In the not-too-distant past, if you wanted to get a ride somewhere, you had to call or hail a taxi. Today, rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have taken over, giving us all the ability to get a ride with a few taps on our phone screens. Uber has become so popular that an average of 14 million trips are completed through the app each day.
Yet despite the ease of using Uber, using this service isn’t without risk. The company does not require its drivers to undergo any kind of training. To become a driver, you just need to have a driver’s license and an eligible 4 door vehicle, meet the minimum age to drive in your city, and have been a licensed driver for at least one year.
Uber accidents raise unique issues given the nature of the service: drivers use their own vehicles to provide rides, yet are working for Uber. Liability for an Uber accident depends on whether the driver was “on the clock” at the time of the crash. If the driver wasn’t working through the app, then accident victims may only be able to recover through the driver’s personal auto insurance policy, rather than Uber’s commercial liability policy.
If you have been hurt in a crash with an Uber, a San Rafael Uber accident attorney will investigate the facts of your case and make a strong claim for damages. At Kuvara Law Firm, we have helped victims of all types of California accidents since 1971. We aren’t afraid to take on big companies or their insurance companies — and will fight for your right to compensation.
Who Is Responsible for an Uber Accident?
In California, personal injury cases are based on a theory of negligence. A person — or driver —is negligent when they fail to act with the care that a reasonable person would use in a similar situation. All drivers in California have a duty to use reasonable care when they are behind the wheel of a vehicle.
If a driver violates a law that is meant to prevent car accidents, such as speeding, texting while driving, running a red light, or driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, they may be considered “negligent per se.” This means that they are presumed to be negligent (and thus liable for any injuries they cause). The driver can introduce evidence to rebut the presumption that they were negligent.
These principles are used to determine who will be held liable for an Uber accident. For example, if an Uber driver ran a stop sign and crashed into another vehicle, they will likely be at fault for the collision. If an Uber driver caused the accident, they will usually be responsible for damages, whether it is through their own personal auto insurance policy, or through Uber’s commercial insurance policy.
Uber and other rideshare companies are considered transportation network companies. As a result, passengers who are injured while riding in their vehicles are covered by Uber’s commercial liability insurance if the Uber driver was at fault for a crash.
If another driver caused the accident, then any Uber passengers who are injured can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. If that driver is uninsured or underinsured, then a claim can be made against Uber’s uninsured/underinsured motorist (UI/UIM) policy.
Which Insurance Policy Applies?
Uber carries commercial liability insurance for its drivers. Coverage under this policy is based on what the driver is doing at the time of the accident. There are three possible scenarios.
First, if a driver is not working or the app is off, then their own insurance policy will cover any damages from a collision. In some situations, this may mean that the victims of the accident won’t fully recover for their losses, particularly if the driver had minimal levels of insurance. In California, drivers are only required to carry $15,000 in coverage for bodily injury per person, $30,000 for bodily injury per accident, and $5,000 for property damage.
Second, if a driver has the app on and is waiting for a passenger, then Uber’s insurance will apply. However, the policy limits are relatively low: up to $50,000 in bodily injury per person, up to $100,000 in bodily injury per accident, and up to $25,000 in proper damage per accident. In this situation, you may also be able to recover from the driver’s personal insurance policy.
Third, if a driver is en route to pick up drivers or has a passenger in the vehicle, then Uber’s $1,000,000 policy will be used. This policy will apply if the Uber driver was responsible for the crash, or if the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance to cover your losses (UM/UIM coverage).
The levels of insurance at play in an Uber accident may sound confusing. A skilled lawyer can investigate the claim on your behalf, including determining whether the Uber app was on or being used at the time, to help you recover the compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
Filing a Claim for a California Uber Accident
In many ways, Uber collisions are similar to any other type of motor vehicle accident: the driver who caused the crash is financially responsible for the losses suffered by the other driver and passengers. However, because Uber operates by using an army of drivers and their personal vehicles, these cases bring up other issues.
One question that commonly comes up is whether Uber drivers are employees or independent contractors. This is an important distinction, because employers may be held vicariously liable for the negligent actions of their employees. In other words, if an employee gets into a crash while working, their company is usually the one who is held responsible — not the employee.
California recently enacted a law that would make many independent contractors — including Uber drivers — employees. This law has been challenged, and its future is uncertain. If Uber drivers are considered employees, then Uber could be held responsible for any accidents that they cause (potentially without the different levels of insurance coverage described above).
Even if the drivers are independent contractors, Uber can still be held liable by a skilled San Rafael Uber accident attorney. If Uber was negligent in how they screened drivers, how they supervise or train drivers, or how its app is used, it could also be held responsible for any injuries that its drivers cause. Because these cases are complex, it is important to work with a lawyer who understands these laws and who can advocate for your rights.
Hurt in an Uber Crash? We Can Help.
Uber accidents are often more complicated than other types of motor vehicle collisions — even in situations where the driver is clearly at fault. The nature of rideshare companies like Uber can make it more difficult to determine who was at fault and to get the compensation that you deserve. A seasoned lawyer can help you through the process and work to get you the highest possible recovery.
Since 1971, the legal professionals of the Kuvara Law Firm have fought for our clients’ right to compensation. We offer free initial consultations, where we will explain your options for moving forward with a claim. To learn more or to schedule a free case evaluation, call us at 415-479-7070 or email us.