If you live in Chicago and use taxis there is a good chance you have heard about Uber, Side Car and Lift. If you think that these car services are a good deal and cheaper than a cab, you may want to think again! The price may be right but the real problem is the drivers may not have proper training or similar licenses to those of taxi or limo driver. Over a year ago, Uber was sued by the taxi and livery companies in Chicago. According to the press release, Uber was accused of violating the Chicago and Illinois laws designed to protect public safety, provide consumer protection and promote fair practices. The taxi industry, which has labeled companies like Uber as a rogue app, has lobbied City Hall for help. The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection proposed a rule that would have banned livery vehicles from using devices such as smartphones to calculate fares based on distance; if passed it would have shut Uber and its competitors down. The proposal is on hold pending the outcome of the federal lawsuit. What makes Uber interesting is that it is a venture capital startup transportation network company, based in San Francisco and valued at 4 billion dollars. Many of these new tech companies are known in revolutionary terms as the SHARING ECONOMY! The company’s app is a marketed as a match-maker in various cities and countries. Cars are reserved by sending a text message or by using a mobile app. The City is working to fill the regulatory vacuum that has given ride-sharing companies an unfair advantage over taxicabs, while providing no safeguards or protections for consumers. A 20-page ordinance is being introduced in a City Council meeting that would license ride-sharing companies as “transportation network providers” and require them to pay an annual $25,000 fee, plus $25 per driver. UberX, Lyft, SideCar and other ride-sharing companies that allow drivers to offer rides in their personal vehicles to passengers who order them on their smartphones also would be required to pay the city’s $3.50 a day per vehicle ground transportation tax, the same tax already imposed on cabs. To guarantee passenger safety, the ordinance would require licensed ride-sharing companies to properly train drivers as well administering drug tests to their drivers, conducting regular criminal background checks and make sure that their ride-sharing vehicles pass an annual 21-point inspection.[READ MORE…]
The drivers of app based car services are considered to be independent contractors, not employees and not on the clock unless there is a passenger in their car. If you examine the car service model, on paper these drivers aren’t employees of either the car service or the tech company. The million-dollar insurance policies that many of these services carry only kick in when the driver has a passenger. The biggest legal exposure is that of accident liability. What if a driver has an accident that injures the passenger? Sadly, the only recourse for the injured passenger may be the driver’s personal automobile insurance. The liability could be directly with the service if the plaintiff claims that the company didn’t adequately screen drivers and/or properly train drivers. In one recent suit, Uber is being sued, along with a driver whose individual insurance policy has a $750,000 limit. On New Year’s Eve, an Uber driver killed a six-year-old girl in a San Francisco crosswalk as well as injuring several members of her family. Because there was no passenger in the Uber car, the car service claims they are not liable. The company asks drivers to hang out on the streets during peak times such as New Year’s Eve so they can respond to new requests quickly. Drivers are rated in part by their response time. This is where it gets tricky; the drivers are out there for the economic benefit of both Uber and themselves. Therefore, if Uber shares in the profits, they should share equally in the responsibility, Uber and other services such as Side Car and Lift use social media to match drivers and passengers; they are match makers not taxi services. The question to be considered is this; when someone is injured or killed by someone they have met through a social media site that charges a fee for that service, will the courts take this type of case and use it to set a precedence with other social media business models? Tech companies consider themselves to be information content providers and therefore exempt from the same liability as a traditional car service. A close parallel can be found in suits involving independent contractors such as many traditional taxi and delivery services. When considering services such as Uber, the legal limits of liability may be tested. Among other factors, many cases look primarily at: The employer’s control over[READ MORE…]
Winter is causing a lot of potholes and problems for drivers in the Chicago metro area. Many auto repair shops and insurance adjusters are experiencing a backlog of work as autos experience flat tires or more expensive repairs such as transmission damage. As a driver you should be aware of the fact that the City does compensate motorists for damage. Claims are handled by the Chicago City Clerk’s office. Car owners are directed to the website . Once there, go to the section labeled Auto Damage (caused by pothole, accident with a city vehicle, etc.). Download, compete and sign the Damage to Vehicle claim form. The form includes basic information including the date, time and location of the incident. Submit this form along with a copy of the paid receipt for the repairs performed to the car OR a copy of two written estimates for the cost of repairing the damage as well as a copy of a police report for the incident that caused the damage. While you do not have to report damage from a pothole to the police, anything you can do to substantiate your claim, such as including photographs, is helpful in moving your claim through the approval process. The documents must be submitted by mail or in person at any of the three City Clerk’s offices. Once received, the City Council’s Finance Committee reviews the claims. Their staff is available to update car owners on the status of their claim(s). The City sets aside some of the money generated from annual city sticker sales to pay for the repair of cars damaged by city streets. Drivers who properly file a claim and are approved can expect to wait up to a year, though often they are paid only a portion of the repair cost. While waiting for your check, you can follow the Pot Hole Tracker . The site, along with the new Plow Tracker, offers viewers the ability to see the potholes that the Department of Transportation has patched within the last seven days. Pothole repairs are based on calls to Chicago’s City 311 service request number. Pothole season ends in March or April, depending upon the weather. If you are in serious car accident, do not hesitate to contact Ankin Law Offices.
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