By Logan Quirk
Ridesharing services have surged in popularity in recent years, and Uber is one of the most commonly used services. However, as with any other time you get into a vehicle, there is always the possibility of getting into an Uber accident. Car accidents involving Uber drivers are not as straightforward as general car accidents, as you’ll have to go through Uber’s insurance policy. Whether you are a passenger in an Uber car, an Uber driver or the driver of another vehicle involved in the accident, you need to understand how Uber and the claims process work to ensure you know what to do after the accident.
What Is Uber?
Uber, like other ridesharing services like Lyft and Curb, is similar to a taxi service in that it helps passengers get from place to place. Unlike taxis, though, Uber drivers cannot pick up passengers who hail them from the side of the road. Instead, customers use a location-based app on their smartphones to alert drivers in the area that they need a ride. An Uber driver can then accept the job and pick up the passenger. All payments, including tips, are handled through the app as well, so there is no need for passengers to carry cash, credit cards or debit cards to pay for their rides.
The company provides several different service levels with varying prices. For example, with Uber Pool, drivers can pick up multiple passengers from different locations during a single trip. Because they will need to drop off other passengers, though, it can take longer to get to your destination, and this is reflected in the service’s lowest price point. Customers who wish to pay a bit more than they would for the standard service have the option of selecting Uber Black. This service level guarantees a ride in a luxury car, like a Lexus or Mercedes-Benz. Of course, this option is more expensive than standard service.
Uber also increases costs during periods of high activity, like during rush hour or a major event. This is known as surge pricing. The Uber app alerts you to the price increase before you request a ride, so you always know what to expect in terms of cost.
The Uber Business Structure
All of Uber’s drivers are independent contractors rather than employees of the company. Uber structured its business this way to avoid liability in cases of Uber accidents. However, there are still certain requirements that drivers and their vehicles must meet. For starters, drivers must have clean driving records and a current, valid driver’s license. They do not need a commercial driver’s license like taxi drivers do. Drivers also must be at least 21 years old and have been driving for at least 3 years.
In terms of the vehicle itself, Uber requires cars to be less than 10 years old in most cities, though there are a few exceptions. The vehicles must also be free of major damage. The company inspects each vehicle before approving it for service.
Uber Insurance Complications
One of the things that makes Uber accidents different from other car accidents is that Uber has unique insurance requirements. Because drivers are using their personal vehicles to work as Uber drivers, they need to have their own auto insurance policy in place. This covers any accidents that occur when the driver is not working.
Once an Uber driver logs into the app to start work, however, Uber’s supplemental liability insurance policy comes into play. Most personal auto insurance policies do not cover accidents that occur during work activities, so this additional coverage is essential. Uber’s policy covers liability up to $1 million. Some personal insurance companies have responded to the rise of ridesharing by adding coverage options for these service drivers, but this is not yet the norm.
Determining Fault in Uber Accidents
Here in the state of California, the law follows a comparative fault rule. This means that blame for an accident can be divided between all parties involved, not just placed on a single person. For example, pedestrians have the right of way, but if you were jaywalking when you were involved in an accident, the court could assign some of the fault to you for not properly following the rules of the road. Though drivers are expected to stop for pedestrians, the accident is not entirely the driver’s fault if the pedestrian was behaving unexpectedly.
Each party is assigned a percentage of fault in the accident, which determines the amount a victim can claim in damages. That amount will drop by the percentage of fault assigned to the victim. Even Uber passengers can be determined to be partially at fault in an accident, like if they were injured due to not wearing their seat belts, even after urging from the driver. Uber encourages all drivers to require passengers to wear seat belts, though the company does not play a role in enforcing this policy. That is up to the driver and their passengers.
In an Uber accident, the company’s liability insurance will typically cover the damages, regardless of who is at fault, but this isn’t always the case. If you have been involved in an Uber accident, it is still a good idea to hire a personal injury attorney specializing in car accidents to advocate on your behalf. This will ensure that you don’t get short-changed by Uber’s or the other driver’s insurance policies.
What to Do After an Uber Accident
What you’ll need to do following an accident involving an Uber vehicle depends on whether you were the driver or passenger.
If You Are an Uber Passenger
Uber’s insurance policy is designed to protect passengers while in their drivers’ vehicles. However, as with any other insurance company, it can sometimes be difficult to get them to pay. The company will likely do everything they can to reduce your settlement and minimize the amount they have to pay, so it can help to have a personal injury attorney in your corner.
