your record. You may be able to find experienced attorneys online who are able to effectively handle your traffic ticket defense for a low fee. Uber and Lyft often run additional background checks and driving record tests, even after you are hired. Because of this, it’s really important not to ignore the ticket and just hope they don’t find out.
The best defense against traffic tickets, however, is a good offense, which in this case means avoiding them in the first place. Don’t park, wait for or drop off passengers in prohibited zones. Stay within the speed limit, use your turn indicators and don’t run red lights or stop signs.
Use the Waze app for navigation, as it also alerts you to where red light cameras are and when police are in the area so you can be extra careful. Above all, use your common sense and stay alert while driving.
Handling Rowdy Customers
Sooner or later, especially if you drive frequently at night, you’ll encounter passengers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, messy or otherwise belligerent. That’s a fact of life with which rideshare drivers must deal. Once you pick up a passenger, there is no going back, even if the customer passes out or throws up all over your car, so you must be prepared for these occasional scenarios.
In all situations, remain calm but assertive. Never belittle your passengers or start physical altercations with them. Make sure that no one tries to enter your vehicle with open containers of alcohol. If they do, calmly and firmly explain that what they are doing is illegal and can put you both in jeopardy. Sometimes no matter how calm you remain, a bad situation can escalate with an unruly passenger.
You are within your rights to cancel the ride so as not to put yourself in a dangerous situation. Contact your company’s support line as soon as possible once you are safe to keep them aware of what happened.
It may help to keep “barf bags” handy (although out of sight) if you drive at night and encounter intoxicated passengers. Always keep your vehicle clean and make sure that all passengers are wearing safety belts.
For customers who begin to act erratically or aggressively, try to redirect them with other comments such as telling a joke or asking an irrelevant question. sometimes passengers just need to talk. Let them ramble.
If the situation really gets bad and you feel you are in danger or someone is breaking the law, call 911 for help. Never put yourself in jeopardy.
Protecting Yourself from False Accusations
At some point, you may also encounter false accusations from passengers. Minimize your risk, especially when you are in an accident, by first making sure that everyone is okay, and gathering as much information as possible, including finding witnesses and documenting what happened.
Report the accident to your insurance company and your rideshare company. If you have a medical or other non-accident emergencies, tell passengers to call 911 first instead of entering your vehicle.
Installing cameras inside your vehicle can also be used to support you against false accusations. Just be sure to make it clear that the camera is there and running (a simple sign works). Earlier this year, there was a situation out of St. Louis where an Uber driver was suspended for live streaming passengers. As rules change quickly, check with Uber/Lyft on their policies regarding cameras and other self-protection practices regularly.
Sometimes passengers may try to do illegal acts in your car. This can be as simple as a minor passenger riding unaccompanied or a parent trying to bring a child along without a car seat. At other times, passengers may begin drinking or taking drugs.
To protect yourself from legal issues and false accusations, you can ask the passenger not to do these behaviors. If they do not listen to reason, you are within your rights to cancel the ride immediately. If you feel threatened by a passenger, pull over to a safe location and ask them to exit immediately.
In most situations, false accusations occur because someone is upset and overreacts. Remaining calm as possible can help you avoid false accusations. Never drive drunk or under the influence of other substances, do not drive when you are exhausted, and never drive aggressively.
If you drive safely and remain polite to your passengers, hopefully you will never encounter a false accusations situation! If you do receive a complaint, do not ignore it. Do everything within your power to clear your name, including retaining an attorney, if needed
About the Author
Blake Ledbetter is an Uber accident lawyer at the law firm of Conoscienti & Ledbetter in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Ledbetter possesses significant experience with Uber accident lawsuits and a range of legal issues involving rideshare drivers and riders. Mr. Ledbetter specializes in civil trial practice, specifically in the areas of business law, corporate law, contract law and personal injury law.