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Philadelphia Uber + Lyft Accident Lawyers

Rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft have made waves in the transportation industry. While these services have been the source of numerous complaints by local taxi cab companies, Uber and other popular ridesharing services seem to be here to stay. However, anytime you are in the car, there is the risk that you will be in an accident.

If you were in an accident with an Uber or Lyft car, whether you were the lift driver, a passenger in the rideshare car, or a pedestrian, it is important to understand how your injuries may be compensated. The Philadelphia car accident lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm will explore who is liable for damages and injuries stemming from an Uber or Lyft accident, and what insurance may cover you.

Do not assume that you do not have rights if you are hurt in an Uber or Lyft accident. You should also not assume that an insurance company or the parent company will happily pay your medical expenses or other damages. You need to aggressively fight for the compensation you deserve. Call (215) 709-6940 to set up a free appointment with one of our experienced attorneys.

Common Causes of Uber and Lyft Accidents in Philadelphia

Anyone who has driven a car or has ridden as a passenger has personally witnessed the risks and dangers motorists face. A casual glance at people driving alongside you will likely fall onto at least one person engaged with their cell phone while driving. Other drivers will recklessly change lanes or travel at excessive speeds. All of these behaviors contribute to accidents. Uber and Lyft drivers are not immune to careless or reckless conduct. Additionally, there are some aspects of their business that could increase the chances of an accident. Below, we look at some of the common reasons Uber and Lyft drivers are involved in accidents.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents, including those involving Lyft and Uber drivers. However, there are elements of the rideshare business that make drivers more susceptible to distraction. Rideshare drivers rely on their smartphone apps to book fares, communicate with clients, and find unfamiliar destinations. All of these actions divert the diver’s focus from the safe operation of their vehicle.

Speeding

Part of the unwritten service that Uber and Lyft drivers provide is a quick trip between destinations. Furthermore, to prevent a potential rider from ordering a different driver or canceling their trip, a rideshare driver might decide to race to their destination. Reckless driving and speeding is a common cause of car accidents. This is especially the case if the Uber or Lyft driver is unfamiliar with the area and keeps looking down at their GPS.

Fatigue

Driving while exhausted is as dangerous as getting behind the wheel drunk. While both Uber and Lyft limit the number of hours a driver can be logged into their app, it is impossible to constantly oversee all their drivers. The longer a rideshare driver is on the road, the more money they are likely to make. Furthermore, many Uber and Lyft drivers will work late on Friday or Saturday night, sometimes into the early morning hours, to provide rides for people enjoying the local nightlife. If a driver is tired, they are more likely to make a costly error.

Inexperienced Drivers

You do not need a special license or training to drive for Uber or Lyft. Driving a rideshare vehicle is a strenuous job, from navigating crowded city streets to driving through unfamiliar areas. If a driver is inexperienced, they could lack the skill and knowledge to safely operate their vehicle.

Illegal Parking or Stopping

Rideshare drivers are in the business of picking people up from one destination and driving them to another. To save time and provide convenience for their customers, Uber and Lyft drivers will often stop illegally or allow passengers to exit their cars at unsafe locations.

Poor Maintenance

A company that operates a fleet of taxis has a duty to ensure that its vehicles are properly maintained. To accomplish this task, a taxi company will usually employ a team of readily available mechanics. However, if you are an Uber or Lyft driver, you are required to maintain your vehicle. If a driver fails to have their car inspected, replace worn tires, or perform routine maintenance on the vehicle, it could present an unreasonable risk to others on the road.

Do Uber and Lyft Have Insurance for Drivers, Passengers, and Pedestrians?

Especially in Philadelphia, where fewer and fewer people drive or own their own cars, Uber and Lyft are an incredible convenience. Legally, though, these vehicles are not taxis. That means they are not required to carry the strong insurance policies that most taxi companies are legally required to carry. These “$1 million insurance policies” act to protect drivers, passengers, and others involved in an accident.

Uber and Lyft each have terms and conditions, both for using their app and for receiving rides – but they also have contracts with their drivers. To summarize these contracts, they generally explain to the rider that the company (Uber or Lyft) will not be responsible for any losses you suffer from using the app nor from using their car services. Lyft’s driver contract also makes it very clear that the driver is supposed to have their own insurance, and should not rely upon Lyft to cover them in accidents.

Despite this language, Uber and Lyft both maintain liability insurance for their drivers and passengers. Therefore, if you are in an accident while in an Uber or Lyft, you may be able to recover compensation from the company’s insurance policy.

Uber and Lyft both have virtually identical insurance policies, though they might use different terminology. Both rideshare companies carry “$1 million insurance policies” like many taxi companies. This means that, when the insurance coverage is active, the rideshare company’s insurance will cover damage and injury up to $1 million per accident. That should include any injury to (or damage to the property of) the driver, passengers, drivers and passengers in other cars, and pedestrians.

