Typically, when you are in a motor vehicle accident with a professional driver, the driver’s employer is liable for the accident. However, with rideshare companies, the liability is not as cut and dry. Drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft are independent contractors. That means they are not directly employed by these companies, and as a result, these companies may not assume liability for the accident.
However, judges often have a different opinion on the matter. As a result, you may have recourse against these companies for any losses incurred.
Massachusetts Liability Laws for Ride-Share Companies
Under Massachusetts state law, rideshare drivers must have at least $1 million in liability coverage when they have a fare in the car. Both Uber and Lyft have policies that comply with this law. However, at the time of writing, there are no state laws demanding the company have liability coverage for drivers in between fares.
Uber and Lyft Liability Coverage
According to Uber, drivers are covered by a $1 million commercial liability policy when they accept a job, pick up a fare, and deliver the fare to their destination. That means if you are riding in an Uber, you are covered by that policy. Similarly, if you are hit by an Uber while they have a fare or are on the way to pick one up, you are also covered by that policy.
If a driver is in an accident between fares, their personal auto insurance covers the damage. If the driver doesn’t have enough coverage, Uber has a policy worth $50,000 per individual up to a total of $100,000 per accident; Lyft has very similar policies. Unfortunately, that amount is often not enough to cover the damage that occurs after an accident.
Driver Versus Uber Responsibility
In 2013, Huan Hua Kuan was crossing the road with her four- and six-year-old children when they were hit by an Uber driver, and her six-year-old daughter died. The driver was held criminally responsible for the pedestrian accident, but Uber initially refused to acknowledge any responsibility.
Kuan noticed the driver looking down at this phone just before the accident, and Uber admitted he was logged into its app at the time. However, the company expressly said it was not liable as the driver didn’t have a fare and wasn’t on the way to pick up a fare. Lawyers argued that the driver was looking for a fare and thus engaged with the company at the time of the accident. Although the $68-billion company tried to shirk financial responsibility, eventually Uber settled the case, but the records were sealed in relation to the amount.
This case underscores the fact that these companies are reluctant to admit liability after an accident. However, in spite of their reluctance, they may still be held responsible.
Changing Legal Climate for Uber and Lyft
Recently, both Uber and Lyft have been under fire for their business model, and many people are calling for these companies to take more responsibility. That includes better screening and training of drivers, but it also includes taking responsibility for driver accidents anytime the driver is logged into the app. California and Washington passed laws related to this issue, and other states may follow.
The laws are not always clear, and in many cases, they are still being written. If you have been affected by an accident involving an Uber, Lyft, or other ride-sharing driver, do not take the company’s word on their legal responsibilities for the accident. Instead, contact the Law Offices of Mazow | McCullough, PC at (978) 744-8000 or (855) 693-9084. We can help you get the justice you deserve.