Uber/Lyft Accidents: Dealing with Insurance

WHITEBOARD WEDNESDAY (MAY 17, 2017): With more ride-sharing going on than ever before in the San Francisco Bay Area, there has been a corresponding surge in car accidents involving companies like Uber and Lyft. This week’s edition of Whiteboard Wednesday covers the ins-and-outs of insurance claims when people are injured in Uber and Lyft accidents.

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Video Transcription

Hi, everybody. Matt Quinlan here… Welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Wednesday where we tackle real life issues that we face as personal injury lawyers. We try to answer some questions that we get from people that are dealing with personal injury claims, insurance claims, on the phone, and the people that come into our office. 
So today we’re going to talk about insurance issues related to Uber and Lyft accidents. Over the last few years, obviously, Uber and Lyft have just taken off. This ridesharing phenomenon is amazing. We practice in San Francisco, we live in San Francisco also, so we see Ubers and Lyfts everywhere. And over the past few years we have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of Uber and Lyft related accidents that we handle as personal injury lawyers and that we get phone calls about. 
And one of the primary issues that someone runs into initially is who’s going to cover them with the insurance policy? There’s a lot of finger pointing, there’s a lot of confusion around it. It’s actually gotten quite a bit better recently. Back when Uber and Lyft first hit the scene a few years ago there was a lot of confusion about who was covered. Uber would claim that the driver’s personal insurance had to cover liability claims where the driver’s liability policy would say, “No, you were working, trying to make money with Uber. You should have them cover your loss.” So, you know, people that were covered in accidents of course were left holding their bag with no insurance company stepping forward to claim responsibility for the loss.
So we’ve gotten past a lot of that and Uber and Lyft and other rideshare companies have really stepped forward over the last year or two and have put in place a million dollars in liability coverage under certain circumstances. Also, drivers and their insurance companies have worked together a bit to create these hybrid policies between commercial policies, which they were required to have prior to Uber changing. And Lyft I should say…changing their philosophies on insurance, and just a standard personal auto policy which would oftentimes deny claims.
So we’ve gotten past that. We’ve got now a structure, some rules that are pretty well followed and we’re able to now identify the proper insurance company to bring a personal injury claim to. So this week, we want to talk about the ins and outs of bringing a personal injury claim as it relates to who the insurance company will be that you will bring the claim with.

Auto Liability Coverage 

So before I get started, I want to cover briefly a couple of terms that I’m going to be using throughout the video and I want to make sure that everyone is crystal clear on what these things are. The first is liability coverage. So liability coverage is the insurance coverage that you have in your own auto policy that covers you for losses.
And claims that are brought against you for the harm that you do, injuries you cause, accidents you cause, that type of thing. Your liability coverage and the limits of it are the amount of money that the insurance company will be willing to pay out on your behalf. How much liability coverage does a person have? Well, that depends. The more coverage you have, obviously, the more expensive it is. In California, the minimum insurance that you must carry for liability is $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident. Without it, you’re driving illegally, committing a crime. You could be cited for it as well.
You can rest assured that unless someone is driving uninsured, without insurance, they will have at least $15,000 per person and $30,000 dollars per accident to cover any damages that they cause in an auto accident.

