Unfortunately, the quick answer to this question is the multi-billion dollar companies behind these ride-hailing services cannot be held liable for damages if you're injured in a car accident due to the actions of one of their drivers. This is because Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors and not employees of the corporation.
However, that doesn't mean these drivers aren't regulated and insured. In this article, we discuss your options when you are injured in a ride-sharing accident.
How Do Ride-Sharing Services Work?
Thanks to legislation signed in April of 2017, ride-sharing services are now permitted to operate throughout Missouri and have become popular in Kansas City. Nationally, these services have taken off, answering a demand for transportation that traditional taxicabs and public transportation were unable to meet.
Unlike taxis, which you have to hail in the street or call a central number to request, ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft offer customers the ease of requesting a ride via an app on their smartphone. The app notifies the closest drivers of your request, and when one accepts your request, you're given the driver’s information and arrival time.
Payment is also handled through the app, so you do not have to have cash on hand to pay the driver. While Lyft has always offered a tipping option through the app, Uber just added this feature in the summer of 2017, but informs customers that it's entirely optional.
Not only have these companies provided a convenient transportation option to residents of Kansas City and other cities, but they also have given many unemployed and underemployed adults an easy way to make extra money. Who are these drivers, though, and how do you know if your driver is going to be safe?
Regulations for Uber Drivers
In order to drive for Uber, you must be at least 21 years old and have at least three years of driving experience in the U.S. A valid U.S. driver’s license is required, as is access to an approved 4-door vehicle. Drivers must complete an online application that includes a criminal background check and a clean driving record. It's also mandatory that drivers have valid car insurance.
Because many car insurance companies will not cover drivers who “drive for hire” on personal insurance policies, these drivers often must purchase commercial auto insurance. Uber also offers supplemental policies for its drivers, but they're only valid when the driver is “on duty”—meaning his or her Uber app is running and accepting requests.
Here’s how Uber’s supplemental insurance works:
- When the driver has his Uber app off, he's only covered by his personal auto insurance policy.
- When the driver has his Uber app on but isn't carrying a paying passenger, a low-level liability policy kicks in. This would cover pedestrians or passengers in other vehicles injured by the Uber driver’s negligence.
- When the driver has a paying passenger, a higher level of coverage is activated and will cover any injuries incurred as a result of a crash caused by the Uber driver.
Both Uber and Lyft provide supplemental insurance policies of $1 million during the active duty drive times.
What to Do If You're Injured by an Rideshare Driver
If you're seriously injured as a pedestrian or passenger by an Uber or Lyft driver, your source of compensation will be the driver’s personal or commercial auto insurance policy and any supplemental polices active at the time of the crash.
Because of the added complications in this type of case, it would be wise to hire an attorney to assist with it, but in the meantime, you should write down the name and phone number of the driver—if it’s not already in your phone—and take a screenshot of the Uber trip and receipts on your phone. This could become valuable evidence of which level of insurance was active at the time of the crash. If you're a pedestrian who was hit by an Uber driver, you must get the driver’s name and number, as you will have no record of it on your app.
Have you been injured in a car accident while using one of these ride share services? If so you should speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111 for your free consultation today.