What Uber and Lyft Don’t Want You to Know - Shocking Safety Records and Deadly Accident Reports See the Light

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What Uber and Lyft Don’t Want You to Know - Shocking Safety Records and Deadly Accident Reports See the Light

Last December, when Uber released a report disclosing accidents and sexual assaults, the company claimed it was doing so for the sake of transparency. A new journalistic investigation revealed the report left out thousands of incidents, including some involving riders who were seriously injured. 

Uber and Lyft have managed to keep their safety records confidential, though they are required to share them with the California Public Utilities Commission. Despite the industry’s efforts to keep the public in the dark, a San Francisco Public Press analysis of court and government documents has revealed a shocking track record of serious accidents and careless drivers involved in multiple incidents.

Over 150 lawsuits filed since 2013 claim that Uber drivers “wrongfully injured other parties in vehicular incidents, with repeated allegations that [they] were poorly trained, distracted by their apps and driving dangerously,” Public Press stated. Between 2014 and 2019, Uber has paid over $217 million to settle lawsuits alleging a variety of violations involving safety and privacy issues, as well as deceptive advertising.

In San Francisco, ride-hailing vehicles were involved in seven fatal accidents between 2018 and August 2019. For three solid years, over half of traffic violations triggering citations in downtown San Francisco went to ride-hailing drivers. In California, insurer payouts relating to ride-hailing vehicle accidents amounted to $185.6 million between 2014 and 2016. 

Examples of Serious Uber Accidents and Settlements      

Date: November 2018
Location: San Francisco
Fatal victim: Jessica Christie, motorcycle rider
Uber driver: Roberto Carlos Blandon Martinez 
Reported cause of the accident: Illegal U-turn by Uber driver caused a fatal collision
Case outcome: Christie’s family sued, Uber settled confidentially
Date: March 2016
Location: San Francisco
Victims: Jordan Medina, private car driver, Robert and Ruth Robinson, Uber users. Medina suffered a concussion and required surgery; the Robinsons were both injured.  
Uber driver: Baher Tamim, who had received over 24 complaints from Uber users about his driving and one tailgating conviction. 
Reported cause of the accident: Tamim crashed into the back of Medina’s car at a stoplight, after ignoring 25 mph signs.
Case outcome: Lawsuit forced Uber to reveal Tamim’s driving record, settlement unknown.
Date: December 2013
Location: San Francisco
Victims: Three pedestrians. Sophia Liu (6) was killed; her mother and brother were injured.  
Uber driver: Syed Muzaffar 
Reported cause of the accident: Muzaffar drove into the family while looking at his smartphone. 
Case outcome: Uber settled a lawsuit filed by the family for a confidential amount. Muzaffar was convicted of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. The case triggered a discussion over insurance coverage, leading to a bill passed in California in 2014 requiring Uber and others to carry a minimum of $1 million in insurance coverage for rides with passengers on board.

Lyft’s Payouts to Government over Violations  

  • Amount: $500,000
    Description: Paid to San Francisco and LA over misleading information about driver screening
  • Amount: $300,000 
    Description: Paid to New York State for insurance requirement violations
  • Amount: $230,050 
    Description: Paid to Miami-Dade County for drivers operating without a permit
  • Amount: $224,000 
    Description: Paid to Colorado for putting a driver with a felony record out on the streets
  • Amount: $10,000 
    Description: Paid to Chicago for failing to notify the city that a driver had been accused of assault and deactivated. (Later, the driver drove for Uber, eventually kicking a taxi driver to death, according to allegations)  

2017 Violations by Uber/Lyft Drivers in Downtown San Francisco  

In 2017, Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing drivers in San Francisco’s downtown received: 

  • 77 percent of citations for obstructing or driving in bike lanes or traffic lanes
  • 74 percent of citations for making illegal U-turns 
  • 67 percent of citations for illegally driving in lanes reserved for public transport 
  • 54 percent of citations for impeding traffic flow, crossing double yellow lines, and other similar violations
  • 52 percent of citations for failing to yield to pedestrians

The San Francisco Police Department has stated that the majority of citations have also gone to ride-hailing drivers in 2018 and 2019.

How Uber Deals with Rider Complaints and Reckless Drivers 

The case of Baher Tamim is exemplary to show just how reckless Uber has been, and how its poor management may have put numerous individuals at risk.

