Risk Management |
Article by Julie Strom and Heather DeBlanc, Liebert Cassidy Whitmore
From the July/August 2018 Net Assets magazine
Remember when teenagers counted down the days until they got their drivers’ licenses? Today, more teenagers rely on ride-share companies to get them to and from activities, commitments and social events. Parents, too, find that ride-share companies can make their lives easier by eliminating the need to coordinate carpool or hire nannies. With more and more parents sending their kids to and from school in ride-share vehicles, schools are left wondering what liability they might have if a child is injured or harmed while using such services.
Schools have little to no control over how parents get their children to school in the morning, but afternoon carpool is a different story. Some schools have open campuses with no monitoring of pickup; others have strictly planned carpool lines where students are only allowed to go home with an adult designated by parents. If your school wants to allow ride-share companies, we advise developing a written policy or disclaimer that includes the following:
But are all ride-share companies the same? Many major companies maintain terms of service that explicitly prohibit minors from riding without an adult, even if the account holder arranges the ride. Other companies cater specifically to transporting minors to and from school, athletics or other extracurricular activities. These companies engage in higher levels of security and screening for drivers. Schools should make clear that it is the parents’ responsibility to research various companies and their practices and procedures in order to decide what is best for their family. Some schools may only feel comfortable permitting ride-share services that cater to children on campus.
Many laws govern schools’ use of buses and vans for student transport. These laws exist in part to regulate the safe transportation of children, and schools using bus and van companies enter into written contracts to ensure compliance with them. However, schools have little to no guidance on how courts might assess negligence standards and other liability issues for ride-share companies, which some schools have started to explore for activities like field trips and athletics. Although schools should not use ride-share companies that prohibit unaccompanied minors, your school may want to consider whether it makes sense to enter into an agreement with a ride-share company geared toward kids.
When starting a relationship with a ride-share company, consider several key factors and document the following in a contract:
Given common concerns regarding traffic and congestion around schools, particularly in crowded neighborhoods, parents may be excited to hear about carpool options using ride-share companies. In general, ride-share companies have made life easier for many busy parents. But each school must determine what approach it will take regarding ride sharing, assess the risks and proactively manage these risks.
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