Does Uber/Lyft’s Insurance Cover the Passenger if there is an Accident?

The first question to determine whether Uber or Lyft’s insurance will cover your injuries is whether the driver was on-duty or not. There are three stages that Uber and Lyft consider when determining which insurance covers injuries:

  1. When the driver is logged out of the Uber or Lyft driver app, and not on-duty;
  2. When the driver is on-duty and logged into the Uber or Lyft driver app, but has not accepted a ride; or
  3. The period between accepting a ride and dropping off passengers (including driving to pick up a passenger).

In the first period, when the Uber or Lyft driver is not using the app and not on-duty, they are the same as any other driver on the road. That means that Uber and Lyft’s insurance will not cover any car accident injuries. Instead, the driver, passengers, occupants of other cars, and pedestrians must rely on the driver’s own insurance. Pennsylvania law requires every driver to carry insurance that will cover at least $15,000 per person in injuries and at least $30,000 per accident in injuries. PA also requires you to have at least $5,000 in “no-fault” insurance to pay for your own injuries, regardless of who caused the accident. Ultimately, the person who was at fault for the car accident will pay for injuries beyond that $5,000, so whether you were a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, the at-fault driver pays like in any other car accident. Therefore, Uber drivers may be wise to explore additional supplemental insurance plans.

When an Uber or Lyft driver has their driver app open, but has not yet accepted a ride, the insurance coverage changes. Instead of using their own insurance for accidents between trips, Uber and Lyft cover $50,000 per injured person and $100,000 total for injuries, per accident. This is stronger than many drivers’ insurance policies, but only kicks in if the driver’s insurance will not cover this much (either because it is not a commercial insurance plan or because it is too low).

Any time there is an accident between accepting a ride and dropping off a passenger, the $1 million dollar insurance plans kick in. This covers any injuries involved in the accident, and even covers cases of underinsured or uninsured drivers. That means if the Uber or Lyft is the victim of a hit and run, an uninsured driver, or a driver with a lower insurance plan, the $1 million insurance plan will still help those injured in the Uber or Lyft (as a driver or passenger).

Liability for Car Accidents Involving Uber or Lyft Vehicles in Philadelphia

Car accidents are an unfortunate reality of being on the road or in its vicinity. While cars undoubtedly useful, when you are involved in an accident with one it can be difficult to determine who is legally responsible for the accident. Pennsylvania is considered a “modified comparative negligence” state, which means that before a person can recover from an accident they need to prove that the other party is more at fault than they were.  Furthermore, a party’s recovery will be reduced by the amount of their own negligence.

This concept might seem rather amorphous, but in reality, it is rather easy to understand. Most car accidents and subsequent lawsuits are brought under the theory of negligence. Negligence imports a duty on all people – in this case, drivers – to behave as a reasonably prudent person would behave. In short, a negligence suit can be boiled down to the following elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

In a car accident, one driver will claim that the other driver was at fault, or that they had a duty to drive their car in a certain manner, and they breached that duty. Say, for example, they breached their duty to operate a car or truck with reasonable care when they crossed the center line. As a result of their breach to drive with reasonable care, you were involved in an accident from which sustained an injury, or damages.

However, in most car accidents it is rare that the other driver will willingly accept that they were liable for the accident. They will often respond that the other driver or drivers involved were also responsible to a certain extent or percentage. In a modified comparative fault state this would break down as follows. Driver of car A was found to be 90 percent at fault for the accident, where driver of car B was found to be 10 percent at fault for the accident. The driver of car B would be able to recover 90 percent of their damages from the driver of car A. However, while this sets forth the typical scenario for a generalized car accident, it does not address the Uber aspect of the question.

Thus before delving further into this question, it is important to note that Uber is not like other for-hire transportation services such as taxi services. The major difference is that Uber drivers are not considered to be employees. Rather, they are classified as independent contractors, meaning they are treated as third parties by Uber.  This has a very important effect in relation to a car accident. This distinction shields Uber the company from legal liability for reckless and negligent actions taken by their drivers. Section 5 of Uber’s Terms and Conditions, which was last updated April 2015, states the following:

  • “Uber shall not be liable for indirect, incidental, special, exemplary, punitive, or consequential damages, including lost profits, lost data, personal injury, or property damage related to, in connection with, or otherwise resulting from any use of the [company’s] services…”

Despite this language, Uber does maintain liability insurance for its drivers. Therefore, if you are in an accident while in an Uber, you may be able to recover compensation from either Uber’s liability compensation programs. Alternatively,  that it affords to the drivers and subsequently the passengers, or you may be able to receive compensation from the driver’s personal liability insurance policy. However, certain policies contain riders and clauses disclaiming damages stemming from commercial activities. Therefore, it is wise to have a lawyer review all facts, circumstances, and insurance policies prior to taking action.

