Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services, otherwise known as transportation network companies, have turned passenger transport on its head.
Previously, people used public transport and traditional taxi services to get around. Public transportation is relatively inexpensive but can also be inconvenient or time-consuming. Traditional taxis are expensive and sometimes elusive.
Rideshare services are affordable, and the rideshare driver is hailed at the push of a ride request button. This convenience, however, comes with a downside.
Passenger and Third-Party Rideshare Insurance Coverage
Customers entering an Uber or Lyft vehicle are also entering a peculiar car insurance situation.
The rideshare vehicle and its driver must be covered by a personal auto policy; however, while a rideshare insurance policy purchased by the transportation network company protects the company and, to some extent, Uber or Lyft drivers, a passenger’s or third-party’s insurance isn’t so clear.
People presume that the rideshare driver’s personal auto insurance policy covers passengers and third parties in a collision, but carrying passengers often invalidates a personal insurance policy. The argument is that the vehicle should now have commercial insurance, so the personal policy is void.
This can leave injured parties having to fight car insurance providers for full coverage. Hiring a law firm that has experience in auto accidents is a wise first step in the fight.
Transportation Network Companies’ Rideshare Coverage
The two biggest transport network companies, Uber and Lyft, offer insurance protection to their drivers, but only when their rideshare app is activated. Rideshare liability coverage depends upon the crash circumstances. Typically, driver liability covers up to $1 million. If the accident is caused by another driver not covered by an insurance policy, rideshare drivers have a further $1 million in liability.
However, if an Uber or Lyft accident is serious or even fatal, costs can easily mount up to be more than rideshare coverage provides.
Drivers’ Auto Insurance Coverage
A transportation network company insurance policy covers drivers working on a trip. To be legally on the road, they must also have a personal auto insurance policy to cover the times when driving for other purposes. Unless deductible gap coverage is purchased, drivers are responsible for any personal policy deductible, and after accidents, personal auto policy providers often raise car insurance rates.
Importantly, a transportation network company’s rideshare insurance doesn’t cover drivers unless they are transporting Uber or Lyft passengers. Anyone who has made a claim with an auto insurance company knows that gaining settlement can be a battle under normal circumstances, but factor in using a privately insured vehicle for transporting passengers, and things can get even more complicated.
Causes of Rideshare Accidents
Here are some of the most common reasons rideshare accidents happen.
The more they drive, the more rideshare drivers make, so it is tempting to work long hours. Also, driving for a rideshare company is often a second job, and some drivers supplement rideshare activities by working as Amazon delivery drivers or doing food delivery for restaurants.
As rideshares are an app-based service, their drivers rely on smartphones more than most individuals–they are constantly checking for a new ride request, following directions to unfamiliar addresses, etc.
In addition to smartphone distractions, the attention of a rideshare driver can be diverted by passengers engaging them in conversation or explaining which route they prefer to take.
Distracted driving is a leading cause of road accidents, and using a smartphone while driving is against the law in Georgia, which makes it an important detail in a rideshare accident claim.
Bad weather conditions make driving dangerous, but people still expect rideshare drivers to get them where they need to be. While the weather itself cannot be used as the foundation of a claim against rideshare insurance, a driver’s failure to adapt to it can.
Common Injuries Sustained in Rideshare Accidents
Rideshare accidents can result in easily treated minor injuries, or they can cause severe injuries requiring expensive and sustained treatment that seriously impacts the injured party’s ability to work. In the worst cases, rideshare accidents result in death, which also permanently impairs the lives of the deceased’s dependents.
Here are some injuries commonly sustained in rideshare accidents:
- Cuts and abrasions: might be minor and easily covered by rideshare insurance payouts, or they can be serious, involving skin grafts and other costly treatments.
- Contusions: can also vary in severity, from minor bruises to life-altering head and brain injuries that will soon exhaust rideshare coverage.
- Facial and dental injuries: can require not only medical treatment but also expensive cosmetic restoration.
- Back and neck injuries: common in road accidents, these range from sprains and whiplash, which are painful yet hard to prove, to disc damage that requires extensive treatment.
- Spinal cord injuries: at worst, can lead to full or partial paralysis and a lifetime of expensive medical treatment beyond that covered by rideshare insurance settlements.
Best Practices After an Accident
If you are involved in a rideshare accident, whether as a driver, passenger, or third-party, here is what to do:
- Ensure everyone involved is as safe as possible
- Contact emergency services by dialing 911
- Report the accident to the rideshare company
- Carefully document the events of the accident as they will be necessary for any dispute over responsibility and/or compensation
Passengers of rideshare company cars and third parties claim compensation via rideshare insurance. Still, it is important to understand that rideshare insurance coverage has limits that might not be sufficient to pay for the expenses caused by the crash fully.
Filing a personal injury claim can help raise money to cover the gap between what rideshare insurance will pay and what plaintiffs need. However, an Uber or Lyft driver’s status as an independent contractor who drives their own vehicle complicates things. Insurance companies that provide rideshare insurance often argue that because their drivers aren’t employees, rideshare companies share little responsibility for their actions.
What You Can Do if You Are in an Accident Involving a Rideshare Car
Just as in any auto accident, a rideshare accident often involves injuries and property damage. These are costly in themselves, but they can also lead to loss of income at the very time it is needed for medical bills and to replace damaged property, such as in the case of the rideshare driver, their vehicle.
Insurance liability coverage will pay for some of these things, but even generous collision coverage comes with deductibles and limits. The cost of a car crash can keep mounting for years, making settling with an insurance company for an inadequate amount a big mistake.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a rideshare accident, seeking advice from someone with experience in accidents involving Lyft or Uber drivers is a good idea. An attorney knows all the angles and, if it becomes necessary, can help you fight transport network company lawyers who are paid handsomely to help their employers avoid paying large sums in damages.
The team at Georgia Auto Law works with car accident claims, including those involving rideshare companies. Our team is skilled in negotiating with auto insurance companies, whether claiming against a personal auto policy coverage or commercial policies.
Call today at 404-662-4949 to learn more about our services.