The rapid development and expansion of Uber, the mobile app that facilitates transportation, has had a profound effect on the law as attorneys and lawmakers scramble to figure out the legal implications of the new business.
New Jersey legislators are currently embroiled in a debate about how to best regulate Uber and other similar commercial enterprises. Without any overarching state laws that directly address the Uber phenomenon, local municipalities have been left to their own devices as they attempt to fill the void in the law.
For example, when a resident in Sayreville, New Jersey recently filed a formal application to be allowed to operate as an Uber driver out of his personal residence, it created myriad legal issues because the relevant local ordinances in Sayreville apply only to taxicabs, not transportation alternatives like Uber.
One problem for lawmakers is that Uber is not technically a transportation company; instead, the company merely serves as a network that allows private drivers to connect with passengers. Uber facilitates transportation, but it does not actually provide transportation – at least not in a strictly legal sense.
Kennedy O’Brien, the Sayreville mayor, highlighted another major problem faced by legislators and regulators when trying to define the Uber service: the smartphone application allows drivers to use their private vehicles for commercial purposes. So should the law treat Uber as a commercial enterprise?
The New Jersey State League of Municipalities, an association that aims to improve self-government, has weighed in on the issue. William Dressel, executive director of the organization, said that the local police chief often has to make a decision about how to handle Uber transactions, especially when there is a dispute or an accident.
One of the great fears of legislators, and NJ residents, is that Uber passengers who suffer serious injuries will not necessarily be covered by insurance in the event of a car accident. As a result, the New Jersey State Legislature recently proposed a bill, currently in front of the Senate Transportation Committee, that will place particular insurance requirements on Uber, as well as other companies that function as transportation networks.
One of the bill’s sponsors, assemblyman John Wisniewski from Middlesex, NJ, said that the bill will explicitly require transportation network drivers to carry commercial insurance coverage. This is imperative since status quo policy leaves Uber passengers uncovered when they suffer significant injuries in a car crash or collision. That’s because typical auto insurance policies to do not apply when a car is used for business purposes. Additionally, the bill would protect other drivers in the event of an accident.
The attorneys at Team Law have an extensive history of helping clients with their personal injury lawsuits in New Jersey. If you have been injured in an accident, whether it was a motor vehicle collision or any other type of accident, call us today for a free consultation.