Ride share companies utilize smartphone technology to provide an alternative to taxi cabs and other forms of public transportation. The ride share company can keep its operating costs low because they are not regulated by states and cities and are not required to carry the same type of insurance as cabs or to purchase expensive medallions.
Statistics from the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that only 65% of passengers buckle up in taxis compared to 87% in private vehicles. The apparent reason for failure to buckle up is the fact that most pubic transit lacks seatbelts and riders are not accustomed to doing it.
California vehicle code “vehicles for hire” exempts taxi passengers from wearing seatbelts. Ride share companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are considered taxis under the law and therefore no requirement exists for passengers to wear seatbelts. However, not wearing a seatbelt in any vehicle is taking a great risk. Uber management encourages drivers to require passengers to buckle up.
If an accident occurs while you are the passenger in a ride share car and are injured, the driver of either vehicle cannot argue that you broke the law by failing to wear your seatbelt. However, if the at fault driver was the operator of the ride share vehicle he may claim that he asked you to buckle up and you refused. The insurance company for the ride share can argue that, had you worn a seatbelt the injuries you sustained would not be as severe or may not have happened at all. They can use what is called “comparative negligence” in an effort to get a discount on the amount that they must pay you.
If you received an injury that is serious enough to require surgery or will have a lifelong detrimental effect, you will be seeking a significant monetary recovery for you injury. In that case, it is worth the extra expense for the at-fault drivers insurance company to retain the services of a biomechanical expert to refute your claim. Their expert will contend that wearing a seatbelt, as advised by the driver, would have prevented your injury, in an attempt to persuade the jury to reduce your award.
Not wearing a seatbelt in any vehicle, where one is available, is perceived as irresponsible for the fact that it is. In the case of an accident it can mean the difference between walking away uninjured or a lifetime of debilitation or even death. It is not against the law in the state of California to ride seatbelt free in a taxi or ride share. However, the insurance company will use your refusal to wear one as their defense to avoid paying you the money you will need to compensate for your lost wages and medical expenses. The answer is obvious – always buckle up.
Vititoe Law Group is a personal injury law firm representing victims of all types of motor vehicle accidents including public transportation. Call us for a free consultation if you or a loved one were injured. You may be entitled to a cash award. Call 818-991-8900.