Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP

Before you climb in that Uber, understand your risks

Ride-sharing services like San Francisco-based Uber and Lyft, and professional taxicab companies and fleets get millions of people from proverbial "Point A" to "Point B" each day. Most people understand that there are some risks involved in such trips, but assume that those hazards are mainly limited to potentially having a driver flirt with you or dropping you off in an unfamiliar or sketchy neighborhood.

What most of us may not be aware of, however, is research showing that as many as one-third of for-hire vehicles in this country could prove unsafe in the event of an accident because of recalled engine or structural components that haven't been repaired.

The scope of the problem

A recent joint investigation performed by various TEGNA television station and Cars.com reviewed vehicle identification numbers (VINs) for thousands of registered for-hire vehicles in several major cities across the country, comparing those to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's database of safety-based recalls. They found that, on average, about 30 percent of all for-hire vehicles (private ones used by ride-sharing services as well as professional taxis and transportation companies) in major cities across America had at least one open recall that hadn't been completed.

Some of these recall repairs were minor, dealing with relatively innocuous things like windows, but others were vital to the safety of the vehicle and its occupants, including steering column issues, defective Takata airbag inflators and sticking Toyota accelerators. Many of the recalls dated back years, but the vehicles hadn't been taken in for repairs by their owners and operators. Should these faulty auto parts fail, serious or catastrophic injuries could occur.

Such failures have already resulted in injury-causing and fatal car accidents, which is, of course, why the recalls were issued in the first place. The Takata airbags in particular have been destructive, with fracturing inflator pieces essentially becoming airborne shrapnel once the airbag inflates, piercing the skin of vehicle occupants and causing serious injuries.

Staying safe

When components of our own vehicles are recalled, we know what to do: we take the vehicle to a qualified repair facility and have the problem addressed according to the instructions given in the recall notice. That is the only way to ensure that the issue is corrected. Unfortunately, we cannot be confident that other vehicle owners are doing the same thing.

When we hire a private or commercial vehicle to transport us, we put their lives in our hands. We can take precautions, like wearing our seat belt and not distracting the driver, but, ultimately, if the unthinkable occurs and we are involved in an accident during one of those rides, our safety is their responsibility.

To ensure that they are held accountable for any negligent actions that contributed to the injuries we suffered - including failing to repair recalled vehicle components or being lax with overall vehicle maintenance, distracted or drunk driving or other recklessness - legal action can be vital. To pursue legal claims against a taxi, fleet or ride-share, hire an attorney with proven skills in the personal injury arena to handle your case.

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