Under Insured Motorist Coverage

 The other topic I’m going to be talking about quite a bit here today is UIM which stands for under insured motorist. This is also a part your own auto policy and in cases involving personal injuries, it oftentimes does in fact come up. And we find ourselves making claims against our UIM coverage of our own auto policies to cover losses that exceed the value of the policy limits of the responsible party, and particularly the liability coverage that they carry.
So UIM…I should mention we just wrote a blog about this. This week we posted it. You should go check that out. I’ll leave a link down below in the comments…sorry, in the description, rather. Go check that out. It’s really valuable. It’s really one of the most practical pieces of advice that we can give. I tell my friends and my family, you know, check this out. Get UIM, here’s all the information you need. It’s one of those things that a personal injury lawyer like myself doesn’t always advice to give to people when they haven’t been involved in an accident. But this is the type of thing that you can do. It’s proactive. It’s totally responsible, something that you should be doing.
It’s the type of thing that if you get in an accident and you need it and you don’t have it, you’re going to be beating yourself up about it. So, go check out our blog about UIM. Really informative and I think it’s worth your while and worth your view. So UIM coverage is always secondary to the liability coverage. You can never go after UIM unless you’ve gotten the entire policy limits available from the third party. If the person is uninsured, you can make a claim against your uninsured motorist policy and in that particular incident, since there is no insurance for the third party, of course, you can make a claim immediately for your uninsured motorist.
The thing about uninsured motorists is you cannot stack it on top of the liability coverage of the third party. So let’s say that you have $15,000/$30,000 UIM coverage. And the person that harms you, or is in an accident, is at fault and you’re injured and bring a claim, has 15/30 as well. You cannot go get $15,000 from that person and then go to your own insurance and try to get $15,000 more. It doesn’t work like that. You can only get as much coverage as your UIM limits allow. So in other words, your UIM and your UM insure you a certain amount of money will be available to you in the even you’re hurt. Once you get that amount of money they’re not going to pay you any more than that.
With UIM, once you bring one, they step into the shoes of the third party. It’s your own insurance but now they are finding themselves in a unique position because they are going to have to pay you as if they were the third party. Obviously, you know, at that point there’s somewhat of a conflict of interest. They’re your insurance company but they’re going to have to pay you a claim and they don’t want to pay you a claim. Insurance companies are for profit businesses. They’re not in the business of paying out claims loosely. They try to save as much money as they can. They try to keep their shareholders happy.
They have done a great job of marketing themselves, and with all the PR about being in good hands and being great neighbors and all that stuff. But the fact of the matter is insurance companies are for profit businesses and the more they give you, the less they keep for themselves for profit. So keep that in mind especially when you bring UIM claims. Also, as it relates to UIM, the unique position that you find yourself in when you bring one is that suddenly they owe you a duty to treat you with good faith. This is only applicable to your own insurance company. Another person’s insurance company, they don’t need to give you anything.
They can mistreat you, mishandle you, deny your claim, give you the runaround, waste your time, etc. and there’s nothing you can do about it except sue them. Hire a lawyer and sue them. With UIM claims, they owe you a duty to act in good faith and if they don’t, they open themselves up to a bad faith insurance claim which is an additional torque on top of the personal injury claim that you’re bringing. It gives you quite a bit of leverage when you are dealing with them and negotiating a settlement because if they are delaying, if they are giving you the runaround, if they’re not treating you fairly not only can you continue to pursue your UIM claim for a fair settlement.
But you can also sue them in court on top of the personal injury claim for bad faith. And that entitles an injured person to additional damages for the pain and suffering that they have to go through for having to be mistreated, basically, by their insurance company. This puts you in a really good position to negotiate a deal. So I as a personal injury lawyer, would always much rather be dealing with a UIM insurance company as opposed to a third party claim because I know I owe my clients something. Third parties don’t owe me. Okay, so those three topics we’re going to be talking about here today. They’re going to come up and the issue at hand is accidents involving Lyft and Uber.

