As gas prices continue to rise and people become increasingly environmentally conscious, rideshare services such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar have quickly become fixtures in large cities like Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago.
Unlike traditional taxis, rideshare services – also referred to as peer-to-peer taxi services – allow consumers in need of a ride to access on-demand transportation with a few clicks on a smartphone. By using well-developed apps, ridesharing companies do away with waiting for a commercial cab and replace it with prearranged transportation. Because these apps use GPS, the rideshare dispatch center is able to quickly locate the nearest available vehicle and immediately dispatch it to the consumer. Users can even track their driver’s arrival on a smartphone while they wait.
It certainly sounds great, and many people have (literally) jumped on board, but these services are not without downsides. The convenience of ridesharing has been tempered by multiple safety and legal concerns that have given rise to dozens of lawsuits across the country. Mostly, people want to know what happens if you’re involved in an accident while riding in an Uber cab.
Who Pays for Injuries?
Every time you get in a car, you risk being hurt in a collision. Because Uber drivers (as well as drivers affiliated with similar services) use their own private vehicles, passengers injured in accidents must file a claim against the driver’s auto insurance carrier. This is problematic, considering that the majority of auto insurers exclude coverage for drivers who were acting for profit during an accident.
In another scenario, a passenger might get injured by a third-party vehicle that causes an accident with the Uber driver. If the at-fault third party has no car insurance – or too little insurance – who will pay for the passenger’s injuries?
Fortunately, Uber and others have addressed these issues by providing riders with comprehensive uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage.
How the Ridesharing Companies Stack Up
The following is a breakdown of available uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for the most popular ridesharing companies in the U.S. As similar companies appear in the marketplace, it’s important for prospective riders to investigate their coverage before using any service. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Anesi Ozmon, Rodin, Novak & Kohen, Ltd. to learn more about ridesharing services in the greater Chicago area and surrounding communities.
As of February 2013, both Uber and uberX provide riders with $1 million in liability coverage per accident. In December 2013, it also began offering $1 million in UM/UIM motorist coverage. Drivers have $50,000 bodily injury coverage, $25,000 property damage coverage, and $100,000 total accident coverage in between trips.
Lyft provides $1 million in auto insurance coverage in excess of any available driver’s policy. The company also offers $1 million in UM/UIM protection. Lyft also provides its drivers with a $50,000 maximum collision policy ($2,500 deductible) contingent on their own commercial policy, as well as $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident/$25,000 property damage in between rides.
Ridesharing service Sidecar offers $1 million in auto insurance coverage per incident as well as $1 million in UM/UIM coverage. Drivers receive $50,000 ($500 deductible) in secondary collision coverage per accident, which means they must first exhaust any personal coverage.
The Gray Areas
Although it’s clear that passengers are injured while riding as passengers with these companies have access to comprehensive insurance coverage in the event of a car accident, things get murky when it comes to pedestrian injuries and driver misconduct.
At least one major ridesharing company has refused to extend coverage to a pedestrian who was struck by an Uber driver. The accident, which tragically took the life of a six-year-old child, happened on New Year’s Eve 2014 in downtown San Francisco, where Uber is headquartered.
The child’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit after Uber claimed it bore no responsibility for the driver’s actions because he was not providing services at the time of the accident. The plaintiff’s family disagreed, pointing out that he may not have been collecting a fare, but he was logged into the Uber app when the accident occurred. According to the plaintiffs, this violates California’s distracted driving law.
There have also been several cases in which drivers have assaulted, threatened, sexually attacked, and even attempted to murder passengers. In late September, an Uber driver in San Francisco became agitated when a group of passengers questioned his choice of route. According to the passengers, the driver pulled over, forced them from the vehicle, and struck one man in the head with a metal claw hammer. The passenger may lose an eye as a result of the attack. This is just one of several stories that involve driver misconduct. Considering the popularity of alternative taxi services, it is unlikely to be the last.
Read the Fine Print
So what exactly do companies like Uber have to say about their responsibility for incidents involving dangerous and unlawful driver conduct? A check of Uber’s terms and conditions reveals that it disclaims all liability and responsibility for the transportation services provided by third parties, all of whom are independent contractors and not employees. The Lyft terms of service read in a similar fashion. Sidecar’s terms of service expressly state in a bold, capital font that it offers “no warranty or guarantee… as to driver or passenger safety.”
Some cities, such as Chicago, have attempted to address the problem of driver misconduct by passing laws that regulate ridesharing companies. In the City of Chicago, for example, rideshare drivers must obtain a chauffeur license as well as specific amounts of auto insurance. They must also undergo regular vehicle inspections and background checks. Similar legislation pending at the state level was vetoed by the governor in August.
Injured? Contact Anesi Ozmon, Rodin, Novak & Kohen, Ltd.
Ridesharing services may still be relatively new, but their rapid expansion ensures that legal issues surrounding these companies will continue to surface. The personal injury attorneys at Anesi Ozmon, Rodin, Novak & Kohen, Ltd. have more than 50 years of experience representing injured people in Chicago and the surrounding communities and throughout Illinois. If you have been injured in a ridesharing incident, call today at (312) 779-6610 to speak to one of our personal injury attorneys about your case.
This website has been prepared by Anesi Ozmon, Rodin, Novak & Kohen, Ltd. for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.