Just a few years ago, catching a ride meant hailing a taxi or (gasp!) even calling one up. Now, of course, most folks use their phones to summon a ride, waiting just minutes for an Uber or Lyft to pick them up curbside. The model, known as ride-sharing, has its benefits—sometimes cheaper pricing, on-demand service and the ability to schedule it all with the convenience of an app.
But it also raises a few questions—some over fair working practices, others over safety. Both of those come into play when ride-share drivers are involved in car crashes.
Is the driver responsible in a ride-share accident?
Ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft don’t own their own cars, nor do they employ their drivers (hello, gig economy!). Instead, drivers work as independent contractors. Both the drivers and riders use the company’s app as an interface—a way to connect and either sell or buy a ride. So who’s in the mix if you’re involved in a crash with an “on-duty” ride-share driver? Or if you’re injured in a crash while riding in an Uber or Lyft?
It depends on who’s at fault, of course. If the Uber or Lyft driver is at fault, then the driver can be held negligent, just as in any other type of car crash. And, like most other car crashes, you pursue your claim with the driver’s insurance company.
That’s where it gets complicated, though. Most ride-share drivers don’t carry a commercial insurance policy, which tend to be more expensive. And a casual ride-share driver might not even have a special ride-sharing endorsement on his or her personal policy (they’re available in Georgia through multiple carriers). That means, in most cases, the driver would only have personal insurance, which, you guessed it, is only for personal use. As soon as a claim came in, the insurance company would deny it because the driver violated the policy by driving for hire.
Is the company responsible in a ride-share accident?
Of course this model wouldn’t work. You’d have a whole class of essentially uninsured drivers while ride-share companies profited. That’s why Uber and Lyft maintain liability insurance for their drivers. It goes into effect after the claim has been filed and denied by the driver’s own insurance company.
To help distinguish between “off-duty” and “on-duty” drivers, the companies also have tiers of coverage, all facilitated by their apps. When the driver isn’t logged in, there’s no coverage provided by the ride-sharing company. When the driver logs in, basic coverage kicks in, increasing as the driver lines up a passenger and drives to the pickup location. Finally, when the driver has the passenger in the car, the company covers up to $1 million in liability insurance, plus some coverage for uninsured motorists and damage to the driver’s car. (Ride-sharing endorsements can help address the coverage gaps in the tiered system.)
If you’re in an accident with a ride-share driver, or if you’re a passenger in the car, proceed like it’s a regular crash. Get everyone’s name, contact numbers and insurance information. Call the police and, if you’re able, take photos of the scene.
Atlanta car accident attorneys
If you’ve been injured in a crash, you need an Atlanta car accident attorney to help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Litner + Deganian for a free consultation at our office.