Injured Passenger in Uber or Lyft

There are a few different ways you can be involved in an accident with Lyft or Uber. Obviously one is as a passenger. As a passenger, you’re not at fault, clearly. You’re in the back seat. There’s nothing that you did so, necessarily, if you’re injured in an accident while you’re a passenger in Uber or Lyft either the Uber or Lyft driver is responsible for the accident or a third party is responsible for the accident. If Uber or Lyft causes the accident they have a million dollars in liability coverage. So you’re going to be covered obviously to the tune of a million dollars and that will cover 99.9% of all personal injuries. If the third party is responsible then you need to bring a claim against the third party.
Now, you don’t know how much insurance that they have, obviously. So you have to either bring a claim yourself or hire an attorney to do that. They’ll reach out to the insurance company and will find out what the policy limits are. And if your personal injuries and damages warrant a policy limit settlement, you get it from the third party. If, in fact, you do get the entire policy then you’re going to find yourself saying, ‘great, I’ve got some money, but I haven’t’ been fairly and fully compensated for what I’ve gone through, what I went through.’ So you’re going to bring looking to bring a UIM claim. The first place you’re going to turn is your own UIM.
You, if you have a policy at all, will have some level of UIM. I don’t know what it is. It depends on several factors including how much you’re willing to spend and how much coverage you wanted to afford yourself. But you must turn first to your own UIM and get the policy limits there, if possible, which would cover you in addition to the third party and what they had to offer. If you’re able to get the addition money from your own UIM coverage and meet that policy, whatever you might have, you can then turn to Uber or Lyft’s UIM policy which is a million bucks. At the end of the day, if you’re a passenger in Uber or Lyft and you’re injured, you’re going to have access to a million dollars if it’s warranted.
Now, getting a million dollars, I see a lot online and whatnot and everyone seems to think that getting a million dollars is a piece of cake. That’s not true. A million dollar injury is quite a significant and unique injury so that right there ($1,000,000) should be enough to cover almost everybody’s injuries.

Car Accident with Uber or Lyft

Now, the other way that you might find yourself involved in an accident with Uber or Lyft is you’re out as a driver or you’re out riding your bike or even as a pedestrian and an Uber car hits you…causes an accident…you’re hurt. What do you do then? How does that work? Well, obviously, Uber’s going to be responsible for the damages that they’ve caused you but it’s not really all that simple because the way these ridesharing apps work is you log into them, which makes you available for rides.
You accept rides and once you’ve accepted rides you travel to the destination of the rider and then you pick the rider up and then you start your trip. So there are several phases of the process and depending on where the drive of the Uber is in that process depends on how you can recover and from whom you can recover. So, obviously the first possibility is the app’s off. The person’s driving around the city but they’re not driving for Uber or Lyft. They don’t even have the app on. They’re not looking for work. They’re not looking for a ride and Uber’s got nothing to do with that.
Somebody’s an Uber drive six days a week and you happen to encounter them on the seventh day you’re not going to have a claim against Uber. Their app is off. They are not working. So if you’re injured as a person in a car whether you’re driving or a passenger in someone else’s car or a bicyclist or a pedestrian by an Uber driver, he or she may still have the sticker on the car you cannot bring a claim against an Uber driver. So what you have to do is bring a claim against the driver’s own personal liability coverage. You don’t know how much that is, right? Uber doesn’t regulate. Lyft doesn’t regulate the amount of liability coverage that their drivers have to carry.
They just have to carry some because it’s the California law. So you’re going to need to bring a claim against the driver’s personal auto policy. Coverage amount unknown. If the amount is unsatisfactory and will now cover you wholly for your damages then what you’re going to do is turn to your own UIM. Hopefully you have good UIM coverage. I’ll plug my blog post that I did last week about that particular issue and if you do, no harm, no sweat. You’re going to have the coverage and like I mentioned before, you’re going to have increased negotiating power because you’re going to have a bad faith claim…the possibility of it hanging over the head of the negotiations.
So, when it’s offline, no Uber… claim against the driver…
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Okay, sorry, we’re back. We pride ourselves on only shooting this one time but our battery ran out on the camera. So here we are, we’re back. Let me pick up where I was cut off. The other time that is relevant here is when the app is on. When the person is actively looking for work. When the person that’s driving the Uber or Lyft actually is seeking passengers. There are a few different phases of that process that I mentioned earlier. The first one is Uber/Lyft driver turns on the app’s looking for rider, doesn’t yet have one…driving around town hoping someone pings them and they get to pick up a ride.
In situations like that, if you were involved as either a person in an automobile, a bicycle, or a pedestrian with an Uber or Lyft driver that is looking for a rider but does not yet have one, you are going to have to bring a claim against the Uber or Lyft driver’s personal liability insurance coverage. Again, you don’t know what that is and you’re kind of at the mercy of the policy that the person chose to by and obviously it may be inadequate and if it is inadequate, the good news is Uber and Lyft do afford some limited coverage to people that are injured in that particular window and that is $50,000 dollars per person and $100,000 dollars per accident.
So it’s a decent amount that will cover you. Obviously, if the driver has insurance limits that are 50/100, or greater then you’re not going to be able to bring a claim against Uber but at least you know that you’re going to have access to $50,000 if you’re injured in an accident while an Uber or Lyft drive is actively seeking a rider but doesn’t yet have one. After you exhaust the policy limits of the $50,000 then you can turn to your own UIM and again, it really depends on what kind of insurance coverage you have. Get good UIM. It’s the best advice I can give you. It protects you in all kinds of circumstances. It will, in fact, protect you as a pedestrian.
It will protect you as a bicyclist. It will protect you in a car…not even your car…somebody else’s car. You could be driving somebody else’s car…a passenger in somebody else’s car. UIM follows you everywhere and if you’re involved in an injury accident with another automobile, UIM coverage will kick in and protect you. I really, really recommend you look into that. The next period of time that you could be involved with an Uber or Lyft driver is when they have received a ride request, they have accepted it, they are en route to pick up the rider. In situations like that, if you are injured due to the Uber driver or the Lyft driver’s bad driving then you are going to be afforded a million dollars in coverage.
So, no problems there. No worries if they’re going to pick somebody up. Same thing applies if they have already picked somebody up and they have a passenger and they injure you by running a light or somehow causing you to be injured as either a pedestrian, a bicyclist or somebody in a car. The moral of the story is if it’s offline, it doesn’t have anything to do whit Uber. The app, I mean. If it is online, there are three phases of the process. If they don’t yet have a ride, it’s not going to be great for personal injury claimants. It’s better than it used to be but it’s not great. If they have accepted a ride and they’re en route to go pick somebody up or they actually have picked somebody up then you become injured by an Uber driver, you’re going to have access to the million dollar coverage that Uber or Lyft provides.

