Am I Covered in an Uber Accident?What is Uber? In the simplest form, Uber is a personal taxi service wherein the user downloads an app to their smartphone that links the user to the nearest driver, and that driver comes to get you in their personal vehicle. More explanation needed? No problem. Speaking from personal experience, when you download Uber you link a credit card to the account for payment. When you want to go somewhere, you sign into the app which pinpoints your location and enables you to see the other Uber drivers and the estimated time it will for them to get you. You select a driver, which then reveals the driver's name, their vehicle, and contact information. You can also get a costs estimate from your current location to destination. The driver will often contact you to confirm your location then away you go. The Uber driver becomes your personal driver for hire. I used Uber in Atlanta and inquired further about how it works. The drivers are people with other primary jobs who moonlight as “Uber drivers” for supplemental income. They are background checked by the company, have their vehicles inspected, and given a “meter” to obtain their jobs. As a side-note, the vehicles are late-models. They work their own hours and in their own cars. My personal experience was always a positive one. In Florida, Uber started in Jacksonville then slowly made its way to Tampa, Miami, and most recently Orlando. However, the ride has not been a smooth one. Uber has met some resistance among taxicab groups, city and county governments, and concerns from law enforcement. The Commonwealth of Virginia sent a cease and desist letterto Uber and Lyft, ordering them to cease operations. The purpose of this blog is to highlight the insurance issues I see on the horizon that will undoubtedly arise as Uber grows in popularity. First is the question of PIP coverage. Most personal automobile lines of insurance contain exclusions for use of the insured vehicle as commercial transportation.
Scenario 1 The Insurer Denies Coverage to the Uber DriverInsured is an Uber driver, on the clock, and carrying a passenger and is involved in a motor vehicle accident. The driver sustains injuries and seeks medical care. Insurer learns of the accident and denies coverage, claiming the insured vehicle was being used for commercial transportation purposes, in violation of the policy. In the above scenario, when the policy was drafted companies like Uber and Lyft were non-existent and a “commercial vehicle” was commonly thought as a taxi or limo. However, with more drivers using Uber as supplemental income, it remains to be seen how the insurance industry will react. Taxi-cabs carry commercial auto insurance policies with required coverage. Existing Florida law, per Fla. Stat. 627.7415, sets the required liability coverage for commercial vehicles, but does not require PIP. Fla. Stat. 627.7405 contains an insurer's right of reimbursement. Here, an insurer providing PIP benefits on a private passenger vehicle has a right of reimbursement against the owner or insurer of the owner of a commercial vehicle, if PIP benefits are paid as a result from such person having been an occupant of the commercial vehicle. In other words, if the limo driver has a personal auto policy and is injured while operating a commercial vehicle that is also insured, the PIP insurer has a right of reimbursement against the commercial insurer for any benefits paid out arising from the accident. A recent Florida case clarified this situation. In State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Ascendant Comm. Ins. Inc., 21 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 576b (Miami-Dade County Court. Nov. 1, 2013), the court held that where the PIP carrier's insured was injured while operating a taxicab which was insured under commercial liability policy, the PIP carrier was entitled to reimbursement of PIP benefits paid pursuant to section Fla. Stat. 627.7405; which allows for reimbursement of PIP carriers of private passenger vehicles by insurer of commercial vehicles involved in accident. The Court noted that the Florida legislature specifically excludes “[e]very owner or registrant of a motor vehicle used as a taxicab” from carrying PIP coverage. Fla. Stat. 627.733 which lays out the required coverages of PIP and property damage liability, exempts limos and taxis from PIP, but directs attention to Fla. Stat. 324.032 which sets forth the minimum liability requirements for taxis, limos, jitneys, or “other for-hire passenger transportation vehicles”. Back to Scenario 1, a new issue arises. Is an Uber vehicle subject to the requirements of various commercial vehicle liability laws? Is the Uber vehicle subject to the Fla. Stat. 324.032, Fla. Stat 627.7405, or Fla. Stat. 627.7415 which set forth mandatory coverage? In order to determine whether PIP coverage applies to the Uber driver, it seems a preliminary determination must be made if the Uber vehicle is subject to commercial insurance laws. What a mess!
