Presented by: Paul Wingo, Partner - Hamilton Wingo, LLP and Fabiola Segovia, Chief Reporter (2016-2017)
Production By: Miguel Garcia, Staff Reporter (2016-2017)
SPRING 2018 ISSUE:
CRIMINAL ACTIVITY AND LIABILITY
Fabiola (F): Hey Paul!
Paul (P): Hello
F: How are you?
P: I’m doing well Ms. Fabi. How are you?
F: Good. Alright, so we’re heading to the office, right?
P: Yes ma’am.
F: Okay. How are you?
P: Well, I’m doing good. It seems like a delightful day.
F: Yeah. It’s beautiful. Hey, I have some questions about an article that I have to write.
P: Alright. What do you got?
F: It’s about ride-sharing apps.
P: Ooh, you’re in luck. I happen to know about some ride-sharing stuff.
F: Okay. What do you know? What are they? Why don’t we start with that?
P: Well, okay. So, a ride-sharing app and ride-sharing service is essentially an app that connects a driver with a passenger.
F: Okay. So, are these drivers employees of the service provider?
P: That’s a good question. I would say that is a multimillion-dollar question because nobody really knows.
P: There are countries that have said that Uber drivers are employees. There are states, and there is state battles going on about this in the United States right now, trying to determine if they’re employees or independent contractors. And there is two sides to that. There is the side that impacts the employees’ rights and then there is the side that impacts the third-parties that are involved with the ride-sharing.
F: So, what happens when you get in an accident and you’re an Uber driver?
P: Okay. So, it’s all about status with these things. For the most part, as an Uber driver, you’re only covered if you have insurance that can cover yourself or the third party that hits you in the accident has insurance. Now, when you’re actually driving with a passenger, there is a commercial, liability policy that covers everyone in the vehicle. So, if the person who hits you doesn’t have enough insurance, there will be an underinsured covered on that.
F: Okay, so what if I am the passenger in an Uber vehicle?
P: Okay, if you’re a passenger in an Uber vehicle, you’re probably the best situated to be taken care of in the event of an accident. Uber has a commercial policy that covers a million dollars of insurance if it’s the driver’s fault and it has a million dollars of under-insured coverage if someone hits you that doesn’t have enough insurance coverage.
F: Okay. So, what if I am in my own personal car and an Uber driver hits me in their car?
P: Okay. So, the Texas Legislature did act some – and this is one of the only pieces of legislature that they have enacted so far – where they say that the Uber drivers have to have at least $50,000 of liability coverage. And, it’s $50,000 per individual, up to a thousand dollars of coverage – a hundred thousand dollars of coverage – and $25,000 of property damage coverage.
F: So we could sue all parties involved?
F: So, when I get in an Uber vehicle, do I have to wear my seatbelt?
P: Okay. So, unless you are in a special vehicle that doesn’t have seatbelts or there’s some sort of other, like system set up like that, you are required by Texas law to wear seatbelts whether you are in the front or the back to wear a seatbelt.
F: What about an open container? Can I get into an Uber with an open container?
P: Now, this is a subject that I’ve researched carefully. On the ground research, on my part, has happened with this particular subject. And, unfortunately, what I have discovered is that, if you’re in a regular Uber vehicle, you are not allowed to have an open container. And, you can get ticketed for open container and the driver can get ticketed and so, it’s not advisable.
F: Okay. So, what are some cities opposed to Uber or any ride-sharing apps like Uber?
P: Well, so, it really depends on the cities. One of the big things that Uber has run into, and the different ride-sharing services has run into, is that each city wants to regulate the company differently. And, so, you can imagine that from a business perspective that that, you know, a tremendous amount of logistics and infrastructure would take place having to have different structures for each city. So, Uber, wants to have a standardized system that they feel is sufficient to ensure that they are getting a reasonable quality of drivers and that sufficient background checks have been made. Whereas cities like Austin…Austin wanted a more onerous requirement and wanted fingerprinting to be required as well, and so they got into a big battle and both Uber and Lyft left Austin. And it’s been much to the dismay of many people in Austin who became accustomed to the services that it provided.
F: So how do people get around now?
P: Well, so I’ve done some of my own research in this and through a particular trip to Austin a few months ago, I discovered another service called Fasten. Now, I will tell you this, I feel that Fasten is more for like fasten your seatbelt it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
F: Why what happened?
P: Well, unfortunately I had a driver that was very unaccustomed to any of the driving regulations – went down a one-way street the wrong way, but, like wasn’t able to understand directions like "left", "right", "stop."
F: Oh, gosh!
P: Yeah, it was horrifying.
F: Yeah. So, what do you foresee in the future about this?
P: I think there’s going to be a lot of things going on. I mean, Uber posted a pretty significant, in the billion dollars of losses in this last year. And, so they’ve grown very quickly. It’s become a service that many people use every day and I think that ride-sharing is with us from now and out. Whether or not it’s going to be Uber or Lyft or what we kind of settled on as the regulations I think time will tell.
F: Well, thanks so much, Paul, for answering all my questions. You did my homework for me.
P: Hey, no problem. Anything I can do to help.