If you're thinking of calling Uber, Lyft, or even a taxi for your next ride, you may want to reconsider and get a rental instead. While national attention has been focused on the standoff between traditional taxi services and the innovate ridesharing services, another important factor got overlooked: the safety of the vehicles themselves.
More than 1 in 3 vehicles-for-hire in the U.S. has a recall out on it that hasn't been completed. In major cities like Seattle and Chicago, there are no regulations requiring that taxis stay current with recalls. Uber and Lyft don't require drivers to keep current either. Chicago does require taxi medallion holders to keep their vehicles "undamaged and safe," but it puts all of the responsibility for doing so on the license holder. It's unclear what follow-up steps, if any, are done to make sure that drivers are complying. No specific law makes attending to a recall mandatory.
By comparison, federal law does require car rental companies, like Enterprise or Hertz, to make sure that recall work is done before putting a car back on the road.
What does all this mean for the average individual who just wants to get a lift home? If that's your only option, you're probably going to have to take the risk anyhow. The real issue comes if there's an accident that could possibly be related to the recall that never got handled.
Uber and Lyft both provide up to $1 million in liability coverage if their drivers get into an accident, and taxi companies are required to carry insurance by law. However, if the accident had something to do with a Toyota's sudden acceleration or a GM's faulty ignition switch—both major recalls that were widely covered in the media—you could find the insurance company unwilling to pay.
At that point, the insurance company would likely try to throw the claim back on the driver for not getting the recall handled, which could substantially limit the dollar amount of damages you could recover for your injuries. Without insurance, most people don't have the money or assets to pay a hefty judgment. A post-recall judgment against the vehicle's manufacturer is always possible, but that could be a hard-fought battle. The help of an experienced attorney might be the only real way to sort out responsibility and get the compensation you need to recover.
Source: www.king5.com, "Could you next cab, Uber, or Lyft be unsafe?," Danielle Leigh, Nov. 24, 2016