Uber and Lyft Accidents
If you are a passenger in an Uber, Lyft, or other "rideshare" type app and are involved in an accident, what does this mean, and how are you covered?
OverviewPassenger *rideshare* services, aka Uber, Lyft, and any number of other regional or local similar services, are arguably the largest change in automobile transportation in the last 50 years. All but gone are the days of waiting on the curb or intersection and hailing a taxi, only to sit in the back seat of your yellow cab while watching those red numbers tick up and up as you are shuffled towards your destination. Instead, from the comfort of our own homes, hotel rooms, or businesses, with just a few clicks of our smartphone, we hail our own private car and put in our destination, knowing exactly how much our ride will cost and approximately how long it will take to get there. It really is a marvel of modern technology mixed with good old fashioned steel, rubber, and gasoline. But with the millions of rides that are taken with these companies every year, what does that mean for your safety as a passenger, or more appropriately for this forum, what kinds of insurance or other coverages are available to ensure your medical bills and other expenses are covered if you are involved in an accident en route to your destination? That answer, as with most answers you will get from an attorney, is almost always *it depends.* This guide, however, is designed to walk through a few of the most common scenarios that might occur in your Florida Uber ride, and how liability and insurance is handled in these incidents.
In Florida, Uber and other rideshare passengers, while en route to a destination while the subject rideshare app is *engaged*, are actually quite protected from an insurance standpoint. This is due to a combination of Florida*s personal injury protection or *PIP* laws, recently enacted Florida law covering these rideshare companies and the drivers and passengers who use them, and the current insurance policies in place covering these companies and accident related incidents. (Of note, while current at the time of publishing this article, these laws and insurance policies are subject to change at any time and could affect the coverages discussed herein).
"Layers of Insurance Coverage" - PIPIf you are a passenger in an Uber or other rideshare vehicle engaged in a ride and that vehicle is involved in an accident in which you are injured, there are several different *layers* of potential coverage which are in place to protect you and pay for your medical bills and other accident related expenses. Assuming you are a Florida resident, if you own a vehicle and carry the required minimum insurance on it, your first layer of coverage actually comes from your own PIP on that vehicle. This may seem confusing, since of course your own vehicle was not involved in the accident, but that is the *personal* part of *personal injury protection.* It follows the person, not the vehicle involved in an accident. PIP covers 80% of your accident related medical bills and lost wages, up to a limit of either $2500 or $10,000, depending on the nature of your injuries. (For more information on this, see my article on *Emergency Medical Conditions and What They Mean for my PIP Claim*). Under this scenario, your PIP benefits would provide this coverage regardless of who is at fault for the accident. If you do not own a vehicle, but reside with a relative who owns a vehicle, under Florida law your next *layer* of potential coverage should come from your resident relative*s PIP policy, which would apply just the same as if it were your own vehicle.
But what if you don*t own a vehicle or live with a relative who owns a vehicle? This is actually a common scenario for riders of these services, especially in crowded metropolitan areas where car ownership does not make sense for many people. In this case, it can get a bit more complicated, but Florida*s rideshare and PIP laws are still designed to make sure passengers are covered. Florida law requires both the rideshare driver*s personal auto insurance policy and the rideshare policy itself to provide the same PIP coverage as required on any passenger vehicle in Florida. I have seen many claims, however, where the driver*s personal policy attempts to deny coverage because the person did not disclose that they would be using the vehicle for ridesharing purposes. In a case like this where the driver*s personal policy has denied coverage, or where the vehicle itself was uninsured, Florida law holds that the rideshare policy itself must provide the required PIP and other coverage. Even though this coverage should be there, however, these situations can get complicated, and insurance companies do not always like to cooperate, so it is important to have a competent personal injury attorney making sure your interests are protected.
Insurance Beyond PIPAs discussed above, there should be PIP coverage available to an Uber or Lyft passenger from at least one of the insurance companies involved regardless of the facts. Quite often, however, injuries and medical treatment from car accidents can far exceed the PIP coverage. What if you are a passenger in an Uber and this is the case? The coverage under this scenario will first be determined by which driver is at fault for the accident. If another vehicle (or vehicles) are at fault for the accident, you would first look to see if those drivers and/or vehicles had bodily injury coverage on their insurance policies. This coverage is not required in Florida, and a huge number of vehicles on the road do not have this coverage. (See my related article on why uninsured/underinsured or *UM* coverage is so important!) If there is not bodily injury coverage available, or if it is an inadequate amount to cover your damages, your next *layer* of coverage would come from your Uber or Lyft*s uninsured/underinsured motorist policy. As of the date of writing this article, Uber*s insurance policy provides $1 million in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and Lyft*s insurance policy provides $250,000 in this coverage. If the accident and injuries were caused by the actions of your driver, your claim would be against the driver and the rideshare company itself, who is responsible under Florida law for the actions of its driver while engaged in a ride. Current Florida law provides that these companies must provide a minimum of $1 million in bodily injury coverage to protect riders and other persons from injury resulting from the actions of its drivers.
ConclusionWhat does all of this mean for you when you hop in your Uber to get a ride to the airport or hop in your Lyft to take you downtown for dinner and drinks? Well, thankfully, current Florida law and insurance policies for these companies provides what I would characterize as very good coverage for their passengers, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. As with any accident or injury claim, however, it is almost always extremely beneficial to have a knowledgeable personal injury attorney representing you, to make sure all potential sources of coverage are examined, and to advocate to get the most compensation for your injuries. All work on a contingency fee basis, which means you never pay a dime out of pocket, and they only get paid out of a percentage of whatever settlement or judgment they are able to obtain on your behalf. Almost without question, even taking into account attorney*s fees, an injured person*s net recovery will be more with an attorney than if they are trying to represent themselves. There is a lot at stake, so let the professionals handle it!