A Ridesharing Auto Accident Can be Uber Complicated: What You Need to Know Before and After One.
Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare apps continue to grow more popular throughout Arizona and the world. Requesting an Uber ride is easy, quick, and usually much cheaper than a taxi. Some people believe – especially Uber promoters – that ride share services are also safer. Uber offers several options, depending on the number of passenger seats needed or if you’re willing to share your Uber ride with another Uber user. There are even new apps to help you compare costs and request a ride with Uber or Lyft!
When you get into an Uber vehicle, you are accepting a ride from a stranger, but you also pay a safe ride fee (now called a “booking fee” thanks to a class action settlement concession by Uber). Uber claims this fee covers background checks, motor vehicle screenings, and driver safety education. Accidents still happen, obviously.
So, what happens when you are injured in an Uber accident?
Perhaps you have read about Uber’s $1 million insurance coverage on its website. Uber drivers and passengers are actually covered by a three-part insurance plan. Coverage depends on the Uber driver’s activity at the time of the crash.
EXAMPLE 1: The Uber driver is using his vehicle for personal reasons and not available to pick up passengers.
If the driver is not available to pick up passengers he/she is covered by his/her personal auto insurance. The driver’s liability and coverage limits are determined by his/her auto policy and state law.
EXAMPLE 2: The Uber driver is available to pick up passengers, but is not transporting a passenger at the time of the crash.
If the driver is available, but not transporting a passenger, the accident is primarily covered by the driver’s own personal insurance company. Uber provides, however, additional contingent liability coverage of $50,000 per person in bodily injury coverage (up to $100,000 per crash) and up to $25,000 in property damage. This contingent liability coverage must be requested, and is only available if the driver’s personal insurance does not cover all the damages.
EXAMPLE 3: The Uber driver is transporting an Uber passenger.
If a crash happens while the driver is transporting a passenger, the passenger and driver are covered under Uber’s $1 million liability policy. Uber’s policy also provides $1 million of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for crashes caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Getting Compensation After an Uber Crash Is Not Easy.
The Uber auto insurance is supposed to offer coverage for all accidents involving an Uber driver, but getting payment for your claim is difficult. Like all auto insurance companies, Uber and its insurance company will do everything they can to deny or fight your claim.
Uber Drivers Are Not Uber Employees.
Generally, a company is liable for the actions of its employees while they are one the job, but not liable for the actions of independent contractors. Uber does not hire drivers. Instead, the Uber app connects those who need rides with independent contractors who can provide them. Uber drivers are not Uber’s employees, and Uber has used this distinction to deny liability for the actions of their drivers.
In 2013, an Uber driver in San Francisco hit and killed a 6-year-old girl. The driver was between fares, but using his Uber app at the time of the crash. Uber denied responsibility claiming the driver was an Uber licensee and not an employee. A similar accident occurred in New York in March 2015.
Coverage for Uber Crashes May Be Denied.
When Uber denies responsibility, accident victims have two choices. They can either sue Uber and the Uber driver, or make a claim on the Uber driver’s own auto insurance. That presents a problem, though, as many personal auto insurance policies specifically exclude injuries from crashes that happen while a driver is working, and ride sharing is included as working. Other auto insurers will require ridesharing drivers to have extra coverage via an “endorsement” or purchase a ridesharing policy. (Some auto insurance companies may also drop a driver who does ridesharing.)
So, what are your options after an Uber accident?
Your options after an Uber accident depend on whether you are an Uber passenger, an Uber driver or a third party, such as a pedestrian or the occupant of another vehicle.
If you are a passenger: In theory, all passengers are covered by Uber’s $1 million liability coverage regardless of who is responsible for the accident. But, Uber denies liability for driver behavior because the drivers are not Uber employees. Thus you may have trouble claiming damages if the accident occurred because the driver was distracted, impaired or reckless. If so, you can sue the driver, but unless he/she has a commercial auto insurance policy, you will have difficulty collecting compensation.
If you are an Uber driver: If you were not transporting a passenger, your injuries will be covered by the driver-at-fault’s insurance or your own auto insurance. If you were transporting an Uber passenger, your insurance will likely refuse coverage because you were driving for pay. If so, your injuries would be covered by Uber’s insurance plan. Uber may deny coverage, however, if you are found at fault for the crash.
If you are a third party: You may only claim compensation from Uber if the driver was carrying a passenger at the time of the crash. If the driver was between fares or using his/her car for personal use, you must make a claim with the driver’s personal auto insurance or your own auto insurance company.
What Can You Do?
If you have been injured in a crash involving an Uber driver, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more under Arizona law. Uber is a big company with a big insurance company, and neither wants to pay you for your losses. In any rideshare accident claim, you will need an experienced personal injury attorney with a track record of taking on big insurance companies. We offer a free auto accident consultation, and will evaluate your case and let you know if it is worth pursuing. If it is, we can represent you on a contingency fee basis with no upfront costs. Call us today at (480) 833-1113.