Given the prevalence of ridesharing services, i.e., Uber and Lyft, it is understandable that rideshare car accidents involving these services are on the rise. As common as motor vehicle accidents are, it stands to reason that these services would be as likely to be involved in an accident as any other vehicle. However, due the nature of their employment relationships and often three (3) or more parties being involved, ridesharing accidents present a unique set of circumstances that differentiate them from normal motor vehicle accidents and even accidents involving taxi cabs, the service they are replacing.
Where these accidents often differ with ridesharing, is that there are now multiple levels of personal involvement; the rideshare company itself, the driver – who is an independent contractor, the passenger, and any other 3rd parties involved in the accident. The competing interests and responsibilities of these multiple actors can lead to difficulty obtaining relief for an injured party.
An important fact to know is that individuals who drive for rideshare companies are not “employees,” in the legal sense. Rather, they are independent contractors. This is significant for a couple for reasons. First, from the perspective of the driver, they are not entitled to Workers’ Compensation in the event of a workplace accident. Next, you are required to carry your own insurance. As we will see, when the accident occurred in the course of the driver’s day has huge significance. For example, according to Uber’s website, they offer supplemental coverage of
varying amounts depending on the status of the driver.
Offline or the Driver app is off
- The driver’s personal insurance company and coverages apply
Available or waiting for a ride request (Uber maintains, on behalf of the driver)
- Third-party liability if your personal auto insurance doesn’t apply
- $50,000 in bodily injury per person
- $100,000 in bodily injury per accident
- $25,000 in property damage per accident
En route to pick up riders and during trips (Uber maintains, on behalf of the driver)
- $1,000,000 third-party liability
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury
- Contingent comprehensive and collision
- Up to actual cash value of car with a $2,500 deductible (Effective 3/1/2021)
- Certain vehicles offered through the Vehicle Marketplace are subject to a $1,000 deductible
If you are driving for a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft, it is important to understand what you are and are not covered for and when. Massachusetts has a minimum requirement for vehicle insurance coverage and insurance companies often require you to provide notice you will be using your vehicle to provide rideshare services.
The third aspect of the independent contractor-Uber/Lyft relationship we will touch on revolves around a legal doctrine known as “respondeat superior.” Respondeat superior stands for the proposition that an employer can be found liable for the actions of their employee. However, this doctrine is generally unavailable in cases involving independent contractors. What this means is that Uber and Lyft are able to distance themselves from any tortious actions of their drivers.
At this point, it should be clear that these rideshare companies have positioned themselves to avoid direct liability for the actions of their drivers. In practice, this means it can often be difficult to ascertain whose insurance companies to target in order to handle claims. As is a recurring theme in our practice, the involvement of insurance companies tends to complicate matters. It is usually in your best interest to work with an experienced rideshare injury attorney.
Finally, while to this point the article has focused on the driver’s legal work status (independent contractor) and insurance, the reality is that with any motor vehicle accidents, injuries can occur to the driver, passenger(s), and 3rd parties. If you are the passenger or 3rd party in a rideshare accident, you are accorded the same personal injury rights as any other motor vehicle accident. Like other motor vehicle accidents, it is in your best interest to seek the services of an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you through the process.