Are Rideshare Cars Considered Commercial Motor Vehicles?
The definition of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is variable between U.S. states, but it is true that a CMV can carry either passengers or goods and still qualify. In terms of passenger carriers, rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have begun to handle a significant part of the load – but unlike most passenger carriers in Florida, state law is straightforward in declaring that they do not generally qualify as CMVs. The reasons are specific to Florida, but the process for seeking compensation after a crash will still be very similar.
Definition Of A CMV
Florida defines a commercial motor vehicle as meeting three different criteria: (1) that the vehicle use motor fuel or “special fuel” when driving on public highways; (2) that it is not “owned or operated” by a governmental entity; and (3) that it either have three or more axles or weighs 26,001 pounds or more. Other states’ definitions will vary – for example, the federal definition of a CMV only requires the vehicle to weigh only 10,001 pounds or more.
Florida categorizes rideshare companies as “transportation network companies,” and in the relevant statute, explicitly states that TNCs are not common carriers, and drivers are not required to register their vehicle as a CMV. Rideshare vehicles tend to be ordinary cars, and as a general rule, those weigh between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). By that metric alone, most Uber or Lyft vehicles would not qualify as CMVs, never mind the other requirements.
If you are in an accident involving a CMV, you have the right to file a claim against both the driver and their employer (in most circumstances). Florida observes a theory called vicarious liability, which means that if certain criteria are met, an employer may be liable for the torts of their employees. A tort is basically the civil law equivalent of a crime, and if an injured plaintiff can show that the employer was negligent in hiring or training their employee, they may be able to recover damages on that premise.
Rideshare cases, by comparison, can get complex, because while the driver is not technically an employee of the TNC, their insurance coverage will come from the TNC as long as they are on the proverbial clock (generally, if the Uber or Lyft app is open and soliciting rides). If they are off the clock, an injured plaintiff will be forced to seek damages from them personally, which can be difficult – many rideshare drivers are judgment proof (that is, they lack the assets with which to cover a potential award if they are held liable).
Contact A Tampa CMV Accident Attorney
Being in an accident is always a potentially frightening experience, but the last thing you need afterward is red tape surrounding the ways in which you can seek damages for what you have been through. A Tampa CMV accident attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can answer your questions about the legal process and help you decide your best path forward. Call our office today for a free consultation.