List of rider complaints about Tamim on a single day, May 31, 2015:

  • Complaint 1: Tamim was going “too fast”
    Uber response: Reassurances to the rider about Uber’s focus on safety
  • Complaint 2: “Unsafe driver. Nearly caused two accidents and excessive speeding.” 
    Uber response: Reassurances to the rider about Uber’s focus on safety
  • Complaint 3: Driver “drove very fast and recklessly. Felt like we might crash more than once.” 
    Uber response: Reassurances to the rider about Uber’s focus on safety
  • Complaint 4: “Driving was very fast and aggressive and frightened my wife.” 
    Uber response: Reassurances to the rider about Uber’s focus on safety and promise to follow up with Tamim.

List of rider complaints about Tamim, June 2015

  • June 22 Complaint: Tamim “had serious road rage. He even rolled down the customer side window to yell at another driver then aggressively cut him off after dropping off the other customer. He should not be allowed to be an Uber driver.”
    Uber response: Reassurances to the rider about Uber’s focus on safety, promise to flag Tamim, and follow up immediately.
  • June 26 Complaint: Tamim “ran a few red lights very late after they had changed.” 
    Uber response: Reassurances to the rider about Uber’s focus on safety
  • June 27 Complaint: Tamim “pulled crazy driving move where we almost got hit by another car doing 40 miles per hour.” 
    Uber response: Rep promised to report the issue to the driver operations team
  • June 28 Complaint: “horrible he was swerving I think he was drunk or high I’ve never been scared in a car with the driver … and I was overcharged!”
    Uber response: Reassurances to the rider about Uber’s focus on safety, promise to follow up right away. 

Riders sent 15 more complaints about Tamim over the next six months. All of those ignored warnings materialized in March 2016, when he crashed against Jordan Medina’s car, injuring both Medina and Tamim’s two passengers. Following the accident, the company briefly suspended Tamim, but soon allowed him to continue to drive for Uber, up until he was involved in a second accident one month later. 

Tamim’s case shows us that Uber has seldom put safety first. Tamim was allowed to continue to drive for Uber after he was accused of traffic violations, road rage, possible substance abuse, and even after causing a crash that injured three people. Quite simply, he might have pointed a gun at riders, and Uber might have responded the same way, “we are sorry” and “safety is a priority for us,” but zero action.

Confidentiality and Illegal Lobbying   

A lobbyist for Lyft, who actively worked to ensure information about accidents and other incidents could be kept confidential, was fined for not reporting as a lobbyist as mandated by the state of California. 

Over the years, Uber and Lyft have succeeded in persuading the government to pass legislation that allows them to keep information about crashes, sexual assault, and other sensitive incidents confidential, arguing that revealing it could put them at a competitive disadvantage, among other things.

A single footnote, Footnote 42, which is not easy to find in a 75-page regulation issued in 2013, is responsible for allowing Uber, Lyft, and others to keep data about a variety of incidents confidential. The public was not informed about the footnote’s insertion, which was completed amid massive lobbying efforts. 

Now that San Francisco’s Public Press has put the confidentiality clause in the spotlight, the  California Public Utilities Commission has announced that it expects to revise or get rid of the footnote altogether by the end of the first quarter of 2020. “We anticipate issuing a decision on the matter in the first quarter of 2020,” the President of the Commission said in a statement. The agency has also announced that it has formed a team to investigate misconduct by ride-hailing companies.

The removal of Footnote 42 from the regulatory framework would undoubtedly be good news for consumers, but it will only be the beginning. The truth of the matter is that the only way we can demand changes from this expanding sector is by suing the companies that allow drivers with terrible track records to transport passengers, even despite multiple complaints. 

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident involving Uber, Lyft, or another ride-hailing service vehicle, you may be eligible for compensation. Uber, for example, has been known to knock on victim’s doors and offer cash, to prevent lawsuits from being filed. 

Before you make any decision, contact an experienced ride-hailing accident attorney. Our team has the expertise and knowledge to sue ride-hailing companies for damages and secure compensation. If you want to keep California’s streets safe and help hold ride-hailing companies accountable, contact us today for a complimentary consultation.

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David Kani

David Kani is a Southern California based trial lawyer with a focus on class actions and whistleblower (False Claims Act, SEC and others) cases.

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