Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft have become part of everyday life in America as a convenient source of transportation. In fact, they have largely replaced the taxis and buses of the recent past. Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft are called Transportation Network Companies (TNC). They set up a qualification process for their drivers, and once the drivers pass through all of the phases of this process, they are allowed to begin taking fares. In other words, they can pick up customers who use the app to order a ride.
When rideshare companies first came onto the scene, there were concerns over safety for both the drivers and riders. These fears have so far proven to be largely unfounded, as reports of drivers or riders assaulting one another are scarce. However, the more real threat of car crashes involving an Uber or Lyft has emerged and presented some interesting legal questions.
Who Are Rideshare Drivers?
Rideshare drivers are everyday people who possess certain qualifications and have gone through an extensive screening process by the rideshare company before being invited to drive for the service. Their automobiles must have four doors, be clean, and are required to be inspected regularly for safety. Although there are beginning to be some challenges to this status, for now, these drivers are considered independent contractors and not employees. This is similar to the way that many truckers these days are not actually considered to be employed by the company that they drive for on any given trip. Instead, many truckers today are independent contractors that hire themselves out to companies that provide hauling services.
This method of employment is not used accidentally. By using independent contractors, trucking companies shield themselves from being sued for damages that may result from a truck driver’s negligence while behind the wheel. In like manner, Uber and Lyft currently protect themselves from being sued if one of their drivers causes injury to a passenger or any other driver on the road.
What Insurance Coverage Are Drivers Required to Carry?
Washington is one of the states that has taken action regarding rideshare drivers and insurance. In April of 2015, the Washington State Senate approved Senate Bill 5550, which outlined insurance coverage requirements for drivers working for Transportation Network Companies. The language stated that, if the driver did not provide the proper coverage, then the TNC would be required to provide the insurance for the driver. These requirements are as follows:
If the driver is logged into the TNC’s system but has not yet picked up a passenger, insurance is mandatory and the driver must have a minimum of:
- $50,000 in bodily injury coverage per person;
- $30,000 in property damage; and
- $100,000 in bodily injury coverage per accident.
However, if the driver has accepted a ride request and is on their way to pick up the customer or transporting a passenger, the amounts increase significantly. Now the driver must have at least one million in liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage is in effect for the duration of the ride, until the passenger exits the vehicle.
If You Are a Passenger
If you are a passenger in a rideshare and that vehicle gets into an accident, the first thing you need to do is call the Uber or Lyft emergency number that is provided to you – assuming that you are able to do so. However, be careful to give only the minimum amount of information required, such as the location of the accident and whether or not you need transportation to the hospital. Keep in mind that you must be careful what you say at such times. After an accident, emotions run high and you may feel the need to be forgiving and to express sentiments that may harm your financial recovery later on. So hold your tongue as much as possible, remembering that anything you say to the rideshare company could be used to lessen the amount of compensation you ultimately receive.
As with any auto accident, take pictures of the scene if you are able, wait for the police to arrive and create an accident report to document the accident, and seek medical help as soon as possible after the accident – even if you think that you are not hurt. Injuries can hide themselves for a bit, so have a doctor properly examine you before deciding that you are fine.
These actions will strengthen your case if you choose to seek compensation from the rideshare driver’s insurer, as they are required to carry at least one million dollars in liability and uninsured motorist coverage. If there was another driver involved who was at fault, you may seek compensation for your injuries from that driver’s insurer as well.
If You Are the Other Driver
If you are driving your own vehicle and get into an accident with a rideshare driver who was at fault, then you may be facing one of the following scenarios.
The driver has not logged in to the TNC and is not officially on duty. When not on duty, an Uber or Lyft driver is just like any other driver on the road because they are operating as a private entity and not performing their duties at the time. In this case, you would seek compensation from the rideshare driver’s private auto insurance company.
The driver was logged into the TNC and on duty, but was not carrying a passenger. Because the driver is logged into the TNC, they have immediate extended coverage that kicks into effect. In this situation, you would be able to seek compensation from the driver’s extended required coverage of $50,000 in bodily injury coverage per person; $30,000 in property damage; and $100,000 in bodily injury coverage per accident.
The driver was on his way to or carrying a TNC passenger. While Uber or Lyft drivers are actively transporting passengers, their coverage is at its highest, and you would be able to recover damages of up to one million dollars as per the required coverage.
Call Hames, Anderson, Whitlow & O’Leary, P.S., Today
At Hames, Anderson, Whitlow & O’Leary, P.S., we have seen our share of accidents and personally witnessed the devastation that they can cause. We’ve dedicated a large portion of our practice to helping our clients seek financial compensation for injuries sustained due to someone else’s negligence. If you have been injured in an automobile accident, whether it involved a rideshare driver or not, give us a call directly or contact us online to set up your free consultation.