As ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft continue to gain in popularity, one of the legal questions that has arisen is how personal injury claims are handled when one of these vehicles gets into an accident. Part of a new and evolving area of the law, companies like Uber and Lyft involve drivers who own and operate their own vehicles without any special commercial licensure. Unlike drivers for taxi companies, these drivers are considered independent contractors who often drive only part-time. Since they are using their own personal vehicle for commercial purposes, it is natural to wonder how insurance works in these situations. If the driver gets into an accident and his or her passenger is injured, who is responsible for paying for the passenger’s medical care? Even the courts are still grappling with issues of liability among companies in this new industry.
Here’s how rideshare insurance works: When the Uber app is not turned on and the driver is off duty, they rely on their own personal auto insurance policies. When the driver is on duty, they should be covered by a separate insurance policy provided by the company. However, problems may arise when the driver does not have sufficient insurance to cover the losses of an injured passenger, or when the driver is technically on duty but without passengers and hurts a pedestrian or someone in another vehicle. Liability in these scenarios is much less clear, and there have been many instances in which the rideshare company’s insurer denies liability for these types of accidents.
Pursuing Compensation After an Uber/Lyft Accident
Passengers who become injured in a car accident with an Uber or Lyft driver may need to file a personal injury claim to recoup their losses. This claim can be filed against either the driver, the rideshare service, or the insurance company of the driver or rideshare service. The outcome of the case will depend on two important factors: the cost of the accident (damages) and the liable party (the person at fault for the accident).
In many cases, plaintiffs have argued that ridesharing services should be held liable for accidents caused by their drivers, even though they are classified as independent contractors. One of the arguments that has been raised is that Uber’s driver selection process is inadequate (allowing unqualified or dangerous drivers to transport passengers) and therefore negligent. Another argument is that Uber’s model contains a built-in distraction in the form of the mobile app, which directs drivers to clients and through their routes while the driver is operating the vehicle – another form of negligence and potential argument for liability.
Liability in Uber and Lyft accidents is still in flux and will continue to be so until these legal questions are sorted out. Accident victims are encouraged to consult with a Houston car accident lawyer at The Daspit Law Firm for informed guidance in these types of cases. We stay abreast of the latest changes to the law regarding liability for accidents caused by rideshare drivers.
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