Uber is Finally in Vegas – But Will Trouble Follow?
In spite of strong opposition from local area taxi companies and transportation authorities, Uber
has finally arrived in Vegas. As of late October, Uber’s ride-sharing application has been made available to riders across Vegas, Reno, and Carson City—with the notable exception of those hoping to be picked up from McCarran International Airport or the Las Vegas Strip. Uber officials say that they’d like to initially concentrate their service in residential areas rather than touristy spots like the Strip, arguing that their primary goal is to provide more transportation options for locals.
With the launch of Uber, residents and tourists alike are able to summon rides for 10 – 20
percent below taxi rates with the click of their smart phones. These rides will be provided by every-day people with vetted backgrounds and a car, but without a commercial driver’s license. Uber officials told reporters from the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the company has already contracted hundreds of local drivers, noting how they closely review the histories of potential drivers and require 19-point inspections of all vehicles prior to application.
Uber Available, But Still May Not Be Legal
State regulators do not seem thrilled about Uber’s arrival. They argue the ride-sharing company’s drivers don’t comply with local transportation laws, which prohibit the transport of paying passengers without a commercial license. Regulators say they will treat Uber drivers as unlicensed transportation drivers, saddling them with citations and impound orders if they are caught with customers.
“Just because they have slick new technology doesn’t give them the right to completely and arrogantly ignore the law,” Whittlesea Bell Transportation president Brent Bell told Review-Journal reporters.
While some celebrate the arrival of Uber as a cheap alternative to cabs and a source of additional transportation, others see the company as a threat to the local transportation industry and traveler safety. Regardless of your feelings about the launch of the ride-sharing company in Vegas, there are points to consider before deciding to hire an Uber ride.
Legality Issues with Ride Sharing
Since the ride-sharing company’s launch, multiple Uber drivers have been cited by city taxi regulators for transporting customers. In the eyes of many Vegas transit authorities, Uber’s service is illegal, since their drivers do not have commercial licenses and the company has not applied for the Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity needed to transport paying passengers. Regulators use anonymous tips and complaints to seek out and catch Uber drivers in action.
Uber representatives combat such claims, maintaining that state regulations don’t even address ride-sharing services. There is clearly an uncertain area that needs to be further ironed out, but until new regulations pass that address and legitimize ride-share companies, you may be stopped and questioned by law officials if you’re caught riding in an Uber car.
Insurance and Liability Risks in Ride Sharing
Uber officials claim to investigate the backgrounds of prospective drivers, and require drivers to carry auto insurance. However, since their drivers don’t need to get commercial liability insurance, insurance companies may not always fully cover anyone they injure. In fact, if the policyholder was making money while driving, insurance providers may refuse to pay an accident claim.
When the driver’s auto insurance doesn’t cover passenger injuries in an Uber accident, victims may be expected to cover the accident with their own insurance. However, this solution is not always feasible, since many riders have limited insurance or no insurance at all because they may not drive automobiles.
Uber does claim to have a $2 million policy to handle any damages not covered by their drivers’ insurance. However, many states note that there may be holes in the ride-sharing company’s coverage, which could leave some people— such as a pedestrian struck by a ride-share driver—unprotected.
Sexual Harassment and Assault Risks in Ride Sharing
Uber’s sexual harassment problem has been gaining attention recently. There have been numerous reports of riders facing sexual harassment or being made to feel at risk by their ride-share drivers. Women riders in particular have reported being hassled, groped, and physically detained by their Uber drivers. There have also been allegations of physical assault and kidnappings.
While taxi drivers have also been reported for having assaulted passengers in the past, cab companies are usually accountable in such cases. Taxi drivers are required to have the phone number of their employer, full name, and ID displayed prominently in their cab so riders can easily voice a complaint. Uber doesn’t hold their employees to this level of accountability, since it doesn’t provide a readily-available number or method for submitting complaint. This makes it hard to give these cases the immediate and serious attention they deserve.
What’s more, Uber’s terms and conditions allow the company to avoid responsibility for their driver’s actions. The fine print of Uber’s terms and conditions states “You understand, therefore, that by using the application and the service, you may be exposed to transportation that is potentially dangerous, offensive, harmful to minors, unsafe or otherwise objectionable.” By agreeing to these terms, passengers agree to use the service at their own risk.
While the process of hiring an Uber driver may seem attractively easy and inexpensive, the potential for legal trouble and consequences to insurance and personal safety can be complex and costly. If you were injured by an Uber driver—whether you are a passenger being penalized for riding in an unlicensed vehicle, a pedestrian hit by an off-duty driver, or a victim of harassment—contact a personal injury attorney in Las Vegas as soon as possible. With the aid of a seasoned legal advisor, you can get the compensation you deserve.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of The Law Office of Andrew Winston. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”-an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state-and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”