Injured in an Uber Accident – Who Is Liable?

May 3, 2024 | Phil Sarfin
Injured in an Uber Accident – Who Is Liable?

Uber and other rideshare companies add value to the U.S. economy, create jobs for drivers, and make it easier for people to get around. Unfortunately, the convenience often comes at a cost. Your safety is always at risk when on the road, whether walking, cycling, or sitting in the back of an Uber ride. An Uber accident can happen in an instant, yet cause lasting physical and financial effects on your life.

While you may be entitled to compensation for injuries from an Uber accident, you must figure out who should be held liable for your damages and losses. Filing claims against the appropriate parties is necessary for successful financial recovery.

However, Uber accidents present complicated questions of liability, and you should never try to identify liable parties on your own. Instead, allow an experienced Uber accident lawyer to assess what happened and who should cover your losses.

 

What You Need to Know About Uber and Its Drivers When an Accident Occurs

When riding with Uber, it might seem that you shouldn’t worry about getting compensation in the event of an accident. Because, like everyone else, you have probably heard about Uber’s $1 million insurance coverage. “Even if I cannot get $1 million, I can sue Uber for the accident,” you might be thinking. Unfortunately, things aren’t always that simple.

Uber Drivers Are Independent Contractors

Injured in a Rideshare Accident - Who Is Liable?

When you step into an Uber, know that your driver is not an employee of the company. Like its competitor platforms (Lyft and others), Uber classifies its drivers as “independent contractors.” This distinction, among other things, impacts liability in the event of some accidents.

When an employee is involved in an accident while on the job (e.g., an employee driving a company car), their employer is usually responsible for damages under the doctrine of vicarious liability. However, Uber’s liability is not always a given since Uber drivers are not employees. In the eyes of the law, Uber drivers are individuals providing a service through a platform – not directly employed by the platform. This distinction can significantly affect any subsequent legal action injured parties might take against the Uber driver and/or the rideshare giant.

Okay, but what does this mean for me as a passenger injured in an Uber accident?” In most cases, it means you cannot automatically hold Uber itself directly responsible for the actions of its drivers. But do not despair because a rideshare driver’s independent contractor status does not leave you without recourse due to additional insurance coverage requirements of Uber under the law.

Determining when a driver’s personal insurance and/or Uber’s corporate coverage applies can be difficult, so you need an Uber accident attorney to evaluate the right course of action.

Uber Drivers Should Have Personal Insurance

The next layer to peel back to understand liability and compensation after an Uber accident is insurance coverage. As state law mandates, many Uber drivers must carry their automobile insurance. For example, drivers in the state of Florida must carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, which covers 80 percent of all necessary medical expenses up to $10,000 as a result of a covered injury, regardless of who caused the crash. However, the nature of ridesharing blurs the lines between personal vehicle usage and commercial purposes, complicating which insurance policy is primary in an accident.

Uber provides its drivers with liability coverage, contingent on the driver being en route to pick up or has a passenger. Uber’s policy can be the primary path to compensation for accidents during these times. Thus, passengers should document the accident details when accidents occur and promptly report any claim to Uber, as timing can be crucial for accessing Uber’s liability coverage.

Evaluating which insurance policy would kick in may feel complicated as it depends on the specifics of an accident. Passengers in this position should immediately consult an Uber accident lawyer with experience handling rideshare-related accidents.

Uber’s Insurance and Other Potentially Liable Parties

Uber’s ecosystem introduces multiple parties that can be held accountable for an accident. The first point of consideration is the driver. Pursuing the driver’s insurance is the first and most straightforward line of action if a passenger suffers an injury during a trip. However, passengers should bear in mind that personal insurance may not cover the sustained damages, given the commercial usage of the vehicle.

Uber’s liability insurance policy is the next logical avenue in situations where driver’s insurance is unavailable or insufficient. Uber’s coverage should apply when:

  • The driver is active on the app, but does not have an active ride (Uber provides partial supplemental coverage)
  • The driver is en route to pick up a passenger or has a passenger in the vehicle (Uber’s full policy will apply)

Sometimes, other potentially liable parties may be involved, including other drivers in the crash or vehicle manufacturers if mechanical failure was to blame.

You must ensure that every liable party is held accountable to obtain fair and total compensation. To accomplish this, your Uber accident attorney must gather as much evidence as possible, including witness statements, photos of the scene, video recordings from dash cams, testimony of expert witnesses, and others.

Who Can Be Liable When You Suffer Injuries in an Uber Accident?

After injuries during your Uber ride, you need to accurately identify liable parties to pursue successful claims for compensation. The last thing you want is to waste time on futile attempts to obtain compensation from a party that wasn’t liable.

