Is Uber Dangerous for the Public at Large?
Is Uber Technologies Inc. and its freelance drivers putting the public at risk? Simply put, is Uber dangerous for the Public? Common carriers such as taxis, limousines, and buses are regulated by state agencies, which set standards for insurance, fares and safety. In Pennsylvania, the agency is called the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), and in New Jersey it is known as the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (PBU). Most states have similar agencies.
A standard auto insurance policy for a private passenger vehicle does not provide coverage when the vehicle is being used for hire. Since many Uber drivers use their own private vehicles when transporting passengers, they need to obtain additional insurance to cover the commercial use of the vehicles. This is just one example of the safety issues that surface when an industry moves away from traditional business models such as taxi and limousine companies. State agencies and regulations need to quickly adapt to protect the public.
To date, Uber compliance with applicable laws has been arguably spotty. For example, Uber was operating in Allegheny County Pennsylvania without permission from the PUC until just recently. Starting January 1, 2015, the PUC granted temporary authority for 60 days after Uber agreed to meet PUC requirements regarding insurance, driver criminal backgrounds and other safety requirements. For now, the public will have to await whether the PUC grants permanent authority in Allegheny County as well as other counties in Pennsylvania. Interestingly, Philadelphia County is outside PUC authority. The PA Taxi Authority controls Philadelphia. Recently, over 45 Philadelphia taxi companies filed a federal lawsuit against Uber alleging unfair competition and racketeering. The general public will have to await the outcome of this lawsuit and other judicial or administrative agency decisions. In the interim, passengers may be putting themselves at risk if they are injured or killed in an Uber accident.
New Jersey is also moving to address the safety issues with a slew of bills being introduced by legislatures. “As of right now, it’s really the wild west. There’s really no regulation, no nothing.” according to NJ Assemblyman Joseph Lagano, who is taking part in sponsoring legislation. Traditional New Jersey Taxi companies have taken issue with the proposed legislation saying that Uber and other similar companies should not be treated differently. The taxi industry believes Uber is currently breaking New Jersey laws by operating in the state, and should be forced to comply with all laws applicable to traditional taxi companies. Again, as with other jurisdictions, the general public awaits the outcome regarding Uber legally operating in New Jersey. In the interim, the general public is once again at risk because of these unsettled safety issues in New Jersey.
If you or a family member have been injured or killed in an Uber accident, call or text Joseph Monaco, a second generation wrongful death and injury lawyer at 215-546-366, in Pennsylvania or 609-277-3166 in New Jersey.