Can a Passenger Sue an Uber Driver?
Sometimes it may be necessary for a passenger to sue an Uber driver.
There’s plenty of controversy over how Uber compensates individuals hurt in crashes. Public outcry and legal action have taken their toll on the rideshare company and Uber has been forced to reexamine its insurance policy and revise its compensation procedures.
Uber offers individual victims compensation of up to $1 million through a liability insurance policy for injuries and other losses associated with an Uber accident. However, sometimes that insurance policy isn't enough and a passenger has to sue an Uber driver.
But keep in mind, the circumstances in which an injured passenger will need to sue an Uber driver are extremely few and far between. It’s best to look at filing an insurance claim first.
Insurance Plays a Big Role in Uber Passenger Accidents
Here’s how Uber insurance works after an accident where you’re the passenger. Liability depends on who caused the Uber accident and which period the Uber driver was in when the accident occurred, which we’ll explain in more detail below.
California is a fault or tort state when it comes to motor vehicle accidents. It’s crucial to determine who is at fault for the accident. Insurance companies that represent Uber drivers have a financial motive to avoid the blame. Injured passengers often get the runaround when asking to be compensated for their medical expenses, loss of time from work, and even serious permanent damages to their bodies.
Insurance plays a huge role in these passenger accident claims. It may be vital to get insurance involved - and also a huge hassle. You can’t necessarily rely on any particular party to pay up.
Car insurance policies - including the partner policies Uber offers its drivers - do NOT guarantee coverage for rideshare passengers in the event of an accident. An insurance company will always scramble to find ways to protect itself and avoid paying out on a claim.
Although California legislators enacted rideshare laws in 2015, accident victims are still on their own to pursue personal injury claims. This means you will still need the help of an experienced attorney to hold a rideshare company accountable for their driver’s accident. California’s lawmakers are scrambling to update the law. Learn the latest here.
The Time Period Matters for Injured Passengers
Whether or not one of these companies will agree to pay for your accident may depend on which period the driver was in when the crash occurred. Here’s what the California Public Utilities Commission requires of Uber and other rideshare companies:
Uber Insurance Pays for Almost Everything
Can a passenger sue an Uber driver over an accident where the passenger was hurt? Yes - but typically, you won't need to start a lawsuit. An insurance claim is often all it takes to get the compensation required to cover medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
Insurance settlements are often better for all parties than lawsuits, for a number of reasons:
Insurance Settlements are Quicker
Insurance settlements with Uber or Lyft can take as little as a few days to process. You can literally have a check in-hand within days of filing a claim. Sure, more complicated claims or those requesting a substantial amount of money will take more time to process, and may require an extended negotiation period, but it's rare for an Uber or Lyft insurance claim to go unresolved for more than a year.
Personal injury trials, on the other hand, can stew in legal limbo for a year or more before anybody ever sets foot in a courtroom.
Insurance Settlements Offer Guaranteed Compensation
Getting an adequate insurance settlement may seem like a hassle, but a settlement is a guaranteed payout.
In a small number of cases, if an Uber accident passenger and their attorney determine that an acceptable settlement amount cannot be negotiated with the insurance company, it may be possible to get a larger sum in compensation for the injuries suffered. You can sue the Uber driver and face their insurance company in court.
But it is important to understand that it's always possible the passenger may actually lose the case if it goes to trial and unfortunately, the injured person may walk away with nothing but legal expenses for their effort.
Sometimes You Need to Sue
On the other hand, sometimes suing an Uber driver is the right decision for an injured driver to get the compensation they deserve. Below are a few scenarios in which it might make sense to sue an Uber driver rather than accept an insurance settlement.
Scenario 1: The Victim's Injuries are Extensive
Hospital expenses from an injury accident can quickly mount into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's not inconceivable that the monetary expenses associated with an Uber accident could in certain cases surpass the $1 million maximum that Uber's insurance policy will cover. If that's the case, the passenger could sue the Uber driver in order to attempt to obtain a judgment that is beyond the policy coverage limits.
This situation is, however, unlikely to arise in the vast majority of cases. Even when the case is clearly worth more than $1 million, the driver as an individual will likely not have enough assets to pay. Your average Uber driver is just scraping by. Suing an Uber driver won't typically get you any more money than suing the company.
Scenario 2: It Happened While the Uber Driver was Off the Clock
Uber's insurance carriers try to avoid paying the costs of crashes when the driver's Uber app is not open and active. In such cases, a passenger can seek compensation from the driver's personal auto insurance. However, California only mandates a $15,000 per person minimum liability coverage, which you could have in a single hospital bill.
Again, if the driver is underinsured, filing a personal injury case could be the best way to seek compensation above and beyond insurance limits, but only in the minority of cases where the driver has substantial assets.
Scenario 3: The Insurance Company Fights Your Claim
If an insurance company simply won't acknowledge the validity of your claim and continues to lowball you, it may be necessary to sue. At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, we usually name the Uber driver in the lawsuit, as it adds more weight to the claim and will get Uber to take the case more seriously.
