Driving for Uber or Lyft: How Protected Are You After an Accident?

 

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Driving for Uber or Lyft: How Protected Are You After an Accident?
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Driving for Uber or Lyft: How Protected Are You After an Accident? Drivers on ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft have different levels of insurance coverage depending on the zone they are in per time. On Uber, for example, Zone one is when a driver is online but not yet paired with a rider, and zone two is when the driver accepts a trip and goes to pick up and drop off a rider. When in zone one, the driver has insurance for up to a certain amount of property damage.  Suppose a driver gets in an accident while in zone two. There's insurance coverage for property damage and bodily injury. But access to the collision damage policy in zone one is contingent on the driver having at least a personal auto policy coverage. The reason is that ridesharing apps classify drivers as independent contractors and not employees.   The good news is drivers have the same underinsured motorist coverage policy of up to a million as the riders. So if you're driving for Uber or taking a ride in an uber and you get injured in an accident, you have suitable coverage for your injuries. You should contact a competent personal injury lawyer.   One other important thing for drivers on ridesharing apps, there are insurance policies specifically designed for you. Suppose you take a standard personal auto policy and use your car for ridesharing. In that case, you are in violation of your contract with your insurance carrier, even if you were not using the app at the time of the accident. So what can you do to protect yourself? Learn more in this episode of the David vs. Goliath podcast with elite personal injury lawyer Matt Dolman and his guest, Brent Sibley, Esq. They discuss ridesharing agreements, your rights as a driver using the apps, how to protect yourself against your insurance carrier, and more.  

In this episode: 

  • [00:48] Matt Dolman welcomes his guest, Brent Sibley, Esq.
  • [01:25] Matt introduces the topic of the day: ridesharing agreements and insurance coverage for drivers 
  • [01:46] What is ridesharing? 
  • [03:46] Insurance issues when driving for Uber or Lyft and you're involved in an accident
  • [05:32] The different levels of insurance coverage for accidents involving drivers working with rideshare companies 
  • [06:55] Why Uber has minimal insurance coverage for zone one
  • [08:36] I drive for Uber. Uber has insurance coverage for me. Do I still need a private auto insurance policy? 
  • [11:20] How much private cover is required, and does rideshare services' insurance cover bodily injury? 
  • [14:24] Choosing the wrong private cover can put your insurance coverage at risk if you drive for ridesharing services 
  • [17:16} The right way to protect yourself from losing the benefits of your insurance coverage when using ridesharing services as a driver 