Uber or Lyft Driver Injured In Car Accident

So you can feel good about that. The last part of this video covers Uber or Lyft drivers themselves. They’re out there driving a lot. Obviously, the more you drive and the more you’re on the streets, the more likely you are to be injured in a car accident and we do have clients that are Uber and Lyft drivers and that call us and they’re a little bit confused as well about ‘who covers me?’ and ‘do I have a worker’s comp claim?’ ‘Am I an employer or a contractor with Uber or Lyft?’ The fact of the matter is that they’re independent contractors. There is no worker’s comp through Uber or Lyft. Many Uber/Lyft drivers carry it themselves because they’re self-employed and so they’re going to have access to having some of their bills paid that way.
But if you’re an Uber or Lyft driver and somebody else causes you to be injured in a car accident, you obviously are going to have a claim. You are going to also look to see the status or your app. If your app is off then you are going to need to sue or bring an insurance claim against the third party that caused the accident. You don’t know how much coverage they’re going to have, the same way we’ve talked about throughout here, which is why you should have good UIM insurance because the next place you’re going to turn is to you own UIM. And that will set the limit you can recover in the event that you’re hurt with your app off.
If your app is on then you’re going to make a claim against the third party for their policy limits if your case warrants it. If you do, in fact, get the policy then you are going to turn to your UIM for additional recovery and then finally, if you have exceeded the value available the third party and your own UIM…I shouldn’t say exceed…if you have received that amount then you can turn your attention to Uber and Lyft’s UIM policy of one million bucks. So that would be a pretty decent situation if your app was on.
Anyway, that was this week’s edition. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about any of this stuff involved Uber or Lyft accidents or anything else related to any personal injury matters. Thanks for watching and I look forward to seeing you again next week on Whiteboard Wednesday.