Uber– the pioneering ride-sharing platform that has taken over the streets during the past two years – has been wildly successful because it offers consumers a way to arrange rides in urban areas on demand, using nothing but their smartphones. Previously, the only way to travel in an urban area without taking a bus or the subway was via taxi – not an experience everyone relishes.
Perhaps the defining characteristic of Uber, and what sets it apart from taxi companies, is the fact that Uber drivers are not employees of Uber. Rather, they’re “independent contractors” who use their own vehicles – and, more importantly, do not undergo any particular training or licensing like cab drivers do.
This last fact is one reason why consumers should approach Uber with caution. When you use Uber, you are essentially entrusting your safety to someone who may not be a very good driver. There’s no way to know outside of peer reviews, and some claim that Uber does a questionable job screening its drivers.
Put another way, you are just as likely to get into a car accident being driven around by an Uber driver as you are virtually any other time you are on the road.
What happens if you do get involved in an Uber accident, either as a passenger or as another driver involved in a multi-car collision when the Uber driver is at fault? What should you do next?
Understanding Who Pays and Who Is At Fault
If you are injured, and/or if your vehicle is damaged, and the Uber driver is at fault, you can take action to begin the process of contacting a reputable and experienced attorney and filing an insurance claim as you would with any other driver.
Of course, an Uber-involved car accident is a bit different from a “normal” car accident. For starters, one reason Uber has independent contractors and not employees is an effort by the company to limit or eliminate its liability for injuries or damages sustained in an accident when one of its drivers is at fault. Additionally, Uber considers itself to be a “technology provider”, not a transportation service, which (in theory) places even more of the blame on the individual driver – making it more difficult to file a claim against the company itself.
Communicating with Uber after an accident is also difficult, as there is no readily-available phone number for victims, just an email address.
That being said, the first person to consider when filing a claim is the Uber driver. Drivers are covered under their own insurance policy and Uber’s own per-ride policy, which covers up to $1 million. Note that Uber’s policy is far more limited when an Uber driver gets into an accident in between rides, or when there are no passengers in the car.
Just because the driver is at fault doesn’t mean Uber isn’t somehow responsible. The next entity to examine when it comes to determining liability is Uber Technologies, Inc. – and that’s where many victims run into difficulty.
Can You Actually Sue Uber Itself?
The short answer is “Yes” – you absolutely can sue Uber Technologies, Inc. In fact, in 2014, a family filed a wrongful death suit against Uber – the first ever filed against the company – when an Uber driver, in between rides, hit and killed a little girl on New Year’s Eve.
Uber initially denied responsibility, but ultimately reached a settlement with the girl’s family for an undisclosed amount.
This is not the only time Uber has been a defendant in a lawsuit for personal injury or wrongful death. In fact, the number of these cases has gone up as Uber’s service area has grown to include more metro areas across the United States. Cases like the one above show how it is possible to hold Uber accountable in the event of an accident.
Steps to Take Immediately After an Accident
If you’re involved in an accident, you should attempt to take note of everything involving the accident, from the time and location to the exact circumstances of the wreck.
This means getting the driver’s name and license plate number, a copy of the driver’s license and insurance, pictures of the damages, and anything else that can help your attorney piece together what happened at a later date. If no one has called the police, make sure to do so; don’t rely on the driver to do it for you.
If you have to seek medical treatment, make sure that is also recorded. You may have to rely on a family member to do this for you, so make sure they are also aware of what to do.
If you are injured, or if your vehicle is damaged, you need to speak with an attorney as soon as possible, while memories of the car accident are fresh. Your attorney will then take steps to protect you and your rights and prepare your case, if it gets to that point.
Above all, don’t be intimidated by Uber. They can be held accountable just like any other company. Let your trusted attorney deal with Uber while you focus on recovering and moving forward with your life.