Ride-sharing has been one of the most novel and innovative ways to travel in decades. The law in Baltimore, however, has been far behind with respect to Lyft's ride-sharing policies and has struggled to catch up. The process has been unique in that Lyft and other ride-sharing companies have had a role in crafting the rules and regulations that they would have to abide by in order to enter new cities and markets. The results have been a mixed bag of laws and requirements that are aimed to allow for the convenience and bold innovation of Lyft's ride-sharing policies while still protecting businesses that Lyft threatened, all while ensuring riders were not put at risk and were given meaningful ways of recovering compensation if something went wrong.
The nuances of those regulations make a big difference for people who have been hurt by a Lyft driver and who are wondering whether to hire a personal injury lawyer to pursue the compensation they deserve.
Why Lyft's Business Model Requires New Regulations
There is an important misconception about Lyft and other ride-sharing companies that many people in Baltimore carry: Contrary to popular belief, Lyft is not a company that owns cars or employs drivers to give people lifts from one place to another, like a taxi company. Instead, Lyft is a corporation that maintains a smartphone program that allows users to hail rides from other registered drivers.
The novelty of this approach was groundbreaking because it allowed people to get from one place to another without their own vehicle and without the hassle of finding a taxi and paying a steep fare with cash. Instead, riders had their bank account connected to the smartphone app, and payment was made automatically. Perhaps even more importantly, Lyft's program allowed drivers to use their vehicles to make some extra money without committing to a long-term position.
While the convenience of this system was significant, the dangers were equally important: The people who drove the vehicle could be horrendous drivers, serial killers looking for a victim, or uninsured. Any one of these potential circumstances would put innocent riders at serious risk of harm, and there would be no way for them to avoid a potentially dangerous scenario that could completely change their lives.
These significant interests – together with the lobbying power of the taxi industry, which was threatened by the idea of being undercut by ride-sharing drivers – propelled lawmakers in Baltimore and the rest of Maryland into action to ensure Lyft's business model was handled correctly. These regulations aimed to address numerous aspects of Lyft's operation, including:
- Vehicles that could be used to carry passengers
- Driver eligibility
- How passengers could be treated, and
- Insurance issues.
Lyft's Eligible Vehicles
An important part of the ride-sharing regulations that have developed is concerned with the vehicles that can be used by drivers who can be hailed through Lyft's smartphone app. Eligible vehicles for the Lyft app have to:
- Be less than 12 years old
- Be registered
- Pass a state inspection
- Have four doors
- Have between five and eight seats, including the driver's seat
- Prominently show a Lyft decal while on the clock.
Picking up riders on advanced Lyft platforms, like the luxury-centered Lux or Lux Black, carry additional vehicle requirements.
Regulations Dealing with Lyft Drivers
Regulations concerning drivers have always been at the core of the concern for the law in Baltimore. Drivers stand the highest chance of becoming a threat to their passengers, whether through their terrible driving or their willingness to use their position of power over their passengers to rob or hurt them. In an attempt to prevent this from happening, Lyft's ride-sharing policies require drivers to:
- Be at least 21 years old;
- Have a valid driver's license, even if it is just a temporary one;
- Provide a photo for passengers to see before hailing a ride;
- Use a smartphone; and
- Pass Lyft's background checks, which looks into a driver's criminal and driving history.
Some blemishes on a driver's past can prevent them from becoming a driver for Lyft. These include:
- A conviction for a prior violent or sexual crime;
- Certain drug-related offenses;
- More than three moving violations in the last three years;
- One major moving violation in the last three years, like reckless driving or driving on a suspended license;
- A DUI, whether for alcohol or drugs, in the last seven years; and
- Convictions for traffic crimes, like hit-and-run or another felony with a vehicle, in the last seven years.
Treating Passengers Fairly
Lyft's ride-sharing policies require its drivers to treat their passengers fairly and prohibit them from discriminating against people who try to hail them on Lyft's platform. However, Lyft's abilities to enforce these policies are extremely limited. Instead, Lyft has shown that it would rather let a driver's poor conduct become reflected in poor ratings by previous passengers than taking action on its own. Unfortunately, for the passengers who have had to come into contact with a discriminatory or threatening Lyft driver, that comes far too late.
Finally, Baltimore's ride-sharing policies for Lyft include requirements that drivers hold enough insurance to cover the costs of an accident and compensate anyone who was hurt. These regulations aim to cover the costs of accidents that occur while a Lyft driver was on the clock. While Lyft claims to provide one million dollars in accident coverage from the time a Lyft driver accepts a passenger until the time the passenger is dropped off at their destination, there are also numerous events where Lyft has desperately sought to escape the promises they have made to insure an event.
Gilman & Bedigian: Representing People in Baltimore Hurt by Lyft
If you have been hurt by a Lyft driver – whether you were in another vehicle and were hit by a ride-sharing vehicle, whether you were in the Lyft vehicle and were hurt in a crash or by the Lyft driver, or whether there was another situation that developed – you need legal representation. Reach out to the personal injury lawyers at the Baltimore law office of Gilman & Bedigian by contacting them online.