Transcript

  Welcome to the latest episode of the Dolman Law Group Podcast, which now actually has taken on the new name, Sibley Dolman, based on my new law firm that I've partnered up with Brent Sibley from the Sibley Law Firm down in Miami, Fort Lauderdale. You basically cover all of Palm Beach, Broward and Dade County, correct?   Yeah, we've been working for the last couple years in more South Miami, but in the last year we've expanded. Now we have offices all the way from Doral up to Boca.   Okay, cool. And you know, obviously, I'm on the West Coast in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, New Port Richey. Our new firm is basically statewide. Today we're going to discuss an issue that's kind of unique in recent years, Uber and Lyft, which are both ridesharing agreements. What exactly is a ridesharing agreement? What's Uber? What's Lyft? For those who have been sitting in a cave with their thumbs in their ears and not quite sure what's going on in society, explain what Uber and Lyft are.   So, thanks Matt. Uber and Lyft, as Matt said, are the rideshare companies, and now they even have a more formal name, which has been codified by the Florida legislature. They're called TNCs, which is a transportation network company. And what does that mean? It's a special name that they came up with because the law has kind of changed a little bit for these companies because they are so big and they're so popular that they're not really taxis, they're not common carriers, they're not limousine services. So what are they? They are a system, a software company, basically, is what they want to be called, that matches people who want to drive for a fee with people who want to be driven for a fee. And it just matches them and they do provide an exceptional service and I use it all the time. And so that's what ridesharing is. It allows regular people on both sides, drivers and passengers, to get paired together and get efficient rides around their area.   Yeah. I mean, you could look up on your phone where the local Uber driver is. It'll literally show you how far away they are. It makes it just so easy. It's seamless as compared to taking a cab.   It's great and it really is, it's exceptional. And anybody who knows me knows I'm a huge tech guy, I could go on and on and on, and we'll get into some of those things today on today's podcast. But it's amazing. I mean, when we're done today, I'm going to request a Lyft, because I like to use Lyft now. I made the switch a couple months ago. But when we're done, I'm going to take a Lyft. As soon as we're done I'm going to go downstairs, get in the Lyft and it's going to take me right back to the airport and I'll be back in Miami before I know it.   Wow, that's fantastic. Explain what the unique characteristics of a case involving Uber or Lyft. You get in a car accident. Either side, whether you're representing the passenger who was in the Uber car, or the Uber vehicle rather, or Lyft vehicle, and gets injured, or you represent the individuals hit by the Uber vehicle or the Lyft vehicle. What are the issues that are probably unique to these type of cases?   Okay. So the most important thing with any Uber or Lyft case is to find out which, quote unquote, phase of the trip or zone of the trip. I forget the exact lingo that they use, but it's something like that. And what do I mean when I say that? Okay. So if you're an Uber driver, the steps that you need to go through to be on the platform are as follows. You open your phone, obviously. You open the Uber app, and I'll just use Uber for now. You open the Uber app, you put all your information in and you go through the registration process. But once you're on board, open the app, press "Go Online", and now you're online. Quote unquote, online. You're ready to be matched with a driver. From the minute that you are online until you are matched, they call that being in zone one.   And there is a certain amount of insurance that covers a driver in that situation. Then it transitions from zone one into zone two, which is when Joe Schmo requests the drive. The Uber driver's phone will now ring and say, "You have a passenger ready." And then once he clicks "Accept" on his phone, they're now paired, and now it's kicked into zone two, which has a much higher level of insurance. And from the moment that he presses "Accept", they get paired together until he drops that passenger off at their location and he swipes on his phone to end the trip, they're in that zone where there's much higher levels of insurance. It's like commercial grade insurance. What you would expect from a big company, obviously like Uber Lyft, and there's just a much higher level of insurance. It covers=   What's differences in coverage? Give me an example. Anecdotally speaking from your case.   Yeah. We have a lot of cases and we represent a lot of drivers and I'm just going to go off my recent memory. But for the most part, if you're in a zone one situation, the amount of insurance would, from what I remember, it's only $50,000 of property damage. And from what I remember, there's not any bodily injury, liability coverage. Meaning if the Uber driver's driving around town, waiting for a ride and he hasn't been paired yet and he hits and kills somebody, Uber has no insurance that they're going to provide for that situation.   Now, once he's paired with a passenger and he's on his way to get to that passenger, it's now escalated to a million of insurance and that's a million across the board, from my memory. I think it's a million dollars of liability for injuries. It's also a million dollars of UM coverage, which is super important because that means that if somebody crashes into the Uber driver and that person doesn't have enough insurance, the Uber driver is protected up to an additional million of coverage in that situation too. So those are the two main types of coverage that are added.   You might not have an answer to this. This is kind of off the cuff, but how did Uber insulate themselves, and Lyft as well, during that first phase where a taxi cab, you get hit by a taxi cab from whatever taxi company it is, they're going to be on the hook for injuries they cause while their drivers driving around, even though not collecting a particular fair at that time. How did Uber insulate themselves from having responsibility during that phase?   Well, that's a great question. And I wouldn't say that they've actually insulated themselves for sure yet, but they've done some things. Most notably is they've spent a ton of money on lobbying and they've gotten this statute passed, which I believe it was passed in July 1st, 2017. It's commonly referred to as the TNC, which I referenced before. The Transportation Network Company Statute, which basically outlines certain things with regard to these companies. And the most important thing that statute says is that the Uber drivers are not employees of Uber, they are independent contractors. So what does that mean? What does that actually mean in English? It means that Uber is not responsible for the behaviors of its drivers when they crash and hurt somebody, simply put.   