Internet and app-based startups are literally changing the world and how people do everything from sell goods to find a ride downtown. While many of these startup companies have traditionally taken the stance that they are simply providing the software and platform to connect customers and service providers, increasingly questions and concerns about the responsibilities and liabilities of these companies are being raised.
Airbnb is undoubtedly one of the most successful app-based startup companies and it, along with other startups like Uber, has come under scrutiny lately regarding a litany of safety and legal issues. Recently, a man was killed on the Texas Airbnb property he rented with his family after a tree branch fell and struck him in the head.
According to the company, during 2015 alone approximately 50 personal injury claims were filed by Airbnb customers in the U.S. As questions surfaced as to the liability of Airbnb vs. individual property owners, the company opted to offer its hosts free "automatic secondary coverage for liability," which "covers up to $1 million an incident."
Given the number of personal injury claims filed in just the U.S. this year alone, one has to question the sustainability of Airbnb's liability policy. For its part, the company doesn't appear to be too concerned as it continues to accept hosts' offerings of a spare room or home without requiring any type of inspection or vetting process. However, as reports of sexual assaults, dog attacks and carbon monoxide poisonings at Airbnb properties come to light; it's clear that the company, along with property owners, must do more to ensure for the safety of their customers.
Individuals who have suffered injuries or harm while staying at an Airbnb rental or driving in an Uber vehicle would be wise to discuss their legal options with an attorney.
Source: Fortune, "Who's Liable When an Airbnb Stay or Uber Ride Ends Badly?," Kia Kokalitcheva, Nov. 10, 2015
The New York Times, "Death in Airbnb Rental Raises Liability Questions," Ron Lieber, Nov. 13, 2015