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Uber and Lyft rideshare accident guide 2019

July 10, 2019

uber lyft taxi car ride service accidents

Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are growing in popularity by the day. Uber, for instance, is now in 65 countries and over 600 cities worldwide, making about 14 million trips daily.

Generally, the use of Uber and other ride-sharing services is mostly concentrated in cities and fast-moving urban areas. In New York city, ride sharing services have become so popular that yellow cabs are going out of fashion. The New York Times reported that in 2017, the number of commuters ferried by Uber far exceeded those ferried by New York’s city taxis. There should be nothing surprising about this, especially since over 25% of Americans use Uber at least once per month.

Considering the proliferation of these ride-share services, some important questions have begun to pop up. What happens if you are injured in an accident involving an Uber or Lyft service? Who bears the liability for your injuries? The ride-share company or the driver?

Uber is very different from taxis

AirBnB have been likened to Uber. AirBnB is the world’s foremost accommodation provider, yet it owns no ‘property’. Uber is the largest transportation provider in the world, yet it actually ‘owns’ no cars.

Uber drivers use their own personal vehicles to provide rides. From part-time to full time work. Drivers on Uber are ‘independent contractors’ and get to choose their own working hours. Before this, the vehicles get inspected by Uber to make sure that it meets their vehicle requirements.

This varies on different levels, but the general requirement is that the vehicle must have no major damage. It is also often required that it should be no more than ten years old. The other detail is that the vehicle is personally insured by the owner. Unlike Taxis, they do not even require a commercial driver’s license.

Taxis have been around for centuries. Their long reign – or watch – however appears to be coming to an end. With ride-share services like Uber (launched in 2010) and Lyft (2012) – Uber’s biggest competitor – traditional transport services have become disrupted.

While Uber does the ‘work’ of Taxis in that they move you from one place to another for a fee, they aren’t really taxis. There are quite a number of areas where they differ. Uber is an instant, ride-share service where you can hire drivers to transport you for an affordable fee. With an estimated 91 million users, as of January 2018, Uber has provided a cumulative five billion rides.

The biggest reasons riders choose ride share services over the yellow taxis are that they usually have a shorter wait time and are more economical. One of the other reasons is that Uber also offers a wide range of specially designed levels of service.

The most common ones are the lowest-cost option, Uber X, which uses ‘everyday’ cars. The company’s original service, Uber Black, costs a bit more but it uses high-end town cars with professional drivers. Uber SUV and Uber LUX (luxury) are two of the company’s upper services. The former makes use of larger vehicles likes SUVs; the latter operates posh rides like Porsche Panameras, BMW 7 series sedans, and its likes.

While Uber and other share ride services offer you the comfort of moving from one place to another at a reasonable fee, there are growing concerns as to how they operate. One of these relates to what happens if a road accident occurs. Perhaps this is even more concerning when one considers a report that claims that Uber and other ride share services have contributed to a slight increase in road accidents.

Has Uber Really Contributed to Traffic Accidents in the U.S?

Uber drivers spend about 40 to 60 percent of their time searching for passengers. This is known as “deadheading.” On average, in New York City alone, Uber drivers are estimated to travel 2.8 miles between fares deadheading. This practice has been partly linked to the increase in congestion.

A research by academics from the University of Chicago and Rice University has theorized that Uber and Lyft are behind a sharp rise in US traffic deaths. According to the report, the growing use of ride-sharing services has increased traffic deaths by 2 to 3 percent in the US since 2011. This is linked to as many as 1,100 mortalities a year.

The researchers collected statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on particular cities and compared them with the dates Uber or Lyft became operative there. This data was then analyzed with the rates of accidents in those cities. The result shows there was a sharp increase of road accidents in those cities after ride share services like Uber and Lyft took off.

Is There Cause for Alarm?

Road crash fatalities are now identified as a global epidemic and major public health concern. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is the 9th leading cause of death accounting for 2.2% of all deaths globally. Asides this, about 20-50 million are injured or disabled annually.