Scenario 2 The Uber Driver Hits another VehicleInsured is an Uber driver, on the clock, and carrying a passenger and is involved in a motor vehicle accident; the driver is found at-fault, and injuries are sustained by not only the passenger but the individuals in another vehicle. The issue now arises of whether or not the Uber driver's personal auto insurer will cover the accident and extend liability coverage. If no coverage applies, the Uber driver is now exposed to personal liability. While there are many other issues that can be explored, I think the main ones are whether or not PIP and BI apply, and how. The safest bet would be for Uber driver's to maintain a commercial auto policy, much the same way traditional taxis and limo companies operate. Arguably, the Uber vehicle is a “for-hire passenger transportation vehicle” and subject to Fla. Stat. 324.032. Uber exists in various other major cities across the United States. Research is needed to see how insurance companies in other states are responding when accidents occur. As Uber remains new to Florida, it remains to be seen how insurance coverage issues will be handled by adjusters and courts. I believe Uber is a great alternative to traditional taxis and limos, and another component of free enterprise in our society. However, regulation and consumer protections are needed. We will keep up with the latest developments in this newly born area of insurance law.
What Uber and Lyft Insurance Coverage Looks Like TodayDue to concerns about the insurance coverage surrounding car accidents involving rideshare vehicles associated with companies like Uber and Lyft, regulations have been passed at the federal and state levels requiring rideshare companies to provide insurance to those who elect to utilize their service. In response to these regulations, Uber and Lyft enacted insurance that covers their cars involved in accidents for at least $1 million dollars. The caveat is that depending on the circumstances of the crash, those involved in the crash will receive certain coverage. The primary determining factor of what coverage is available from Uber or Lyft is which stage of the rideshare process the vehicle was in at the time of the accident.
The Rideshare Driver is Off DutyIf the ride-hail app the driver is utilizing to get passengers is turned off and they are using the car for personal use, then there is no insurance that comes from Uber or Lyft. Since the app is off then that naturally means that Uber and Lyft are not party to anything that is going on in the vehicle at the time.
The Uber or Lyft Driver is Looking for a PassengerIf a driver is waiting for a ride request and they are at fault for an accident then they are covered for their liability to the third party. The third party involved in the accident is covered for at least
- $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident for bodily injury
- $25,000 per accident for property damage
The Uber of Lyft Driver is on Their Way to Pick Up a Passenger and During their RideWhen an Uber or Lyft driver receives and accepts a ride request then they are covered for three things. Uber and Lyft will provide third party liability coverage to whoever else was involved in the accident like another driver or pedestrian for at least $1 million dollars. If the rideshare driver or other driver's insurance is not enough to cover the damages, then Uber and Lyft provide everyone in the vehicle for at least $1 million dollars of uninsured or underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage. This coverage also extends to hit and run accidents where the at fault driver cannot be identified. As long as the driver maintains insurance that includes collision coverage for the vehicle for when it's not on the job as a rideshare vehicle, then Uber and Lyft will provide contingent collision and comprehensive coverage regardless of fault. The coverage limit is up to the actual cash value of the vehicle and there is a $1,000 deductible.
Rideshare InsuranceIn order to compensate for the gaps in Uber and Lyft's coverage, special rideshare insurance is available to drivers so that they can be covered in cases and be sure to receive maximum coverage from Uber and Lyft in certain cases. Since their vehicles typically would not be covered by typical insurance plans since they are working as rideshare vehicles, rideshare insurance tries to pick up some slack but there are still the usual pitfalls to encounter when dealing with an insurer. Its always a good idea to consult with a lawyer experienced with Uber and Lyft accidents if you ever find yourself in that unfortunate situation.
Seek a Skilled Uber and Lyft Accident LawyerIf you or a loved one have been involved in an Uber or Lyft accident, then do not hesitate to contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA about receiving a free consultation on your possible claim. Our skilled lawyers have the expertise you will need to secure the compensation that you deserve. Contact us at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA's offices. Please call us at 727-451-6900. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 727-451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/car-accident-lawyer/uber/