Who Pays for Medical Bills and Injuries in Uber or Lyft Accidents in Pennsylvania?

Many of the popular ridesharing services such as Uber require their drivers to carry special car insurance that will cover the driver and the passengers in the event there is an accident. However, the exact coverage that applies is dependent upon the facts present at the time of the accident. Therefore, specific inquiries must be made to determine which policy and coverage should apply. One of the first inquiries that should be made is whether the driver is logged into Uber’s app.

Therefore, Uber drivers may be wise to explore an additional supplemental insurance plan.

In another coverage scenario created through an agreement with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Uber and other ridesharing services have agreed to provide up to $1 million in liability coverage. The $1 million insurance policy that is frequently touted in Uber marketing materials applies only when the driver is logged into the Uber application and is carrying an Uber passenger. In this scenario is the only time when the driver and passenger are covered by the $1 million policy which includes:

  • $1,000,000 coverage per accident for personal injury
  • $1,000,000 coverage per accident for property damage
  • $1,000,000 uninsured/underinsured motorist protection coverage

However, if the driver was not logged into the application at all, then there is no coverage offered by Uber. Rather, the driver’s own personal liability insurance policy will apply.

Damages Available in a Philadelphia Uber or Lyft Accident Injury Lawsuit

The reason someone files a personal injury lawsuit is to recoup the financial losses they incurred because of their injuries. A lawsuit against an Uber or Lyft driver is no different. Above, we discussed some of the issues involved with insurance coverage and liability. The insurance policy limits will cap any compensation you will likely receive. Nonetheless, there are three types of damages you could recover.

Economic Damages

All out-of-pocket expenses related to your injury are considered your economic damages. For example, if you required emergency room treatment and surgery, those costs would be recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit. You are also entitled to any income you lost if you were unable to work because of your injuries. This compensation is not limited to the days you missed – it also includes the income you would have earned if you could not return to work.

While it is often easy to focus on the big-ticket items, there might be overlooked expenses associated with your accident. For example, parking fees from a doctor’s visit are recoverable. So the cost of a babysitter if you needed one. Our Philadelphia accident lawyers will thoroughly review your losses and work to provide evidence of the costs.

Non-Economic Damages

Most people are familiar with the phrase “pain and suffering.” However, many do not understand its implication in a personal injury lawsuit. Some harm you experience after an accident does not come with a bill or invoice. For instance, there is the physical pain you have endured and could endure in the future. Perhaps you are unable to sleep after an accident. Some people are so traumatized after a car accident that getting behind the wheel again is a challenge. Other people suffer depression because their injury prevents them from engaging in an activity they love. You are entitled to monetary compensation for these types of subjective harms and more.

Punitive Damages

The final, and rarest, type of damages are referred to as punitive damages. As the name implies, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant. The damages discussed above are awarded to make the plaintiff whole. They are directly related to the injury. However, punitive damages have more to do with the defendant’s conduct. If the court believes that a defendant acted with gross negligence or maliciousness, it could award punitive damages to discourage such behavior in the future. Punitive damages are only awarded in a few, select cases.

If You Were Hurt in a Philadelphia Uber or Lyft Accident, Our Attorneys Can Help

If you have been in an accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver or were injured while riding in an Uber, it is crucial to contact an experienced attorney. To schedule a free and confidential personal injury consultation with a lawyer with more than 35 years of experience, call the Philadelphia area personal injury attorneys of the Reiff Law Firm today at (215) 709-6940.

Rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft have made waves in the transportation industry. While these services have been the source of numerous complaints by local taxi cab companies, Uber and other popular ridesharing services seem to be here to stay. However, anytime you are in the car, there is the risk that you will be in an accident.

You may feel secure in your knowledge regarding liability when you are the driver of a vehicle, but questions of liability may not be so clear when you are in an accident as a customer in an Uber or a Lyft vehicle. Is the driver liable for your injuries? Is Uber liable for your medical bills? These are just a few of the questions that potential clients may ask following an accident in a rideshare vehicle. Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers will explore who is liable for damages and injuries stemming from an Uber accident and what you should do if you are involved in an accident while in an Uber.

Our Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers Offer Free Consultations

If you have been in an accident involving an Uber driver or were injured while riding in an Uber, it is crucial to contact an experienced attorney. To schedule a free and confidential personal injury consultation with a lawyer with more than 35 years of experience, call the Delaware County personal injury attorneys of the Reiff Law Firm today at (215) 709-6940.