After emergency personnel have cleared you to leave the scene of the accident, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention if you haven’t already received treatment on-site. Even if you don’t feel like you have any injuries, you should still see your doctor for a checkup.
Many common car accident injuries, particularly those to the neck and spine, don’t appear until several days after the accident. Seeing your medical provider right away will create a record of your injuries and demonstrate that you were being proactive about your health and well-being. This way, if you experience any delayed symptoms, your doctor will already be aware that you have been in a car accident. If you do need to file a personal injury claim at a later date, all of your medical treatment will be on record.
Your next step is to contact a personal injury attorney. Insurance companies are notorious for trying to get out of paying claims, and an attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve for your medical expenses and any ongoing pain and suffering. Your attorney will handle all negotiations with the insurance company for you to ensure you don’t settle for a low-ball offer when you could be eligible for a much larger settlement.
If You Are a Driver
The process here is relatively similar whether you were driving for Uber or driving another vehicle involved in the accident. If you were driving for Uber, don’t make any promises to the other driver or your passengers about what the company’s insurance policy will and will not cover, as this could harm your claim. After an Uber accident occurs, follow these steps:
- Call Emergency Services – If there is major damage or any injuries, call 911 immediately. If the damage is only minor and no one seems to be injured, you can call your local police department’s non-emergency line. If there are any injuries, don’t downplay them to medical personnel. Your primary focus at this point should be making sure that everyone involved in the accident is getting the care they need.
- Document the Accident – Once you are certain that everyone is all right, take photos of anything related to the accident. This can include skid marks behind a vehicle, signs of drug or alcohol use, and any road conditions that could have contributed to the accident. It is also a good idea to photograph any injuries and vehicle damage. Car accidents can be incredibly stressful, so your memory may not be as reliable as you might think.
- Collect Relevant Information from the Other Driver – Make note of the other driver’s name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, vehicle make and model, license plate number and insurance policy details. If you don’t have a pen and paper handy, simply snap photos of the person’s driver’s license, insurance card, and license plate. You’ll need all of this information when you report the accident to your insurance company.
- Don’t Accept Any Blame – With all the stress of an accident, it can be easy to start tossing blame back and forth with the other driver. Keep in mind, though, that anything you say could be used against you if your case goes to court. Don’t admit to fault in the accident simply as a way to appease or console the others involved. This could seriously backfire later on.
- Look for Any Possible Witnesses – If any drivers or pedestrians stopped to help in the aftermath of the accident, ask them to give a statement about what they saw. Their observations can help insurance claims adjusters paint a complete picture of what happened in the accident, and they can help corroborate your account of the incident. Be sure to get contact information from any witnesses in case you need to speak to them again later.
- Contact Your Insurance Company – Even if you expect Uber’s insurance policy, rather than your personal policy, to pay for any damages, you still need to report the accident to your own insurance company. Your provider can then handle any negotiations with the other driver’s insurance company or with Uber’s.
If you were driving for Uber at the time of the accident, you’ll also need to get in touch with the company. Following an accident, Uber will deactivate your driver account while the insurance claim is open. If there is significant damage to your vehicle, you’ll need to have it repaired and re-inspected before you can start driving again.
It is crucial that you be honest about whether you were working as an Uber driver at the time of the accident. As an Uber driver, all of your activities are recorded through the app, so it will be immediately obvious if you were not actually working at the time. If you try to pass off a personal trip as a work trip, this constitutes fraud, and you could face hefty fines or even jail time.
Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney
As you have probably gathered from all of the above information, Uber accidents aren’t as straightforward as general car accidents. It can be quite difficult to negotiate with the various insurance companies to get the compensation you deserve. If you have been involved in an Uber accident, the personal injury attorneys at Quirk Law Group can help.
We’ll start with a free consultation to review your case. Your attorney will explain your rights to you and go over your various options for seeking compensation for your injuries. If we determine that you have a case, we’ll advocate on your behalf to collect payment from the other driver’s or Uber’s insurance company. We’ll do everything we can to maximize your settlement.
We recognize how confusing the insurance claims process can be, especially in Uber accidents, so we’ll handle all of the details for you. This way, you can relax and focus on your recovery. Car accidents are stressful enough without the added pressure of dealing with insurance companies. Call today to schedule your free consultation.