Accepting a rideshare ride from an Uber, Lyft, or another Transportation Network Carrier (TNC) can be dangerous. While rideshares offer the convenience of scheduling your ride ahead of your trip, rideshare drivers aren’t always vetted as well as they should be. Sadly, there have been many reports of drivers physically or sexually assaulting riders.
One of the most tragic rideshares involved a 21-year-old woman from New Jersey who was killed when she accepted a ride from someone impersonating an Uber driver in South Carolina. After the victim, Samantha “Sami” Josephson was killed in 2019, her body was dumped in the woods 65 miles away. Ms. Josephson was a senior at the University of South Carolina. The man convicted of stabbing Sami over 100 times was sentenced to life in July 2021.
In response to this horrific homicide, the federal government and numerous states passed laws regulating TNCs so that passengers feel more secure when they accept a ride.
Sami’s Law makes it illegal for rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft to sell their car logos to anyone who isn’t a driver. The law, according to Fox Carolina, also requires that rideshare companies develop a system so the passengers can be certain that they are getting into the correct vehicle when they accept a ride. The law also creates a US Department of Transportation council to create rideshare performance standards.
Specifically, the text of the law provides that within one year after Sami’s Law was enacted, and every two years after that, the US Comptroller General Should submit reports about:
- How often fatal and non-fatal physical and sexual assaults occurred in the prior two years?
- “(A) Against TNC drivers and drivers of other for-hire vehicles (including taxicabs) by passengers and riders of for-hire vehicles”
- “(B) Against passengers and riders by other passengers and TNC drivers or drivers of other for-hire vehicles (including taxicabs) “ – including assaults involving people who falsely pose as TNC drivers or drivers of other for-hire vehicles.
- What background checks were conducted by Uber, Lyft, and other TNCs – including state and local laws that required background checks.
- What safety measures Uber, Lyft, and other TNCs took to ensure rider and driver safety.
Sami’s law defines sexual assault as “the occurrence of an act that constitutes any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, Tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.”
The federal law was passed with the help of Sami’s parents and Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey. In addition, Uber and Lyft supported the passage of the law.
The state laws that have been passed and are under consideration also, according to NBC Philadelphia, make it illegal to sell or offer rideshare signage for sale, which should make it harder for imposters to pose as rideshare drivers. The Daily Voice in Mercer, Sami’s hometown, states that the New Jersey version of Sami’s law will require that rideshare vehicles “have a lighted or reflecting sign on both the front and back of the vehicle with the company name and a scannable bar code or QR code, as well as placards on the both the driver’s and passenger’s side windows identifying the driver.”
Some laws may also make misrepresenting oneself as a rideshare driver illegal.
Uber and Lyft’s liability for accidents
Generally, all rideshare operators must have the minimum liability insurance that the state requires. In Georgia, that means car owners must have the following insurance coverage or more:
- Bodily injury – one person in one accident: $25,000.
- Bodily injury – multiple people in one accident: $50,000.
- Property damage: $25,000.
Generally, in Georgia, rideshare drivers and companies are liable as follows:
- If the driver is not logged into the rideshare. The driver is liable for any injuries their liability carrier should pay.
- If the driver is logged in but does not have a passenger, Uber and Lyft are liable for up to $50,000 in bodily injury per person and $100,000 per accident.
- If the rideshare driver has a passenger. Uber and Lyft should have up to $1 million in liability coverage. In addition, Uber and Lyft should also have up $1 million in uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage. UM/UIM coverage applies if the negligent driver doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the victim’s losses.
When assaults occur, Uber and Lyft may be liable if they fail to vet their drivers properly and for other reasons.
At Harris Lowry Manton LLP, our Atlanta vehicle injury lawyers handle all types of vehicle accidents, including Uber and Lyft, car, truck, motorcycle, and boating accidents. We also represent anyone physically or sexually assaulted while using a rideshare service. To discuss your right to compensation after an Atlanta accident, call our lawyers or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
Read more about Jeffrey R. Harris here.