In most cases, an insurance company will come to a reasonable settlement, especially when faced with a strong demand letter and hard evidence. Of course, an appropriate settlement will almost always require some level of negotiation. Sometimes, for various reasons, even though the victim's case is strong, the insurer simply won't offer a high enough settlement before trial, and you need to go to court.
Often the case will still come to a settlement before the trial is over. Whatever happens, it’s essential to have the representation of a personal injury lawyer experienced in Uber accidents in such a situation.
What Passengers Can Expect from an Uber Lawsuit
If a passenger does sue an Uber driver after an accident, they can expect certain things. Coming in as the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit means that the burden to prove a case falls on your shoulders, with the help of your lawyer.
You will need adequate proof to cement your claim, such as:
It's the job of your rideshare injury attorney to gather all that evidence and present it in the most impactful manner to sway the opinion of the court in your favor. This evidence is so important because California is a comparative negligence state, which means that every party involved in an accident can be assigned a portion of the liability.
So, for example, if an Uber driver causes a crash by running a red light, they may bear the entirety of the fault associated with the accident. However, if the driver fails to signal a turn, and is then struck by another driver who is speeding, both drivers could be assigned a portion of the fault.
These cases are complex and victims should be prepared to lose in court. While an experienced personal injury attorney should do everything they can to win a case against an at-fault Uber driver, the outcome will be largely based on the opinions of a jury or judge, which are heavily influenced by previous decisions by other judges.
If you take your Uber accident case to court, you may win the award you deserve, but it is also always possible that you may either not get the compensation you expected, or not get compensated at all.
New Developments With Uber in California
California legislators are trying to stay one step ahead of rideshare companies. A recent report found that some of these companies may be misleading the public and lawmakers about rideshare accidents because they want you to think their services are safe.
Our state recently introduced new rideshare legislation. Did you hear about California AB 5, the new gig work law? It views rideshare drivers as presumed employees, which means accident victims may have new leverage to hold rideshare companies responsible for their employees’ poor driving. However, Uber and Lyft will probably still try to avoid paying claims.
What About Distracted and Drunk Uber Drivers?
California is also dealing with the dangers of distracted rideshare drivers and drunk rideshare drivers. If you suspect your Uber driver was distracted, high, or drunk, contact the team at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers.
We can launch an investigation into what the Uber driver was doing before the accident and gather meaningful evidence before it’s lost or destroyed. It’s up to the local prosecuting attorney and police to decide whether the Uber driver will be charged with a crime. Either way, you can take civil action with the help of an Uber accident lawyer.
What if I was a Passenger in a Driverless Uber?
Driverless rideshare vehicles are controversial because they have already been involved in several high-profile wrecks that involved death and severe injuries. So far, no rideshare company is offering truly “driverless” vehicles and all rely on human backup pilots - however, these pilots sometimes fail to pay attention and allow accidents to happen.
You can sue for compensation after a crash with an autonomous car. This is a new and evolving aspect of the law, so make sure you choose an experienced Uber accident attorney who is thoroughly familiar with the issues involved in a case with a self-driving Uber.
A Passenger Needs a Personal Injury Attorney After an Uber Accident
After a serious injury in a traffic accident due to a Uber driver's negligence, our accident attorneys are professionals you can trust to help you through this emotionally difficult period. You need time to grieve and recuperate from your injuries. You may have to adjust to permanent disabilities.
Our lawyers look for all forms of negligence that may have contributed to the accident. For example, if the inspection and maintenance receipts on the Uber driver's vehicle involved in the accident are not current, faulty equipment may have contributed to the accident.
Our personal injury law firm has a strong record of achieving swift accident settlements as soon as possible after Uber accidents, and our legal team is passionate about securing the financial compensation you deserve, including:
An injured Uber passenger - or the estate of a deceased passenger - can seek the expertise of a personal injury attorney to recover full compensation from insurance companies that will try to minimize a claim. Don’t let them back you down!
You can turn to Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers for help during this challenging time. We are rideshare accident experts and we love to help California people!
Motorcyclist hit by an Uber driver
Last year I was in a serious Motorcycle accident that was not my fault. Beyond the initial emergency room visit, I required surgery and months of rehab. All in all, my left leg will probably never reach 100%. It has been a stressful and scary year. But one of the comforts through it all has been the services that Sally Morin provided.
While I was focused on my health, she was taking care of everything else. And in the end she got the other drivers' insurance company to settle at an amount that was substantial enough to cover the pain and suffering I had incurred as well ease my worries about paying for any future care related to the accident.
She even got the medical collections to decrease my balance due by thousands. I was skeptical to hire a lawyer off of YELP, but in the end it was the best thing I could have done.
Experience a serious Uber or Lyft accident?
Visit our Uber Accidents Help Page to learn more about how the rideshare injury process works.