Texas Court Discusses Ride-Sharing Companies’ Liability for Car Accidents

Ride-sharing drivers are prevalent throughout Texas, and many people take an Uber or Lyft instead of driving. People who drive for ride-sharing companies are typically independent contractors rather than employees; as such, if they negligently cause collisions, the ride-sharing company will most likely not be deemed vicariously liable. In a recent case, Freyer v. Lyft, Inc., 05-20-00310-CV, a Texas court affirmed the independent contractor status of drivers who drive on behalf of ride-sharing companies, soundly rejecting the plaintiff’s attempt to impose liability on the company. If you were hurt in a collision caused by a ride-sharing driver, it is prudent to confer with a knowledgeable Texas car accident lawyer to discuss your rights.

The Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the plaintiff was riding as a passenger in a car operated by a driver working for the defendant ride-sharing company. Shortly after the ride began, the driver stated she did not feel well. She then fell in and out of consciousness and began to drive erratically, scraping the concrete barrier on the left side of the road. The car continued to roll, and the plaintiff opened the door to exit the vehicle. The driver then regained consciousness and accelerated, causing the plaintiff’s foot to be dragged along the road for two hundred feet. The plaintiff sustained permanent injuries, including the loss of her right big toe and part of her right foot.

Allegedly, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the driver and the ride-sharing company. She settled her claims against the driver. Her claims against the defendant ride-sharing company included negligent entrustment, negligent supervision, and respondeat superior arising out of an employee/employer relationship. The defendant ride-sharing company filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that it could not be deemed liable for the driver’s negligence, as she was an independent contractor, not an employee. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Liability of Ride-Sharing Companies

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that in certain situations, a plaintiff could pursue common law negligence claims imposing respondeat superior liability against a ride-sharing company for the negligent conduct or omissions of an employee if the company and its driver failed to comply with the statutory requirements to trigger the independent contractor provision of the Transportation Network Companies (TNC) law. Specifically, she argued that because the defendant driver lacked insurance at the time of the incident, a requirement of independent contractors, the defendant ride-sharing company should not be afforded the protections of the TNC.

The court disagreed, noting that to rule as such would result in absurd consequences. Further, the court noted that contrary to the plaintiff’s assertions, the defendant ride-sharing company met the TNC law’s requirements, triggering the independent contractor provision. Moreover, regardless of whether the legislation precludes common law negligence claims, the court found that the plaintiff failed to raise substantial issues of material fact that would prevent summary judgment. As a result, it affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Discuss Your Accident with a Skilled Texas Attorney

Car crashes can cause significant injuries, and in many instances, more than one party is responsible for the harm suffered. If you were hurt in an auto accident, it is smart to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. Earl T. Drott is a seasoned Texas attorney who can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can reach  Mr. Drott through the online form or at 903-531-9300 to set up a free meeting.

 

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