In the U.S alone, following information revealed by the Association for Road Safety International, over 37,000 people die in road crashes each year and an additional 2.35 million are injured or disabled.

For ride share services, perhaps the most pressing concern is that of insurance. What would happen to the driver or an injured passenger involved in a ride share accident? If you or a loved one gets involved in an Uber or Lyft accident and sustained injuries, can you file a legal action? If you can, who exactly will you be filing it against? Is it the driver as the owner of the car or the ‘Employer’?

The $1m Insurance Policy

The ride share vehicle is both a personal vehicle and a work vehicle, depending on the function it was performing as at the time of the road accident. When the vehicle is not used for ride share services, the driver’s personal car insurance will be the determining factor here.

On the other hand, if the driver is on the job, ride share services offer insurance policies to cover any damage.  Uber offers supplemental liability insurance in addition to the driver’s personal auto coverage. This is popularly known as the $1 million three-part insurance plan. This coverage has state-dependent limits, but the minimum is $1,000,000.

This liability insurance policy covers both the driver and the passenger. The important thing to note is that this policy is only usually activated when the driver was on the app and carrying a passenger at the time of the road accident.

Claiming on the Insurance Policies When You’re a Passenger

The $1m insurance policy covers you if you’re a passenger involved in a road accident. The personal insurance of the driver will not be applied in this case. Even if the accident was entirely the fault of your driver – maybe through careless driving or even intoxication – Uber’s insurance covers you.

This isn’t a straight forward though. Just like every other corporation, ride share services would avoid paying the insurance claim if they have their way.

If you get involved in a ride share accident make sure you immediately get medical treatment for your injuries. Not only will this help detect other injuries not visibly apparent, it will also serve as a form of documentation for the injuries you sustained during the incident.

As a passenger, the ride share company may want you to absorb some degree of fault for the accident. While passengers in taxis are exempt from wearing a seatbelt, ride share passengers are required to wear belts. Failing to wear a seatbelt after you were informed to do so may offer the other side some form of leverage.

This will be problematic for obvious reasons. To avoid unnecessary complications, it is best to contact a  skilled and personal injury attorney to assess your case. Seeing as Uber treats its drivers as ‘independent contractors’, you may have certain difficulties getting the compensation you deserve.

There are quite a number of times that both the driver’s insurance company and that of Uber’s will deny your claim. This is why you need an attorney that can examine your claim and help you recover fair compensation.

Claiming on the Insurance Policies When You’re Not a Passenger

If you’re a pedestrian, passerby, or say a jogger, the insurance policy that will cover you becomes a little complex. Usually, Uber’s insurance policy will only be activated if there’s a passenger in the car.

In cases where the driver is off duty, ‘dead-heading’ and there’s no passenger in the car, the driver will usually have personal liability. Uber’s insurance policies don’t cover these situations.

Nevertheless, you should immediately contact a skilled Uber road accident lawyer after the accident. There may be facts that could still entitle you to hold the company responsible.

Claiming on Uber’s Policy When You’re the Driver

Uber drivers are considered Independent Contractors. What this means legally is that they’re self-employed. As a driver, you have to maintain automobile liability insurance on the vehicle you’re operating. The insurance limit on your vehicle has to be equal to or greater than the minimum required for the state you’re operating in.

Uber, as with most share ride services, however provides some form of additional insurance for their drivers. The policies will only apply if your personal policy as a driver doesn’t provide coverage or if the limits are less than required. They cover the following:

  • $25,000 for property damage for which the driver is responsible.
  • $50,000 for the driver’s liability for bodily injury per person in the case of a covered accident.
  • $100,000 per covered accident.

The policies may also cover personal injury protection and/or uninsured or under insured motorist coverage. Generally, as a driver, Uber’s insurance covers you in three instances:

Third-party Liability Coverage

This will cover injuries you have caused to your passengers, other drivers, passengers in other cars, pedestrians, or even property. The insurance cap varies from one state to another, but it is usually not less than $1,000,000.

