Uber has taken the world of local transportation by storm, quickly becoming a preferred local transportation solution. But the rideshare model that Uber helped to popularize has come under fire from safety advocates and insurance leaders from day one.
Uber will potentially compensate you for an accident. But the way in which the company does so may leave victims angry, frustrated, and struggling to get the financial support they deserve.
Multiple studies have attempted to link the popularity of Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing apps with a nationwide decrease in intoxicated drivers behind the wheel. However, it's no surprise that with meteoric growth, the number of Uber accidents is rapidly increasing across the country. Many of these accidents make a splash on the front page - like the Uber driver who turned the wrong way and ended up getting stuck on a pedestrian stairway. But for every one of those high-profile crashes, there are numerous others, many accompanied by serious injuries.
It's difficult to get a good picture of just how many Uber accidents and Lyft accidents happen on an annual basis because many police forces around the country simply don't differentiate between rideshare crashes and regular auto accidents. However, it's estimated that 2% to 3% of all auto accidents in the United States can now be attributed to ridesharing.
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.
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While a rideshare driver for Uber or Lyft essentially performs the same service as a regular for-hire driver (such as a taxi or limo driver) there are huge differences in how these services are viewed by the legal system and insurance companies across the country.
Taxi drivers are almost always employees of a company. That company is legally required to provide adequate insurance to help compensate victims if they're injured in a crash. Even drivers who are technically independent are under the oversight of one or more state and municipal regulatory agencies.
They're subject to additional licensing requirements, insurance requirements, and a host of regulations designed not only to define the service they provide but to protect passengers who use that service and pedestrians who may face the terrifying consequences of coming into contact with a cab the hard way.
Rideshare drivers, on the other hand, are currently subject to little or no special governmental oversight. They're essentially private citizens who are using their personal vehicles to provide a service using the Uber or Lyft platform.
And while there are laws requiring all drivers to have liability insurance here in California and around the United States, there have been documented instances of Uber drivers working without insurance, and even without proper licenses.
The short answer is yes. Victims involved in Uber accidents can receive compensation in a number of ways, depending on the circumstances of their individual crash.
If you've been in an accident without being injured, you can still get compensation from Uber for the amount you were billed for the ride. All you have to do is submit a complaint via the app and your refund will likely be processed with a day or two.
This reporting process is important because if the police aren't called, it's up to the parties involved to report the accident to Uber. If you don't, the driver might not. That means the driver may continue to work as an Uber driver in good standing, even if their poor choices and negligent actions contributed caused a crash.
Uber has a mandatory insurance policy that covers all victims of accidents that occur when the Uber driver has the app open on their phone. That means that you could be compensated (up to $1 million) for your injuries and financial losses if the Uber driver is deemed to be at fault for the accident.
It's important to keep in mind that California is a comparative negligence state. That means that all parties involved in an Uber accident can be assigned a portion of the liability. Your Uber driver may not be 100% to blame.
In such cases, you may be compensated for a majority of your financial losses (medical bills, property damage, etc.) by the Uber insurance policy, but you may also need to seek additional compensation from another party's insurance company as well.
Regardless of which company you're seeking compensation from, crafting a solid demand letter and presenting enough evidence to make a persuasive case is always the best way to maximize your insurance settlement.
That $1 million Uber insurance policy also covers victims who are not in the car. Say, for example, that an Uber driver strikes a pedestrian in a crosswalk. If the driver had the app open on their phone - regardless of whether they had a passenger in the car or not - that injured individual could seek compensation from Uber.
Thankfully, California traffic laws make it easier for a pedestrian to be compensated by Uber after a collision. Indeed, the California Vehicle Code mandates that all drivers yield the right of way to pedestrians in marked or unmarked crosswalks. It also mandates that all drivers operate their vehicles in a safe and prudent manner - especially when pedestrians are present. There are very few incidents in which an injured pedestrian will be found even partially at fault when hit by a car in California.
There is a clause in the Uber insurance policy, however, that negates the insurance coverage even if the driver is 100% at fault for the crash. If there is no passenger in the car and the app is not open and active on the driver's mobile device, Uber insurance will not compensate victims for injuries or other financial losses.
In such cases, it falls upon the injured individual to seek compensation from the driver and/or their personal auto insurance policy. As mentioned above, California mandates that all drivers maintain an insurance policy with minimum personal injury and property damage limitations. However, if your injuries are severe, the associated medical expenses could easily surpass the mandatory insurance coverage dictated by California law.
If you've been injured by an Uber driver while they were essentially "off the clock" and the driver was either uninsured or underinsured, you may still be able to get the compensation you deserve from your own insurance policy, or in certain cases, via a personal injury lawsuit.
As the victim of an Uber accident, it falls on your shoulders to collect and present evidence pertaining to the crash and your injuries in such a way that it persuades Uber's insurance company to pay out in an amount that's appropriate and adequate to compensate you for your losses. Accomplishing this - especially while recovering in a hospital - can be difficult or even impossible.
That's why if you've been injured in an Uber accident or a Lyft accident, you should at the very least have a no-obligation free consultation with a personal injury attorney who is experienced with Uber accidents and dealing with Uber's insurance policy, to get a clear sense of all the options you have as well as the hurdles you may have to overcome.