Ridesharing services such as Uber have been around for less than a decade, yet many people frequently depend on them for monthly, weekly, or even daily use. Uber helps people get to and from work, safely return home after an evening of drinking, or simply avoid the inconveniences of using a personal car like parking fees and car insurance. Summoning a car at the tap of a smartphone screen, having the driver arrive within a few minutes, and being driven to any location within reason for an affordable fee is a service that has garnered millions of recurring passengers. Due to its popularity, it’s imperative that drivers and passengers alike exercise safety precautions while using the app and understand how to proceed in the event of an Uber car accident.
As the first ridesharing service of its kind, Uber has experienced a great deal of turbulence in its short history. A few of the controversies that have marked Uber’s journey include fierce opposition from taxi companies whose services are now greatly devalued, disputes over drivers’ employment status, and allegations of sexual misconduct and discrimination amongst employees and drivers. It has tested and added many secondary services, such as black-car service, restaurant food delivery, a helicopter service, and a Christmas tree delivery service. Its foray into testing self-driving cars was disastrous, being suspended after the accidental death of a pedestrian. Nonetheless, at a gross revenue of $37 billion in 2017, drivers and riders alike continue using the app due to the ease of earning income and the convenience of fast transportation.
Practically speaking, it’s important to understand how to safely utilize the service, both from the driver’s and the rider’s perspectives. When you’re involved in an Uber car accident, who is liable for damages and injuries? Will your insurance pay? And if not, are you covered? As always, if you are in a car accident, whether in your own vehicle, as a pedestrian, or as a rider or driver in an Uber or taxi, contact a lawyer as soon as possible to receive professional legal assistance. It is important, however, to first arm yourself with as much information as possible before you head out on the road.
Pros and Cons of Using Uber
As of 2017, Uber drivers have fulfilled over 40 million rides in 83 countries every month. Clearly, many people agree that there are significant pros to using the service.
The Positives of Using Uber
Despite numerous benefits, Uber is not without its flaws.
Some Negatives of Using Uber:
Uber Safety Guide for Passengers
Fortunately, Uber has built several layers of safety features into the app to ensure that riders arrive safely at their destination. It is important for riders to utilize these features, along with common sense, in order to protect themselves during their trip.
Safety Tips Before the Trip Begins
Check the driver’s rating—Once your driver is on the way, you will be able to view his or her rating based on the average of other passengers’ feedback. If their rating is low, cancel the ride and request a different one.
Verify the car’s characteristics—Pre-pickup, you may view your driver’s vehicle identification: year, make, model, and plate number as well as a photo of the driver. Don’t enter a car that doesn’t match the characteristics listed in the app, and even if your driver’s picture matches but the car doesn’t, refuse the ride and contact Uber immediately.
Exchange names with the driver—Before getting into the car, state your driver’s name, and make sure that he or she knows your name in return. This will help you avoid taking the wrong Uber or riding with a random stranger with malicious intent.
Alert friends on the other end—If you are riding alone, use the “Share Your ETA” feature. Once your driver is on the way, swipe up on the app and tap “send status.” This lets you share your trip details with up to 5 contacts. They’ll see your driver’s first name, vehicle info, and your location on a map in real time for the duration of the trip.
Every rider should have a seat—Don’t make the mistake of piling too many riders into an Uber. Every passenger should be able to fasten his or her own seatbelt. If you have a larger party, request an UberXL.
Safety During the Trip
Wear your seatbelt—Not only is this important for safety, but in the event of an accident, it will be difficult to argue for compensation for your injuries if you didn’t take the minimum measures to protect yourself.
Do not distract the driver—Excessive conversation can be distracting to your driver. The driver’s attention should be on navigating safely to your destination, so avoid any actions that may hinder that.
Don’t eat or drink—Eating or drinking may be another source of distraction for your driver, especially if you spill something in their car!
Don’t tolerate unsafe driver behaviors—If your driver is texting, making phone calls, speeding, or otherwise placing you or other parties in danger, it is important to speak up. Politely ask them to stop, and if they refuse, request to leave the car and cancel the ride. If the driver refuses to let you out of the car, call 911 or use the in-app panic button, which will connect you to the authorities and automatically communicate your whereabouts.
Be aware—Avoid spending the entire ride glued to your phone. Pay attention to your surroundings; if the driver is taking you away from your destination, ask them to correct the route. If they refuse, request that they cancel the trip so you can exit the car. If they refuse this request, take the emergency steps outlined above.
When the Trip Is Over
Rate your driver—Don’t give your driver an automatic 5-star rating without thoughtful consideration. Would you want to be warned about this driver? Give other riders the benefit of reading the details of your experience, whether good or bad.
Contact Uber with concerns—Any harassing, hostile, or inappropriate driver behavior should be reported to Uber immediately via the help function in the app.
Text your friends—Remember to follow up with any friends who are waiting to find out if you’ve arrived safely.
Legal Steps to Take After An Uber Car Accident
Both drivers and riders should observe the following steps should they be involved in an Uber car accident. As with any crash, it is important to be assessed and treated for injuries, preserve evidence of the accident, and contact a personal injury lawyer who can help you to recover any compensation that may be due to you. Remember to remain calm, take a breath, and do not escalate the situation by arguing.
Check for injuries after the accident. Do you or anyone else on the scene require immediate medical attention? If you are able, help any other drivers, passengers, or pedestrians who may have sustained injuries.
Call 911, cooperate with the police, and have emergency responders evaluate your condition.
Try to preserve evidence. Take photos of all cars involved in the accident along with signs and weather conditions. Screenshot the Uber app to save details of the trip. Collect all necessary information and exchange contact and insurance info with all parties involved. Obtain contact information and eyewitness accounts from bystanders and write down or record your observations as soon as possible after the accident.
