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Uber, Lyft and Car Accident Liability

Rideshare accident liability and insurance protection

In our ever growing and advancing society, it appears that companies such as Uber and Lyft have taken over traditional cab services. So, what exactly is Uber and Lyft? Uber and Lyft are ridesharing services that arrange shared rides on very short notice, through a smartphone app. https://rideshareapps.com/ride-sharing-companies/.

Are rideshare drivers employees or are they independent contractors?

            There have been several lawsuits involving rideshare companies in different jurisdictions to determine if Uber drivers are employees of Uber or if they are independent contractors. In a recent case, a U.S. judge in Philadelphia ruled that Uber limousine drivers are not employees of Uber but instead are independent contractors. The U.S. District Judge opined that Uber does not have enough control over its limousine drivers to be considered employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act. In his reasoning, the Judge further stated that “the drivers work when they want and are free to nap, run personal errands, or smoke cigarettes in between rides.” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-uber-lawsuit/u-s-judge-says-uber-drivers-are-not-companys-employees-idUSKBN1HJ31I.

Liability and protections for passengers

            Under Uber’s policies, Uber only requires that drivers have and maintain liability insurance on all vehicles that are used while driving for Uber, with insurance limits equal to or greater than state requirements. In addition, Uber does have an insurance program.

When a driver logs into the Uber app to the time that he accepts a trip, Uber has liability coverage in the following amounts:

  • Driver’s liability of at least $50,000 for drivers for bodily injury of one person;
  • $100,000 for each accident; and
  • $25,000 for property damage caused to others.

https://help.uber.com/h/a4afb2ed-75af-4db6-8fdb-dccecfcc3fd7.

For the duration of each Uber trip that is accepted and completed, Uber maintains primary automobile liability insurance of at least $1,000,000 per accident and at least $100,000 of uninsured/ underinsured motorists coverage. Depending on the state in which the Uber is being operated, there may also be personal injury protection, if the law so requires.

Uber also provides insurance coverage to protect its drivers when they are available and in between trips. In such circumstances, it is likely that the driver’s personal auto insurance will kick in, but if not, Uber has it covered. Uber’s policy provides driver’s liability for bodily injury for up to $50,000 per accident, per person, with a total of $100,000 per accident and up to $25,000 for property damage. It is important to know that even though an Uber driver may have Uber advertised on his vehicle, if the driver is not logged into the Uber app and an accident occurs, Uber’s insurance policy will not kick in and all claims must go through the driver’s personal insurance, which is where things could get a little tricky.

Lyft’s insurance protection almost mirrors Uber’s, except for deductibles that drivers must pay for contingent comprehensive and collision insurance protection.

Ironically, the requirement that a NC Uber driver carry liability insurance is misplaced.  The standard NC automobile insurance policy contains an exclusion to coverage when the insured driver is serving in a taxi (or ride sharing) capacity.  In other words, if you are driving for Uber or Lyft, your insurance company will not cover you if you are involved in an accident.  This can become an issue when an Uber or Lyft driver is hit by another driver without insurance (or not enough insurance).  An examination of the standard Uber insurance policy reflects that they don't provide insurance coverage for un-insured or underinsured accidents.  This obviously puts the injured Uber driver in a disadvantaged position.  Their own policy would disclaim coverage and the Uber policy does not allow for coverage.  However, in our experience, Uber and Lfyt have covered drivers hit by un-insured or underinsured motorists (primarily because their websites advertise this coverage not contained in their insurance policies).

The Statistics

            In a recent survey of 1,200 rideshare drivers by the Rideshare Guy, Harry Campbell, the survey revealed that 46.5% of the respondents said that they purchased rideshare insurance and 46.8% of the respondents said that they did not purchase rideshare insurance. In addition, Campbell’s survey revealed that 55% of the respondents have informed their insurance company of their rideshare status while 28% of respondents decided to keep that information away from their insurance company. Of these findings only 17.3% of respondents have had to initiate a claim through their personal insurance while working for a rideshare service. https://www.insurance.com/auto-insurance/uber-insurance.html.

What to do after you have been involved in an accident while a passenger in a rideshare vehicle

            If you have found yourself in the unfortunate situation and have been involved in an accident as a rideshare passenger, the first thing you should do is get to a safe location and call 911 if there is an emergency. If you are in a Lyft vehicle, immediately call the critical response team. The critical response team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are riding in an Uber when an accident occurs, visit https://help.uber.com/h/306d3758-44fb-4e9c-88d6-0a9c1a8ce4a3 to submit and incident form. Unlike Lyft, Uber does not appear to have a 24-hour critical response team to respond to accidents.

Know your rights

            Just like any other accident, it is always a good idea to know your rights and to have an attorney review your case to ensure the insurance company is handling your claim fairly. Even though rideshare companies have insurance coverage in place, sometimes insurance companies will deny claims for specific reasons. Having an experienced attorney can play a critical role in getting the insurance company to pay you what you are entitled to after being involved in an accident while a passenger in a rideshare vehicle.

If you have been involved in an accident while a passenger in a rideshare vehicle, call our office at 704-714-1450 to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.

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