Uber and Lyft accidents have become a common occurrence in Florida. Even though these ride share companies have been around for years, many personal injury lawyers still do not understand how these claims are different from the standard auto accident injury case. Many personal injury lawyers still view Uber and Lyfts like taxis. Technology and innovation have passed them by. Ask yourself why you would hire an attorney for an Uber or Lyft injury case if the lawyer has never used the app before?
At St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we specialize in Uber and Lyft claims. And, yes, we use both apps regularly. We realize that these claims are different from the average auto case because of the technology involved and the multiple possible layers of insurance coverage. If you were injured by an Uber or Lyft or were a passenger in one when injured, you may have a claim to recover damages. This article seeks to explain the process of each claim.
How are Uber and Lyft Different?
Uber and Lyft are not taxi companies, they are technology companies. They do not own the vehicles that provide the rideshare service. Their drivers are independent contractors, not employees. That means that they make their own schedules and do not receive benefits. It also means that Uber and Lyft drivers are not subject to the same types of background checks as taxis are. I personally know of several convicted felons who have done prison time who drive for Uber/Lyft. I also know of people who are actively on probation while driving. These people would never have been allowed to work for a taxi company, but Uber/Lyft don’t seem to have much, if any, of a system of background checks.
The insurance policies and coverages differ for Uber/Lyft from taxi companies. In a taxi, if you are in an accident, one policy applies. It is easy to uncover and straightforward. However, in an Uber/Lyft, the status of the app determines whether insurance applies and for how much. This is much trickier to investigate and Uber/Lyft are not the most cooperative. In fact, Uber and Lyft require confidentiality agreements in all of their settlements to prevent lawyers from sharing information on the amount that is being paid out to settle cases. Additionally, my clients have encountered situations where the data from their ride was erased by Uber/Lyft shortly after the accident, thus erasing the history of the ride from her phone. Since there was no charge to the credit card, my client was solely reliant on Uber/Lyft and the driver to verify what happened. Relying on the goodwill of Uber/Lyft and some unknown driver is not assuring when you have been seriously injured in an accident.
Insurance Coverage for Uber and Lyft Accidents
As mentioned in the above, the limits of insurance coverage differs depending on the scenario.
When the App is Not On
If the app is not on, then Uber and Lyft have no responsibility in the accident. This means that they will not cover any injuries whether their driver caused the accident or not. If an Uber/Lyft driver did not have the app on, then his or her own personal insurance would apply to cover the accident.
When the App is On and the Uber/Lyft Driver is Waiting for a Request
This is a disputed area of liability. Uber and Lyft are supposed to provide liability coverage to their drivers in the amounts of 50/100 for bodily injury (BI) and $25,000 for property damage. That means that if an Uber/Lyft driver causes an accident, there is 25/50 coverage for the injuries. That being said, I have had cases where Uber/Lyft denied this coverage. I personally believe that there may be an issue being able to track whether a driver had the app on as well. In any event, based on my experience, I believe it may be difficult to get coverage in this circumstance.
When the App is on and the Uber/Lyft is Going to Pick up a Passenger
This may be another disputed area of coverage. When a driver has agreed to pick up a passenger and is enroute, there is supposed to be 1 million in BI coverage and 250k in UM insurance. I have not had one of these cases yet because I believe they are extremely rare. Again, it has been my experience that Uber/Lyft take the position that the lower amount of coverage applies in the amount of 25/50 BI because there is no passenger in the car. But, I am relaying what the insurance adjusters have told us in past cases about what the coverage is, not on an actual case experience like the other scenarios.
When the App is on and the Uber/Lyft is Carrying a Passenger
This is the easiest scenario to determine coverage. If there is a passenger in the car, then the driver is covered by a 1 million dollar BI policy and 250k in Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. Uber uses Progressive and Lyft uses Greenwich Insurance. Uber used to have 1 million in UM, but it cut its coverage down to 250k to save money. A passenger in an Uber/Lyft is eligible to make a claim against the 1 million Bi or the 250k UM if they are injured, depending on who was at fault.
If You are Injured by an Uber/Lyft Driver
If an Uber/Lyft driver has a passenger in the car at the time of the accident, there is 1 million in BI coverage to compensate you for your injuries. So, unless the accident results in death, amputation, traumatic brain injury, or paralysis, there should be ample coverage. This coverage is mandated by Florida law.
Does No Fault/Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Apply?
If you were the driver of an Uber/Lyft, your PIP coverage would run through your personal vehicle insurance. If you were injured by an Uber/Lyft, then your own motor vehicle PIP will apply. If you were a passenger in an Uber/Lyft and injured, then Uber does not provide PIP coverage, but Lyft does. If you have your own motor vehicle insurance or live with a resident who has insurance, then that coverage would be primary.
Contact and Uber/Lyft Accident Attorney
If you have been involved in an Uber or Lyft accident and suffered an injury, then you should speak to an attorney. These types of cases can be complicated for the layman. While we hope that you do not get injured, the reality is that Uber and Lyft accidents are happening with increasing frequency. If you have any questions about setting up a claim, please contact us for a free consultation.