Car-sharing apps and programs have become a staple of urban mobility in many large US cities. They present an easy, convenient way to get around town and accomplish the infrequent activities which are otherwise difficult without a dedicated personal vehicle. For many urban dwellers, particularly young professionals, it is also a less expensive option than many other alternatives, simply because of how infrequently it will probably be used.
Systems for car-sharing typically come in two flavors: commercial microrentals and end-user matching. Companies like Car2Go, Zipcar, and Free2Move own fleets of vehicles — usually stamped prominently with the company’s logo — that can be parked at various areas around town and unlocked by the use of a smartphone app. Usually, these vehicles support keyless entry so that a prospective driver/renter need only show up and drive. At the end of the trip, the driver can simply hop out, lock the car with the app, and continue on his or her way, with the company handling maintenance and upkeep just as with any rental.
In the other common alternatives, such as Maven, the vehicles are owned and maintained (as well as sometimes fueled) by private individuals who also use the mobile app. Owners are required to keep their vehicle within a certain condition range at all times and comply with certain other standards, and the owners often can set their own prices based on the size and value of the vehicle. In many instances, this is used by vehicle owners who participate in other gig-economy jobs like driving for Uber. By renting their vehicle while they are not using it, they are able to gain a much-needed break while still using their vehicle to earn.
There are always a range of advantages and disadvantages which arise whenever new solutions are emerging. Proponents of these car-sharing approaches point to reduced overall cost, fewer total vehicles on the road, and convenience. With apps like Free2Move, the user is also granted access to bicycle and electric scooter rentals, allowing a free range of choices far in excess of just a vehicle. Detractors, however, are concerned about the uncertainties associated with rapid rentals and the liability when things go wrong.
Insurance coverage in an accident is a big issue for any car-sharing application. Depending on how the car-sharing program works, the applicable insurance policy may be tied to the car, to the company, to the person who is renting their own personal vehicle, or to the driver. Even more confusingly, different policies may stack or interact in unfamiliar ways. For example, a driver who is renting a vehicle through an app may only have minimum coverage through the company, leading to potential personal liability if they cause a serious accident. In another situation, a driver who is renting someone else’s vehicle and is struck by an uninsured driver could be left without any recourse if the owner of the vehicle he is driving doesn’t carry uninsured motorist coverage.
Because of the many complexities of accidents involving car sharing, it’s important to speak to a car-sharing accident lawyer, like an Uber accident lawyer in Canoga Park, CA, who understands the implications and challenges of this common situation. Ideally, this is a discussion held before any accident takes place…but even if an accident has already happened, it’s vital to get in touch with an attorney quickly to make sure all possible rights are protected.
Thank you to the experts at Barry P. Goldberg for their insight into carsharing accidents.