Here is an overview of potentially liable parties when a passenger suffers an injury in an Uber accident:

  • Uber driver. An Uber driver can be liable if their negligence or reckless driving led to the accident. This includes scenarios where the driver was speeding, disobeying traffic laws, driving under the influence, or driving while distracted. Example of fault: An Uber driver is texting while driving and fails to see the car ahead has stopped, resulting in a rear-end collision. In this scenario, the Uber driver’s negligence directly caused the accident.
  • Uber. Uber might be liable under certain conditions, particularly concerning its hiring practices or how it manages drivers. Although Uber drivers are independent contractors, there have been cases where Uber has been held accountable for not adequately vetting drivers. Example of fault: If Uber failed to perform a background check on a driver with a history of DUI violations and that driver caused an accident while under the influence, Uber can be liable for negligent hiring practices.
  • Other drivers. Other drivers involved in the accident can also be liable if their actions led to the crash. This encompasses many driving errors or illegal activities, such as running a red light or driving intoxicated. Example of fault: Another driver runs a red light and collides with your Uber while you are in the vehicle. In this case, the other driver will be liable for the injuries caused to Uber passengers due to their violation of traffic laws.
  • Vehicle manufacturer. Manufacturers of the vehicles involved in the crash can be held liable if a defect in one of the vehicles caused or contributed to the accident. Example of fault: If the crash was due to a failure in the Uber vehicle’s braking system and it is determined that the brakes were defective due to a manufacturing error, the injured passenger can pursue a claim against the vehicle manufacturer.
  • Government entity. Local municipalities and other government entities can be liable in cases where poor road conditions or inadequate signage contributed to the accident. Local government authorities are generally responsible for maintaining safe roads for all drivers. Example of fault: An Uber driver loses control of the car due to a large pothole on an improperly maintained road, causing a crash. In this scenario, the government entity responsible for road maintenance will likely be liable.

Determining liability without knowing the specifics of the accident is not possible. That is why you may need to consider discussing your situation with a knowledgeable Uber accident lawyer. Your attorney will analyze the details of your Uber accident and identify all potentially liable parties.

Situations When You Can Sue Uber for Injuries As a Passenger

Filing a Lawsuit After a Rideshare Accident

If you are an Uber passenger who has suffered an injury during a ride, you must understand your legal rights and the situations in which you may have grounds to sue Uber for negligence. Generally, there are three circumstances under which it may be possible to bring legal action against the rideshare giant:

Negligent Hiring

Uber owes a duty to its passengers to ensure that its drivers are competent and responsible and do not threaten passengers’ safety. This duty involves conducting thorough background checks on potential drivers to screen for any history of dangerous behavior, criminal activity, or other red flags that can endanger passengers. You might have a case for negligent hiring if you suffered an injury from an Uber driver who should never have been hired due to a past easily discoverable through a proper background check.

Negligent Retention

Once drivers complete the onboarding process and Uber activates their partner accounts, the company must continuously evaluate their suitability to drive for the platform. It includes monitoring their driving records, customer feedback, and any other indicators of unsafe behavior or conditions that can lead to accidents and injuries. If Uber fails to remove a driver from the platform despite clear indications that they are a safety risk and you suffered an injury, this can constitute negligent retention.

Corporate Negligence

Negligence covers a broad range of behaviors that fail to meet the reasonable standard of care expected to prevent harm to others. Negligence can be general or corporate. To sue Uber under the theory of corporate negligence, you must demonstrate evidence that the company’s corporate practices or policies contributed to the collision. However, proving corporate negligence is a tricky matter that may require the assistance of a qualified and competent Uber accident attorney.

Filing a Lawsuit vs. Settling an Insurance Claim After an Uber Accident

If you are a passenger who suffered an injury in an Uber accident, you probably want a resolution that is fair and timely more than anything. However, the uncertainty about the claims process can add another layer of distress to an already difficult situation. When deciding between settling an insurance claim or filing a lawsuit, you need to understand what each of these routes entails:

  • Filing a lawsuit. When you file a lawsuit, you aim for maximum compensation, often seeking damages exceeding standard insurance payouts. This is particularly advantageous if your injury is severe and substantially affects your health and quality of life when the available insurance options are insufficient to cover your damages and losses fully. On the flip side, lawsuits can be lengthy and have no guaranteed outcomes. Legal action introduces financial risk, as you may spend months or years without compensation if the case does not rule in your favor. If you choose to file a lawsuit, you need to be aware of the statute of limitations in your state. In Florida, for example, injured victims have two years from the date of the injury to bring legal action (Fla. Stat. § 95.11).
  • Settling an insurance claim. The insurance claim process is typically more straightforward and predictable than litigation, so the large majority of injury cases settle out of court. You can quickly receive a settlement offer and have a clearer expectation of what that amount might be. However, the simplicity of settling can sometimes mean accepting less than what you can have gained through a lawsuit. Insurance companies often offer the smallest settlement possible to cut their financial losses. There’s also the emotional aspect to consider. Settling might be faster, but it usually means your decision is final. In other words, there will be no going back for further compensation, even if your injury is more severe than initially thought.

The choice between the two routes is about balancing risk with just compensation. Whether you opt for the promise of a faster resolution through a settlement or the potential of a larger reward litigation, you need to remember one thing: Every case is different and deserves a tailored approach that keeps your best interests in mind.

A free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer will help you make an informed decision that best suits your situation.

Phil Sarfin

Phil Sarfin is an associate at Blakeley Law Firm, P.A. and focuses his practice on personal injury, including automobile accidents, slip and falls and wrongful death. He received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Delaware in 2010, and his Juris Doctor from Nova Southeastern University in 2015. He is licensed to practice in all Florida state courts.

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