Uber, the pioneering rideshare firm, has exploded as a transit option in major metropolitan areas. Ridesharing provides services that are convenient, reasonably priced and make for easy arrangements from an app on a mobile device at mere minutes’ notice. These can be the kinds of qualities that make ridesharing in some ways superior to taxicabs and public transportation.
As a natural progression develops, where more and more Uber and other rideshare drivers hit the roads around the country, there becomes a bigger risk that one of these vehicles will get involved in a car accident, regardless whether the Uber driver is at fault or not.
An accident that involves an Uber driver or a vehicle with an Uber fare aboard, can have a more complex liability equation than a simple carpool or other passenger driving situation. After all, an Uber vehicle is kind of a hybrid between a taxi service that collects fares, and a carpool situation where a person shares his or her vehicle with others.
As accidents involving Uber drivers are becoming more common, the calculus of liability is a bit complicated; while Uber vehicles are similar to taxicabs, here are different regulations and policies governing the two different types of transit options.
If the unfortunate occasion happens that you are an Uber fare caught up in an accident, the liability insurance will be necessary to know in case a claim needs to be filed.
Uber knows it might rain, so it has an umbrella.
What this means is that Uber requires all its drivers to have at least a state-required minimum amount of liability coverage for the vehicle that will be used for Uber fares. If an insurance claim is filed, the Uber driver’s personal liability insurance is used first to pay the claim, then Uber’s umbrella coverage kicks in after an additional deductible is paid above the personal vehicle liability limit. The umbrella policy is in force while an Uber driver is using the app, either going toward or carrying a fare. The coverage ends when the passenger is dropped off and is away from the vehicle a safe distance.
Uber claims that it does a background check on all potential drivers, but when it comes to a driver’s driving record, Uber can only vet the last seven years. That could be problematic if the driver’s record is actually longer than that. Should there be an accident involving an Uber driver, getting a full driving record of the driver may be valuable information should a claim be filed.
So let’s assume that an Uber driver has a clean record (as far as Uber knows), and there is an accident involving an Uber driver who was actively transporting a fare. How does the liability for that accident shake out?
States have different laws and regulations governing rideshare companies that operate in those states, and state courts have had wide-ranging interpretations about liability in a car accident. What seems to be in common among all the court decisions is that the driver is the first line of liability in an accident and should be considered such first and foremost.
It’s possible, however, that Uber may have some liability, especially based on answers to these vital questions, which should come up ina good accident investigation:
- Is the driver covered at the state-mandated minimum liability coverage?
- Was the driver active on the app when the incident occurred?
- What does the driver’s full driving record reveal (past the most recent seven-year window)?
Liability for an accident involving an Uber driver can be a little more complicated than a normal driving situation, so ti’s important to get as much information as possible at the scene and get a police report. From there, get sound legal advice, especially from an attorney who specializes in rideshare laws, to determine the feasibility of a claim and to make sure the right entities are held to account for what happened.