As we move through the 21st century, convenience is something that continues to grow in importance. Rideshare services like Lyft and Uber have simplified people’s lives significantly, and this will continue as automation becomes more prevalent.
However, these services aren’t perfect. Although the rideshare industry has revolutionized the way that people get around, there are still risks involved. If you have been injured while using a rideshare service like Uber, you need to know your rights.
This can be tough. As these rideshare services are relatively new, there is still a lot of gray area in determining liability in the event of something like an accident or injury. Peer-to-peer services are notorious for being difficult to deal with due to their confusing corporate structure.
For example, Uber has their own way of avoiding payouts when one of their drivers is injured. Since the company works on a contract basis with independent drivers, they aren’t responsible for paying out workers’ compensation benefits even when a driver injures themselves on the job.
Another one of their requirements is that the drivers must hold their own car insurance. Although Uber drivers have tried on multiple occasions to become classified as full-time employees of Uber, they have been unsuccessful so far.
Rideshare Drivers have Independent Responsibility
Uber drivers also aren’t held to the same safety standards as taxi drivers. Whereas taxi drivers are subject to regular vehicle inspections and safety checks, Uber drivers are largely responsible for their own safety standards.
This is part of what makes determining liability in personal injury cases so difficult. Take the case of six-year old Sophia Liu, for example.
On January 1, 2014, an Uber driver struck and killed Sophia Liu as she was walking in a crosswalk. Since the driver didn’t have a passenger in the car with him at the time of the incident, although he was on-call, Uber denied all responsibility.
According to Bay Area legal expert Stephen Clark,
“Uber’s entire business model is set up to try to avoid liability in situations just like this. … The court is going to have to decide whether this business model shields Uber cab from liability, but just calling your drivers independent contractors isn’t going to be enough.”
In cases such as this, pursuing something like a wrongful death lawsuit becomes difficult since it isn’t clear who exactly is liable.
The Uber Insurance Policy
If you’ve been injured in an Uber or by an Uber, you may be eligible to take advantage of their insurance plan. When you pay your fare, you’re also paying a bit extra for a safe ride (background checks, vehicle screenings, etc). Uber has a $1 million insurance plan in place, and it essentially has three levels to it:
Driver is Not Available
If a driver is involved in an incident, but they are set to unavailable on Uber, the Uber insurance policy is not applicable. The coverage of an incident such as this is based completely on the insurance that the drivers hold. This means that you will be dealing completely with the driver of the car and now with Uber at all.
Driver is Available but has No Passenger
If the driver is available on the Uber app but does not have a passenger in the vehicle, the driver’s insurance is the primary insurance used in the incident. However, if the driver’s insurance policy does not cover all of the damage, Uber’s insurance policy will kick in, covering up to $50,000 per injury up to $100,000 and a maximum of $100,000 in property damage.
Driver is Available and Carrying a Passenger
If a driver is available in the Uber app and is carrying a passenger when the incident happens, Uber’s $1 million policy kicks in. Both the driver and the passenger are covered under this policy. In addition, if a third-party was also injured during the incident (a bicyclist or pedestrian, for example). Uber’s policy covers them as well.
What to do if You’re Injured
Whether you’ve been injured as a passenger in a rideshare service or as a third-party injured by a rideshare service, you can file a lawsuit against the company. Although the corporate structure of companies like Uber and Lyft make it difficult to hold the companies liable, it’s likely that you will still be eligible for some type of compensation, either through the driver’s personal insurance or through the company’s insurance.
That’s why you need an experienced law firm on your side. If you’ve been injured by a rideshare service, contact us today for a free consultation to see what we can do for you.