Except when they're actually performing a function for Uber itself.   Except when they are performing ... Well, it still hasn't been brought all the way up to the Supreme Court yet. And I know that there are cases where Uber isn't necessarily fighting it, but they actually want to be insulated from the vicarious liability all the way, even in that zone two.   Which is just insane.   Which is pretty egregious and an aggressive stance to take.   It's asinine. There would be no point to that. But I understand they have strong arm lobbyists that are fighting for themselves.   Yeah. They have a lot of money and they're spreading it around.   That's how it works with corporations. What are the other unique issues related to Uber or Lyft? What else can you tell us about ridesharing agreements?   Yeah. One of the other things that's really important that, I see this a lot and some people might know this or might find this hilarious, is that I actually was, and kind of still am, an Uber driver. I do it every once in a while.   You drive for Uber?   I have, yeah. I still am licensed on the platform.   Is personal attorney not working out or what's going on?   No, I do it just a couple times a year. I actually really, really like doing it because we represent so many drivers and I like to see how the platform works. You'd be surprised how difficult it actually is to manage all the different functions of being an Uber driver. Navigating the different streets, figuring out how to use your GPS. Sometimes you have to speak a language that you're not familiar speaking with. So everybody's a little bit intrigued when they get in my car, because they don't expect to see a lawyer in a suit in my car. But it's pretty funny. They ask me a ton of questions. But some of the more interesting things that come up with Uber are getting the Uber drivers, they have to have their own policy of insurance.   Okay.   Even though they know that they're going to have insurance covering them through, it used to be through James River for Uber. And I think it's York, it's York for Lyft and it used to be James River for Uber. Now they just switched to Progressive.   Okay.   But even though there's these insurance companies that are going to be providing this zone one and zone two coverage, you still have to have your own insurance. Like, Brent Sibley has to have his own personal auto policy in effect and valid, otherwise Uber won't even let me on the platform. So I have to show them and prove to them that I have my insurance.   Which means that there's a first layer of insurance you have to get through before you get to Ubers.   Well ...   Take me through that.   Exactly. Thanks. So it's not necessarily, it's more of a threshold thing. So what happens is, Uber won't let you on their platform unless you prove to them that you have your own personal insurance.   Okay.   Now with that being said, if you're in one of these zone one or zone two situations and a crash happens, Uber is still the primary insurance, but they will yet again force you to show them that you had insurance on the day of the crash active, and then they will match it.   Okay.   So they will provide the insurance, but they want to make sure that you had insurance also. And again, that was the last time it came up about that situation was probably a month ago, but I've seen it now several times. And that was how the last adjuster at James River handled that situation.   So, and just so I'm clear on this, do you have to show or display or illustrate that you have the minimum level of insurance, or you have to have that bodily injury policy in place?   In the situation that I dealt with, you had to show, the adjuster at James River wanted to see, this was a property damage matching situation, so it doesn't apply to bodily injury. So the bodily injury, doesn't matter what you have, they're going to have that million dollars of bodily injury.   Okay. So matching is just for property damage.   The matching that I saw was for property damage.   I understand. I just want to make sure the listener gets this.   Of course. No. And I thank you. And it's good to have a listener to help me explain it because it doesn't always come out clear. So the matching applies to the property damage. But for a lot of people, the property damage, even though it's not really part of our day to day business, a lot of our clients, and I'm sure you would agree, they don't know where they stand with regard to what their car worth or what's fair for their car. They want to get back out on the road, their rental, there's a lot of questions.   Property damage is always a huge issue in the cases.   Yep. So in this situation, what James River said was that we'll give you coverage. We'll give you comprehensive collision coverage so long as you paid for it through State Farm. Let's say you had State Farm. As long as you were paying for it, for your own, we'll provide it and we'll handle the claim and we'll do the claim for you. Just prove to us that you had it for your own personal situations and we'll match it for the Uber situation.   Any other common of questions that come up with Uber or Lyft?   One thing, because we represent a lot of drivers, is a lot of drivers, Uber drivers and Lyft drivers, don't realize that the insurance policy covers them basically to the same extent that it covers the passengers. So even though they're working, quote unquote working, as a 1099 Uber driver, they are covered just like the customer. So the UM coverage that covers the passengers, which is the underinsured motorist coverage policy limits of a million, covers the drivers to the same extent that it covers the passengers. So if you're driving for Uber and you get hurt, you have good coverage for your injuries. So don't hesitate to contact an attorney, because that will be the best decision you ever made.   