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Ridesharing is highly convenient, particularly in urban areas. In some scenarios, ridesharing actually reduces risk on roadways—for example, by reducing the number of drunk drivers on the road. Still, the risk of accidents remains ever-present.
The ridesharing business model has given rise to new legal questions regarding liability and compensation for accidents when they do arise. Some are being answered over time by courts and legislatures; other solutions are being developed in the private sector as the industry continues to evolve. Understandably, this shifting landscape often leaves victims wondering what to do after an Uber accident.
WHAT TO DO AFTER An Uber ACCIDENT
Given these legal complexities, it is not surprising involved parties may wonder what to do after an Uber accident. Though rideshare accidents present some unique challenges, the immediate steps you should consider taking are largely the same as in any auto accident.
1. Report the Accident
Even if the accident is not extremely serious and the police are not called to the scene, be sure to file a police report; the report will serve as an evidentiary starting point in your case. The sooner the report is filed, the better; this helps ensure that nothing from the immediate scene of the accident is forgotten or overlooked. You should request a copy of the report as soon as possible or inquire how one can be obtained; in part, this gives you an opportunity to evaluate its accuracy.
2. Collect Evidence
On one hand, the scene of the accident is the best source of evidence regarding the nature of the crash; on the other, roadways are not always conducive to preservation of evidence. Therefore, you should also take steps early on to document the scene if possible. In addition to the official crash report and your own notes, footage (videos, photographs, and audio) from the scene can be an excellent source of evidence.
Further, do not forget to collect the following:
- The name and contact information of the Uber driver
- The Uber driver’s personal insurance information
- The contact information of any other drivers involved in the accident
- The insurance information of any other drivers involved
- License plate numbers, makes, models, etc. for all vehicles involved
- Contact information of any witnesses
Oftentimes witnesses observe accidents unfold from a unique vantage. Their accounts can turn out to be essential evidence in your case.
3. Get Medical Attention
When injured in an Uber accident, seeking medical attention is fundamentally important for two reasons. First, it is your first step toward physical recovery from any injuries. Second, medical treatment represents another essential source of evidence for your case.
We often immediately envision catastrophic injuries and death when we think of auto accidents. However, even comparatively modest injuries should be evaluated, treated, documented, and compensated. This should be done as soon as possible; the longer you wait, the more space that is created for an insurance adjuster or opposing party to argue that the injury was not caused by the accident.
4. Consult with a Lawyer
Finally, consider consulting with an Uber accident lawyer. Needless to say, rideshare companies and insurance companies are for-profit enterprises concerned with their own bottom lines. For example, despite Uber’s $1 million coverage for drivers when en route to or transporting passengers, you will likely not receive maximum compensation by negotiating directly with the company as an individual claimant.
Unfortunately, this is true even when negotiating with your own insurance company. Insurance companies generally calculate their settlement offers based on their perception of the legal value of your case and not on the realities of your pain and suffering; rather than offer you something fair, insurance companies (yes, even your own) often offer you the legal minimum. An attorney can help you understand your rights and ensure that you are being treated fairly.
Remember, any communication you have with an adjuster can be leveraged against you in negotiation and litigation. Before speaking to an attorney, do not at any point sign a form or waiver provided by an insurance company or admit fault.
Read more: How to Negotiate with an Insurance Company
uber Accident Statistics
Ridesharing is massively popular, and Uber leads the pack. In 2019, the company reported that “nearly 4 million Uber trips happened every day in the U.S.—more than 45 rides every second.”
According to the company, there were 97 fatal crashes reported in relation to the Uber app in 2018–2019, resulting in 107 total deaths. Based on data drawn from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Uber further reported that rideshare drivers accounted for 21% of these fatalities; Uber customers accounted for another 21%. Third parties accounted for the remaining 58%; unsurprisingly, the vast majority of these accidents took place in urban areas (approximately 90%).
At the end of the day, the ubiquity of ridesharing services in practically unavoidable. Chances are most of us have come into contact with Uber and other ridesharing services—either as a passenger, pedestrian, operator, or as a fellow driver sharing the road. As the ridesharing industry and associated regulations continue to evolve, it is increasingly important that all drivers and passengers be informed on what to do after an Uber accident.
