Uber and Lyft Car Accidents
Liability Situation 1: Injury to the Uber or Lyft passenger or customer caused by negligent driving by the Uber or Lyft driver.
Liability Situation 2: Injury to a third party by an Uber or Lyft driver.
Liability Situation 3: Injury to the Uber or Lyft driver due to the negligence of another driver.
Insurance Situation A: The Uber or Lyft driver is driving around with the app off. In this situation, the only insurance in play is the driver's personal normal insurance. They are not "on the clock."
Insurance Situation B: The Uber driver has the app activated but has been paired with a rider yet. O.C.G.A. § 33-1-24 requires that the rideshare insurance be on and cover the Uber vehicle with $100,000 in liability and $100,000 in uninsured motorist coverage as well. This benefits the Uber driver and the motoring public.
Insurance Situation C: The Uber or Lyft driver has been connected to a passenger. This covers the time from connection, to pickup, ride and dropoff. This is the best insurance situation because there is $1,000,000 in liability and $1,000,000 in uninsured motorist insurance. Now that we have identified how the claims might arise, let's discuss what the insurance coverages are. O.C.G.A. § 33-1-24 lays out the requirements under the law.
Who do I call to Make an Uber or Lyft insurance claim in Georgia?
Uber is insured with Farmers Insurance now and can be reached at 1-800-435-7764 and was previously with James River and their claims number is (804) 289-2712
Lyft is insurance by Steadfast Insurance and claims are handled by York risk management, who has an office in Alpharetta. Their contact is Phone: (855) 682-9675, Fax: (770) 409-1828
The Uber driver caused the crash and hurt their passenger or people in another car. There is $1,000,000 in liability coverage for the passenger.
Another driver caused the crash and hit the Uber vehicle when it was on call or insurance situation C. There is $1,000,000 in underinsured motorist insurance to protect the Uber Driver and the passenger.
Another driver caused the crash and hit the Uber when the app was on in situation B. There is $100,000 in underinsured motorist insurance available to the Uber driver.
This gets a little dodgy. If the driver has to be glancing down to review an Uber car request then the driver can get distracted and have a crash. Uber takes the position that the drivers are all independent contractors and it is not liable for their actions. In Georgia, the analysis is based on "time, manner and method." Is there sufficient control by Uber of the drivers such that they become the agent of Uber? Probably not because Uber drivers can refuse any fare. Does the use of the electronic cell phone dispatch create some type of liability? I don't see a way yet. Definitely on the driver, but not Uber.
Keep in mind the fact that most cab companies get out of liability on summary judgment because of the independent contractor defense in Georgia.
If you as an Uber passenger instruct a driver to "turn here" and the driver hits someone, you might share in the liability as the driver is acting as your agent. Unlikely it would get to that but the possibility is there.
Cases Against Uber and Lyft
Settled: Client was an Uber passenger. The responsible party had no insurance, so we used Uber UM, which is $1,000,000. She had disk bulge, treated for about 2.5 months, about $15,000 in medical bills. The case settled for $28,000. While many people will tell you that cases are worth 2 to 3 times the bills, that is not true anymore. In a world where ER bills are enormous, the severity of the injury is much more controlling than the bill total.
Can I Sue Uber for the Accident?
Can the injured passenger sue Uber as well arguing that Uber makes the passenger think the driver is of a certain quality? What if there is an assault by a driver and Uber missed a criminal record on the driver background check?
Look at the Restatement of Torts 324:
“One who undertakes, gratuitously or for consideration, to render services to another which he should recognize as necessary for the protection of the other’s person or things, is subject to liability to the other for physical harm resulting from his failure to exercise reasonable care to perform his undertaking, if:
(a) His failure to exercise such care increases the risk of such harm, or
(b) The harm is suffered because of the other’s reliance upon the undertaking”
Restatement (Second) of Torts § 323, at 135 (1965).
So if the passenger is relying on the fact that Uber represents that it has safe or non criminal driver and Uber shanks it, can the passenger sue for the breach of the 324 duty? Possibly, yes. This theory has been used to assess liability against freight brokers in the trucking industry.
Here is Uber's legal description from their own site."For the avoidance of doubt: Uber itself does not provide transportation services, and Uber is not a transportation carrier. It is up to the Transportation Provider to offer transportation services, which may be requested through the use of the Application and/or the Service. Uber only acts as intermediary between you and the Transportation Provider. The provision of the transportation services by the Transportation Provider to you is therefore subject to the agreement (to be) entered into between you and the Transportation Provider. Uber shall never be a party to such agreement."
Later in the agreement, we find this:
"The quality of the transportation services requested through the use of the Application or the Service is entirely the responsibility of the Transportation Provider who ultimately provides such transportation services to you. Uber under no circumstance accepts liability in connection with and/or arising from the transportation services provided by the Transportation Provider or any acts, action, behaviour, conduct, and/or negligence on the part of the Transportation Provider. Any complaints about the transportation services provided by the Transportation Provider should therefore be submitted to the Transportation Provider."
This is where the problems begin. Remember that Uber has a rating system it maintains with other rider's rating of certain drivers. The drivers are also rating the passengers. And yet, it says that complaints should only go to the drivers.
The larger issue is that Uber is selling a brand and a quality level. Black car services have been around forever with the idea that these are professional drivers with nicer cars. Uber legally claims to only be a communications network but it is marketing and operating as a unified brand with a consistent quality level. It gives the impression to the customer that the driver is "uber-qualified" (sorry I cannot resist a good pun.)
In fairness, let us admit that the liability situation with cab drivers in Atlanta is pretty horrible. Cab drivers are only required to have $25,000 in liability insurance and no uninsured motorist insurance. The cabs are of shoddy quality and many of the drivers have no idea where they are going. Uber is a vast improvement.