Understood. I have no further questions. You basically covered it very thoroughly. So those are the unique issues that are germane to Lyft and Uber. And obviously, this is something that's changed in the last five, six years. These ridesharing agreements, the prevalence of them in our society. And you only see them increase. Although there's attempts at legislation to keep them out of certain cities, and maybe you can shed some light on that. Is there-   There was a big battle in Key West. I think that they sorted their issues out. The problem is the popularity of these systems, the demand is very strong. So Broward actually I think, about a year ago, shut them down, said it's in illegal, blah, blah, blah. It's illegal. You can't use it because they're operating, we don't like this element of what they're doing. And within two or three days, you had thousands upon thousands of people on Broward protesting city hall. Give us our Uber back. We need it. I mean, it is that strong. They don't have to pay a penny for that. That's impressive brand value right there. So they are providing a ton of value to people and the popularity is huge. One thing that I forgot to bring up when you asked me the last question about the recurring thing, and this is something that I would highly recommend to the Uber drivers out there. In Florida and in other states, but for sure in Florida, there are some insurance companies who will sell you a personal policy that is especially for Uber drivers.   Okay.   What does that mean? So that means that if I, as an Uber driver myself, my State Farm policy is just a regular personal policy. It's not a commercial policy. Technically I'm not allowed to use it for commercial purposes. Meaning, I can't open a business where I'm moving glass furniture around. I wouldn't be covered because that's a commercial use. That's outside the scope of just a regular personal auto policy.   Okay.   So if I were to open a glass business and try and start moving glass around town, and I had a huge claim where my car was totaled and State Farm found out about it, State Farm would likely, if they did find out, they would deny my claim because I was breaking the terms of my insurance contract with them. And they would be justified under those fact patterns. But in a different scenario that's been coming up with Uber lately is, let's say you have a crash. I have a crash with my car. I'm on the way to work. Everything's fine. I'm just using my car regularly.   Understood.   State Farm interviews me and they say, okay, you were on your way to work and some guy T-boned you. Okay, seems like a normal thing. And then they say, by the way, do you use your car for Uber? And I say, yeah. They might say, Oh, well, because you are using your car for Uber, even though it had nothing to do with this case, you were just on your way to work, you weren't an Uber driver right now. But just because you ever used it for Uber while you were a policy holder from State Farm-   You violated the terms of your contract.   You're violating the terms of the State Farm contract and therefore we're not going to replace your car. Your whole policy's valid and now you're kicked off State Farm because-   By the way, listeners, welcome to the world of insurance carriers. They try to find any way to opt themselves out of coverage.   Oh, yeah.   You're guilty until proven innocent with insurance carriers. Regardless of whether they're your insurance carrier or the at fault party's insurance carrier, it doesn't matter. Insurance carriers are reluctant to protect you unless they have to protect you. They look for every reason to get out of it.   They only want to pay a claim when it's going to save them money.   Yes.   That's the smart thing. That's what they know. I mean, they're businesses. They're owned by Warren Buffet a lot of them. This is the richest of the rich, is the insurance companies.   Yeah, it's Berkshire Hathaway. They own Geico.   Yeah, they own Geico and a lot of the subsidiaries. So going back to the point, which is that, in that situation, State Farm might just deny me for the value of my entire car because I did an Uber ride three months ago. I mean, how ridiculous is that, right? Does that have anything to do with this claim? No, but they might be justified. Probably not, but they might be justified under their contract in doing so.   So what can you do to protect yourself? You can buy a specific policy that says, I'm buying a personal policy, and I know that for most Farmers is the one who sells it in Florida last time I checked. I didn't check today. But they're selling a policy which is saying, look, we're selling you this policy. It covers you for personal, but you're telling us that you drive for Uber or Lyft ride share, and we're saying okay to that, and we're not going to void your policy. It's part of the policy. So when you're driving personally, we cover it. And when you're driving under one of these ridesharing companies, it's going to be covered by their policy. And it's all up and up and there's no problems.   Very interesting.   So that's something that you can do if you're an Uber or a Lyft driver is, in any state, Google it, it won't take very long, just Google rideshare insurance and see which comes up. Every state has different laws and different insurance companies. So do yourself a little research and you'll probably get maybe even better insurance than you have now, and definitely better in the sense that it'll be protecting you properly.   You learn something new every day.   Yeah, you do. If you keep your eyes and your ears open, that's for sure.   Yeah. My big ears. All right, Brent. Well, I appreciate you coming on. Brent Sibley of the Sibley Law Firm. This is Matt Dolman of Dolman Law Group, and we're now called Sibley Dolman statewide. Thanks again for listening.  

💡 Meet Your Host 💡

Name Matthew A. Dolman, Esq. Title: Partner at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA Specialty: Matt is a nationally recognized insurance and personal injury attorney and focuses much of his practice on the litigation of catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida.  Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram   

💡 Featured Guest 💡

Name Brent Sibley, Esq. Title: Personal Injury Lawyer with Modern Injury Lawyers Specialty: Brent is committed to providing aggressive and effective legal representation and counsel to individuals who have sustained personal injury in serious accidents. He formerly ran Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP covering Aventura, North Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Doral, and Boca Raton.  Connect:  LinkedIn   

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The insights and views presented in “David vs. Goliath” are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The information presented is not a substitute for consulting with an attorney. Nor does tuning in to this podcast constitute an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Any case result information provided on any portion of this podcast should not be understood as a promise of any particular result in a future case. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers: Big firm results, small firm personal attention.