An eighty-five-year-old man was struck and killed in Beverly Hills in December 2015 by an Uber driver. His surviving wife and children believed that the driver was guilty of distracted driving—that he crashed because he was using an electronic device required by his job while behind the wheel. Because of this, they decided to sue for wrongful death.
That begs the question of how the law deals with for-hire drivers and their parent rideshare companies when car crashes happen. Who is responsible? The driver, Uber, or both? And whose insurance, commercial or personal, covers the crash?
Uber’s ride-sharing platform matches passengers with nearby for-hire drivers through the Uber app, eliminating the need to hail or fish for money at ride’s end as credit card info is stored. It’s basically a tech-savvy taxi service. While it makes finding a ride easier, in the event of an accident, things can get tricky.
Since Uber drivers use electronic reporting devices, either their cellphone or another device to communicate with the Uber network and find passengers, they often do this while driving. This, in turn, leads to collisions.
Not only is distracted driving a scourge today due to our reliance on and borderline obsession with cell phones, tablets, social media, and the Internet in general, more and more accidents are caused by engaging with technology on the road. Needing to log in as part of the job is certainly not going to help this situation.
Uber terms its drivers “driver-partners,” possibly in a bid to make drivers feel more autonomous. However, it’s Uber that sets rates, although drivers do have the ability to charge less. Some drivers feel that in conflicts, the Uber higher ups side with passengers more often than with drivers. This has led to some drivers setting up their own dash-cams and alternative apps, so if a dispute arises, they have other evidence to use in their defense against the passenger. This can lead to even more ways to get distracted on the road!
Insurance coverage for Uber drivers is quite granular. The stages of coverage are as follows:
- When the app is off, the driver may be covered by their own liability insurance.
- The time between the app being off and the new job being accepted.
- The period between when the new ride becomes available to the driver and the time when he or she picks the fare up.
- The duration of the fare.
Uber’s website states that for ridesharing it maintains “$1 million of commercial automobile liability insurance coverage and uninsured and underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage from the time a trip is accepted until it’s completed,” as with item number four above.
But in the other levels, coverage is different, and in the first, you have to hope that your driver is covered and is not disqualified due to something like not having informed the insurance company that he or she was a for-hire driver, or by some particular law pertaining to the state of residence.
There will be cases where conditions are met for whichever level of coverage the driver did have, but the coverage amount may not be enough to pay for your catastrophic damages. And then there are other factors like partial fault if a badly maintained road or third driver plays a part in the accident. In the event of a wrongful death case, a victim’s family may need to seek compensation beyond Uber’s coverage just to keep their family together. Paying for the unforeseen damages that come from losing a principal breadwinner in addition to property damage, emotional hardship, and other by-products of such a tragic loss can be overwhelming for the survivors.
An Experienced California Car Accident Attorney Can Help
All of the question discussed above can be sorted through with the help of a knowledgeable attorney.
To find out more about Uber accidents and traffic accident representation, call the Law Offices of J. Chrisp for a free consultation. Our number is 1-877-JCHRISP (524-7477) or you can contact us by completing the form below. We can make sense of the challenges of lawsuits involving the latest technology—including Uber and other rideshare companies.