Uber brings both convenience and suspicion to every community it serves. Drivers appreciate the opportunity to bring in extra income and those who do not own cars like its accessibility. On the surface, this looks like a good arrangement for all involved.
However, issues of passenger safety, driver treatment, and regulatory violations arise frequently. Accidents result in disputes about insurance coverage in addition to the usual questions of liability and the extent of injuries. Here is an overview about Uber and challenges it presents in personal injury claims.
Prime Lawsuit Target
In 2016, Uber faced over 70 pending federal lawsuits with the number for state claims assumed to be much higher. This does not include disputes in other countries where Uber has often been an unwelcome addition.
Its biggest legal hurdle is the way it treats drivers. While it describes drivers as independent contractors, it treats them like employees. That makes employee misclassification and benefits lawsuits the most common among the claims against Uber.
Uber is also known for disrespecting local regulations. Employee classification comes under this but so does the company’s reluctance to perform more extensive background checks for drivers. This works into passenger safety when unqualified Uber drivers cause accidents or are accused of physical or sexual assault.
In the assault cases, courts consistently ruled that Uber does not avoid responsibility based on the fact that the drivers are independent contractors. This places a stronger burden on Uber to assure that safety of passengers and expect more of its drivers. While this arose in sexual assault and rape cases, it has larger implications for other Uber claims--including lawsuits involving motor vehicle accidents.
Accidents Involving Uber Drivers
While the study is controversial, the Taxi and Limousine Commission claimed that Uber drivers were responsible for more deadly crashes than taxi drivers in the New York City area. It discovered five fatal crashes where Uber drivers were involved but only one caused by a taxi. That data covered the second half of 2015.
The same study discovered 753 injury-causing collisions by Uber-sponsored cars. This rate is actually below industry average, but other research indicates an overall increase in collisions in New York City. Research conducted by the New York Post revealed the accident rate involving for-hire vehicles increased steadily since 2014. This was associated with the rise of rideshare apps too.
With this possibility constantly looming, insurance coverage becomes an issue. When Uber first started, it avoided liability by alleging the drivers were independent contractors. This excused the company from offering insurance or other protection to passengers and drivers injured in auto accidents.
The problem was personal insurance did not cover drivers who had accidents while on the clock with Uber. Many policies contain waivers where drivers do not receive coverage if they drive for hire. In fact, doing so lead to the company dropping them. This left drivers in a precarious position where they were personally liable for injuries sustained in an accident and victims could not receive compensation without a long drawn-out process of pursuing a driver’s assets.
Since 2014, Uber developed its own insurance for drivers. At first, it only covered accidents if the driver was transporting a passenger at the time. A 2014 wrongful death lawsuit changed that. Now that insurance kicks in whenever a driver has the app turned on. If a driver is waiting for, driving to or transporting a passenger, this insurance activates.
But this insurance is meant to supplement personal policies, not replace them. Unless a driver secures a rideshare addition to their policy, it is likely that their company will drop coverage when it discovers they were driving for Uber. Since the Uber policy has high deductibles and low limits, accident victims can find themselves in a bind if their injuries are worth more than the policy limits.
Therefore, if you sustain injuries in an accident involving an Uber driver, there are two possibilities. One, the driver covered all insurance contingencies and you may collect from the driver’s insurance and the Uber policy. This is the best case scenario since it enhances your chances at a good recovery.
However, if the driver loses their personal insurance due to a failure to be forthright, you are limited to the Uber policy. The policy will cover up to $1 million in property damage and injuries, but as mentioned, there is a deductible that will reduce your compensation.
Even if all your options remain intact, remember that Uber is a $60 billion company that is well-accustomed to a constant flow of lawsuits. Its legal team will adopt strategies meant to minimize your damages and perhaps avoid paying the claim entirely. This is not a comforting thought if you are facing significant medical bills and a reduced quality of life.
The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond offers the experience and compassion to help you successfully navigate your accident claim against Uber. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.