Read more: Uber U.S. Safety Report, 2018–2019
Recovering compensation through insurance
As with all car accidents, victims seeking compensation must prove that they suffered a loss (injuries and/or property damage) and that this loss was caused by an at-fault party. The first route to compensation is generally insurance; this remains true in ridesharing accidents, but with some added caveats. As a starting principle, “boilerplate” insurance policies should always be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, as there can be a great variety of nuance embedded in the standardized language.
For example, a victim seeking compensation might run into a significant obstacle if relying on the rideshare driver’s personal auto insurance. Many auto-insurance policies only cover damages stemming from “personal use” of the vehicle in question. Therefore, if the driver is operating their vehicle as an Uber driver, insurance companies interpreting this language are likely to reject any claims by arguing that ridesharing is not “personal use.”
Uber has developed a stopgap measure this situation. First, any claim must be submitted to the Uber driver’s own insurance company (auto insurance is required for becoming an Uber driver). If the claim is rejected, the driver and any accident victims may then turn to Uber’s own liability insurance.
This coverage is designed with three scenarios in mind.
Scenario 1. Offline or the Uber App is Turned Off
If an accident occurs while the Uber driver is offline or the Uber app is turned off on their device, Uber’s insurance offers no coverage. In other words, Uber does not insure its drivers when they are not working.
Scenario 2. Available or Waiting for a Ride Request
If the driver is involved in an accident while “on the job” but not transporting a customer or en route to a customer, Uber provides the following coverage:
- $50,000 in bodily injury per person
- $100,000 in bodily injury per accident
- $25,000 in property damage per accident
Scenario 3. Transporting a Rider or En Route to Pick Up a Rider
The highest coverage is offered in scenarios where the driver is en route to a customer or transporting a customer. In these situations, Uber summarizes its coverage as follows:
- $1,000,000 for bodily injury and property damage caused to a third party (for example, passengers, pedestrians, and occupants of other vehicles)
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury (in the event the at-fault driver’s insurance is nonexistent or insufficient)
- Contingent comprehensive and collision, which covers damage to the driver’s vehicle
If you were injured in an Uber accident, the coverage offered in this final scenario may be enough to compensate the cost of your recovery. However, in extremely serious incidents or in those involving numerous people, this coverage may fall short. A personal injury lawyer near you can help you determine which scenario applies to the circumstances of your accident and whether your accident warrants further investigation and the pursuit of compensation.
Read More: Uber Driver’s Insurance Explained
obstacles in recovering compensation through a civil lawsuit
In the event insurance is insufficient to compensate your loss, it is possible to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. However, ridesharing scenarios present at least two obstacles when trying to file a case specifically against Uber.
- Employee vs. Independent Contractor
Determining the worker status of the rideshare driver is one such obstacle; if the driver is classified as an employee, their employer can be held “vicariously liable” for the driver’s negligence. By contrast, if the driver is classified as an independent contractor, the rideshare company may be shielded from liability. With a varying degrees of success across jurisdictions, rideshare companies like Uber have striven to ensure that their drivers are classified as independent contractors.
- Arbitration Agreements
When downloading apps on their phones, users almost always fail to read the associated contract; among other things, these contracts frequently include an “arbitration clause.” For example, the arbitration clause included in Uber’s Terms of Service explains that, by using Uber’s services, customers “agree that [they] are required to resolve any claim that [they] may have against Uber on an individual basis in arbitration . . .” If enforced, this language has two effects: (1) customers may not file suit against Uber and must instead resolve their dispute in arbitration; (2) customers may not band together against Uber in the form of a class action.
Arbitration agreements are an extremely controversial issue in the law of contracts. However, despite ongoing debate among lawyers, scholars, and policymakers, there exists a strong judicial policy at the federal level favoring enforcement of arbitration clauses pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act.
Ultimately, evaluating these legal issues and others will require a close look at the facts of your case and the governing law in your jurisdiction. The experienced Uber accident attorneys at Zinda Law Group can help evaluate your facts, analyze the law, and strategize a path for you toward maximum compensation.
Read more: Uber, Terms of Service
OUR personal injury attorneys CAN HELP
Car accidents are common occurrences. Unfortunately, victims are often frustrated in their efforts to secure satisfactory compensation for their injuries; this is particularly true in ridesharing accidents, which involve an added and evolving layer of legal complexity. If you or a loved one are wondering who to call when in an Uber accident, our attorneys are here to help.
At Zinda Law Group, we believe that no victim of an auto accident should have to worry about their ability to afford excellent legal representation. We pride ourselves in providing that representation. You pay nothing unless we win your case; that is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.