Send a preservation of evidence letter, also called a “spoliation letter”, to Uber to direct them to retain all records and details of your trip and accident. Contact a lawyer if you sustain injuries or property damage, as well as your insurance company if you were liable for the accident.
How Accidents Differ Legally: Taxis, Uber, and Private Vehicles
With so many options for getting from here to there, there is bound to be confusion about procedure and liability in the event of an Uber car accident. Part of the complication stems from the fact that taxi drivers are typically employees of a company, while Uber drivers are classified as independent contractors. On top of that, the competition with traditional cabs created by rideshare services has caused taxi companies to attempt to sow fear in the public’s mind regarding the consequences of sustaining injuries in a rideshare vehicle, further clouding the issue. Let’s examine the legal steps to take after an Uber car accident and the differences between insurance claims.
Insurance Coverage for Accidents in a Private Car
If you’ve ever been involved in a car accident, you may know that obtaining compensation can be far from straightforward. Immediately following the accident, you must have the presence of mind to collect as much evidence as possible on the scene. If you’ve been injured, it’s important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible to establish the type and extent of your injuries. A lawyer’s help is almost always necessary to help you obtain the maximum compensation possible from insurance companies who will do everything in their power not to pay you your due.
If the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, things become even more complex. Depending on the situation, there may be other ways to receive payment for your expenses, loss of property damage, and pain and suffering. Your own insurance may cover you, you may need to sue the liable party personally, or a third party may be involved when, for instance, the other driver has been drinking at a bar or restaurant.
Insurance Coverage for Accidents in a Traditional Taxi
When you are injured as the passenger of a traditional taxi, the taxi company is liable for your injuries and property damage. Why? Because the driver is an employee of the taxi company. At first, it might sound like this situation will work in your favor. However, the amount companies are liable for varies by state. In Pennsylvania, taxi companies are only required to carry $35,000 liability insurance to cover bodily injury, death, or property damage; $25,000 for first party medical benefits; and $10,000 for first party wage loss benefits. Even a moderately serious accident could leave a victim with medical bills far exceeding this coverage. Additional coverage would have to come from personal health insurance. In cases like these, it is wise to hire an attorney to help you sort through the legal process of being compensated for your injuries.
If you are a passenger in a taxi involved in an accident caused by another driver, the at-fault driver is responsible for damages and in that case, you must depend on the level of coverage that is carried by him or her, as you would in an accident in a private vehicle.
Insurance Coverage for Accidents Involving Uber Vehicles
Here is where Uber really shines in comparison to traditional taxi services. Once an Uber driver has accepted a request and is on the way to pick up a rider, and for the duration of the trip once the rider has entered the vehicle, Uber has you covered. They provide at least $1 million in third party liability coverage in the event of an Uber car accident for another driver, any passengers or pedestrians, and any property damage when the Uber driver is at fault. When another driver is at fault (or leaves the scene of the accident) and lacks sufficient insurance to cover all of the damage caused, Uber provides at least $1 million in bodily injury coverage for occupants of the Uber. As long as the driver holds his or her own collision insurance policy, Uber also insures the driver’s vehicle up to the full value of the vehicle with a $1000 deductible.
Receiving this coverage can be a confusing process. For an Uber car accident insurance claim, victims generally would sue the at-fault driver rather than Uber since drivers are independent contractors rather than employees. Most drivers’ personal auto insurance will not cover them if they are driving for profit. If the driver has commercial auto insurance or rideshare insurance, that would supersede Uber’s coverage. Assuming the driver does not have this insurance, the matter would then be handled through Uber.
Uber takes protection for contracted drivers a step further by offering a low level of coverage while the driver is waiting for a request and has the app on. If a driver causes property damage or bodily harm to another person during this period, Uber provides a minimum of $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident for bodily injury and $25,000 per accident for property damage. Note that the bodily harm coverage during the period when the driver is simply waiting for a request is higher than the minimum requirement of taxi providers in Pennsylvania during the actual trip.
An important tip for Uber drivers—it is critical to screenshot the app as soon as an accident happens to document what you were doing before the incident. If you were on the way to pick up a rider rather than simply waiting for a ride request, your level of coverage will be higher. If the ride is cancelled after the accident, a screenshot will prove you were about to pick up a passenger. Likewise, if you were waiting for a request, you must be able to prove that the app was on at the time of the incident. Always take a screenshot of the app as soon as possible following an Uber car accident.
A lawyer with accident experience can help navigate the law and build a case for victims of an Uber car accident. The process can be quite complex given the difference in coverage during the different “periods” of driving and the likely need to settle compensation via Uber’s insurance rather than the at-fault party’s insurance.
Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for an Uber Car Accident Insurance Claim?
Technology is constantly evolving at an alarming pace, and our lives are changing along with it. Those who use Uber generally see it as a convenience and often don’t consider the worst-case scenario, but when an Uber car accident happens, things can become confusing and overwhelming. You should not have to suffer needlessly simply because you’re unfamiliar with the ins and outs of a complex legal situation.
If you’ve been involved in an Uber car accident—whether you’re a pedestrian, cyclist, passenger, or even an Uber driver—you may be due significant compensation for your injuries and damage to your own property. Contact Donaghue & Labrum if you need help getting your due. We litigate car accident cases every day, and we’re on top of all of the latest developments related to ridesharing case law. We’ll help you to gather and preserve all of the important evidence that is necessary to prove your claim. We know how to get you the maximum compensation so that you can take care of yourself or your loved ones and get back to normal life as soon as possible.
We have convenient locations in West Chester and Media, and we would be happy to make an in-home visit. Call Donaghue & Labrum today to ensure that you are not left behind after an Uber car accident.