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Involved in an Uber Car Accident? Who is Liable?

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You’re enjoying a fun night out in town with friends or are heading to a business meeting. You hail an Uber to get home or to your appointment because it’s cheap and convenient. This is not just you, but a significant percentage of Americans today. Rideshare services such as Uber are gaining in popularity with every passing day. But many people don’t know what to do and what happens when their Uber is in a car accident?

Several questions arise in such a scenario. Who caused the crash? Was the Uber driver at fault? Was some other motorist to blame for the crash? Did you sustain injuries in the car accident? Can Uber be held liable for the car accident? Depending on the nature and circumstances of the incident, the answers to these questions can get increasingly complicated. We have shared many car accident tips that also apply to Uber car accident cases, but there are a few key differences to keep in mind.

Actions to Take After an Accident

First and foremost, if you have been injured while traveling in an Uber or any rideshare vehicle, there are specific steps you would be well advised to take to protect your rights.

Make sure you and your fellow travelers are safe.

If you are not, get to a secure location—call 911, which will bring the local police to the crash scene. First responders will also be dispatched if someone else requires medical attention. If you are injured, it would be in your best interest to go to the emergency room or hospital.

Collect crucial information from the accident scene if you can do so safely.

You may already have some of the information on your Uber app. But, in addition to that, you might want to collect other pertinent information such as the insurance policy number and contact information. You should get these details from your Uber driver and other parties involved in the crash, including other drivers.

Contact an experienced Pennsylvania car accident lawyer

A Pennsylvania accident attorney will stay informed about the official investigation and help protect your rights. Rideshare companies are notorious for trying to dodge liability for their drivers and customers. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the legal system and take the necessary action to get you the proper compensation.

Complexities of Uber Car Accidents

Uber automobile accidents can stir up several complex legal debates. Technically, Uber does not employ its drivers as a traditional taxi service. Instead, they take the stance that they facilitate connecting drivers with riders. Drivers have their own insurance policies, but they often do not cover commercial accidents. 

Adding to the danger, Uber drivers do not have to undergo any special training to provide transportation services. In addition, Uber carries $1 million liability coverage for any accidents and requires drivers to carry insurance. Uber insurance, however, is only activated while the driver is transporting passengers.

While it is easy enough to order an Uber to pick you up, Uber is notoriously difficult to reach after an accident. There is no phone number you can call to speak to an agent. Instead, you must email them and wait for a response. This makes communication after an accident difficult, at best. This is precisely why you need an accident attorney if you are hurt while in an Uber. We will fight these communication battles so that you are free to focus on healing and recovery from your injuries.

While Uber manages the app and signs up the driver, it does not consider them employees. Uber drivers are considered independent contractors. Therefore, they are expected to carry their auto insurance. So, when a crash involving an Uber vehicle occurs, the company is likely to argue that it’s not a taxi company but a tech company that provides the platform.

Suing Drivers

If Uber drivers were employees of Uber, there would be no question that an accident victim could sue Uber for injuries caused by the Uber driver. That’s because employers are held responsible for the negligent conduct of their employees that occurs while the employees are engaged in the employer’s business.

However, the answer is trickier because Uber insists that its drivers are independent contractors, not employees. Whether Uber is right about that characterization of its employees has been challenged in several states. Some of those challenges are pending while Uber has settled others.

Independent contractors essentially work for themselves. Since they are not employees of Uber, the general rule that employers are responsible for the negligent acts of employees while carrying out the employer’s business duties may not apply to Uber drivers.

There are exceptions to that rule, but they hinge on rules of law that are often difficult to apply. Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to decide whether Uber can be held directly responsible for a driver’s negligence in most cases.

Suing the Rideshare Company

While $500,000 is adequate coverage for most injuries, a catastrophic injury may require more coverage. In those cases, a personal injury lawyer might explore making a claim against the rideshare company. The claim may be based on the assertion that the driver is an employee, not an independent contractor, or other legal theories.

For example, successful claims have been brought against Uber and other companies for failing to screen their drivers. Passengers who have been sexually assaulted by drivers who have criminal records have obtained compensation from Uber because Uber could not determine that the driver posed a risk to passengers. The failure to screen drivers for their ability to drive safely may also be a basis for suing rideshare companies directly.

Fortunately, most Pennsylvania injury victims will recover compensation from the driver under Pennsylvania’s new mandatory insurance law. When problems arise, however, it is essential to have an experienced and resourceful car accident lawyer in Pennsylvania who aggressively pursues other potential sources of injury compensation.

Insurance Coverage

Most drivers have liability insurance that protects them when they cause a car accident. However, most personal liability policies exclude commercial driving. Since Uber drivers make money by transporting passengers, their driving is commercial. That means their personal liability insurance probably won’t pay claims for accidents caused while transporting paid passengers.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania enacted a law in 2016 that requires rideshare drivers to maintain “rideshare insurance” that covers passengers and other victims of the driver’s negligence while the driver is working. The law requires liability limits of at least $500,000 while the driver is transporting or picking up a passenger. If the driver is logged onto the rideshare app and is available for rideshare requests but has not agreed to pick up a passenger, the limit is $50,000 per injury victim or $100,000 per accident.

The new law requires the rideshare company to assure that the driver has the required insurance before allowing that driver to accept passengers arranged by the company. Therefore, it may be possible to sue the company if a driver does not have the required insurance.

The “rideshare insurance” must be the primary insurance to cover claims that arise while the driver is working. That means the driver can’t submit the claim first under a personal insurance policy and then submit it to the rideshare insurance company only after the claim is denied.

Uber Car Accident Attorney at Your Service

If you have been hurt in an Uber accident, you must contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Investigation into the accident needs to happen immediately. This can preserve critical evidence that often has a way of getting lost in no time. Furthermore, as discussed above, just getting a hold of someone at Uber to deal with an accident claim is a battle that can be very frustrating without an attorney who can streamline the process for you. 

Finally, suppose Uber or their insurance company gets a hold of you, be wary of signing any paperwork. In that case, the adjuster may try to get you to settle for far less than you deserve or may bully you or imply that you are trying to receive unjust compensation. Don’t let any of that worry you. We will explain the process, represent your interests, and get results for your injury case.

We can help if you were in an Uber car accident in Pennsylvania or New Jersey – all you have to do is contact KaplunMarx today at 215-939-4895 or fill out our contact form on our page for a free consultation.

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