Previous posts here have discussed various mass transit accidents and the damage they can do to the vehicle’s passengers, as well as members of the public. While conveyance methods such as busses, taxis and ferries have been around for a hundred years or more, and there are some fairly well-settled rules when it comes to liability involving such companies, there is a new kid on the block of urban transportation: ride-sharing.

Ride-sharing companies, like Uber or Lyft, can be convenient, with their promise of a car coming to get you with a few simple swipes or clicks. However, being that they are relatively new to urban centers like Seattle, these types of rides may have some issues when it comes to liability. For example, because an Uber or Lyft driver is an “independent contractor,” anyone hurt by such a driver’s negligence will likely need to file a claim against that individual’s personal car insurance, which may not cover commercial injuries. Then, the victim might have to file a second claim against the ride-sharing company.

While Washington law requires ride-sharing companies to carry insurance at the level of taxis, this may or may not help a party injured by one of their drivers. For instance, there is an open question about whether a ride-sharing company is liable if an accident occurs while the driver is not transporting a fare or is on the way to pick up a fare. Because vicarious liability is a complex issue, even when dealing with a Metro Bus accident, the somewhat unique legal arrangement of ride-sharing can pose even greater challenges.

Those that have been hurt by an Uber or Lyft driver is not any less injured, nor do medical bills get to wait while someone figures out who is responsible. Those who have been the victims of an accident involving any kind of mass transportation, whether it be bus, train or ride-sharing, may need to get more information about the unique details of their case.