Uninsured or Underinsured Driver

If another driver is at fault, Uber’s insurance policy will still insure you and your passenger. This will only be applicable if the other driver doesn’t have sufficient coverage or for accidents involving a ‘hit and run’.

Contingent Comprehensive and Collision Coverage

Regardless of the person at fault, Uber’s insurance policy may still provide physical damage coverage for your car up to its actual cash value. This is contingent upon your maintenance of comprehensive and collision coverage on your personal insurance.

You should note that before this package kicks in, you will have to pay a $1000 deductible fee. If you get involved in an accident while operating your car as an Uber, you may not have to file an insurance claim against your insurance company. You can make a claim directly from the Uber app although, as always, it is usually best to let a lawyer help you assess the facts.

The Issue of Fault

Uber’s insurance policy will provide coverage if you were active at the time of the accident. This is notwithstanding the fact that the accident was as a result of your actions or that of another driver.

New York is a ‘no-fault’ insurance state. This means that if you’re involved in an accident, you will be reimbursed by the insurance company regardless of who was responsible. You can be compensated for medical costs and other injuries or losses suffered.

It is important to note that there are some states, like California for instance, where the principle of ‘comparative fault’ is used. In these states, the Courts will only make an insurance company liable to the extent of their liability. If it is found that the insured person is only liable for 75 percent of the accident, the insurance company will only be obligated to pay 75 percent of the compensation.

The Dilemma of Self-Driving Cars

Also known as autonomous or ‘driverless’ cars, self-driving cars are vehicles that require very little or no control from human drivers. Fully autonomous vehicles have not been approved for operation. There are however ‘semi-autonomous’ cars or trucks in the U.S. The automation often covers brakes or lane assistance. While self-driving cars could reduce the number of road accidents, there are still questions raised about the developing technology.

Many are familiar with the fatal Uber accident involving a self-driving car about a year ago in Temple, Arizona, that resulted in the death of Elaine Herzberg. After the accident, Uber suspended all its tests on self-driving. Investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board are still ongoing on the incident. Since December of 2018, self-driving cars have however been reintroduced and will go through public roads testing in 2020.

The question that particularly concerns passengers – and indeed everybody – concerns the liability of Uber in the event that an accident occurs. It’s much easier to determine the party at fault for cars operated by an Uber driver. What happens for self-driving cars? Who will be held liable for accidents caused by one of such cars? Is it Uber or the company that manufactured the vehicle? Is it the Safety Operator or ‘assistant driver’ in the vehicle?

The answer is not a straight one. Many factors have to be put into consideration. In the accident involving the Arizona victim, prosecutors have stated that they will not be laying charges against Uber as they have not found evidence that implicates the company.

While Uber may not be held liable criminally for the death of the Arizona self-driving car victim, the Company has however settled a civil case with the family of the deceased.

The Role of Personal Injury Attorneys in Ride-share Accidents

Understand that insurance companies would rather not pay victims of accidents if they can avoid it. This is why insurance companies have loss adjusters and their own attorneys that will try to minimize the company’s liability.

Even more, many accidents, especially those involving ride share services, are not cut and dry. There will be significant issues with determining the party at fault and even the particular insurance that covers the accident.

This is where you need a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney. Your attorney will gather the relevant evidence like accident or medical reports and witness testimony to help your chances of a positive outcome.

If you or your loved ones were involved in a ride share accident, contact us immediately at Oshan and Associates, after getting the required medical attention. You will need a personal injury attorney to help assess your chances of compensation and the liability of the insurance companies.

With an experienced attorney, you can get compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering etc. You may even be awarded punitive damages against the ride-share company in certain situations.

Get in touch with Oshan and Associates and let us help you get the compensation you deserve. Fill this form to set up a free no-obligation consultation today. You can also call us on (206) 335-3880 or (646) 421-4062 today for a discussion about your Uber, Lyft or other ride-share accidents.



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