Ride-sharing companies' policies among other things often fall between the cracks of the legal system in Baltimore. Their drivers could be employees, but they could also be independent contractors, leaving it unclear whether injured victims can recover compensation from a ride-sharing company like Uber or Lyft. Even the type of insurance that covers a ride-sharing driver depends on the circumstances and can change by the second.
The process is confusing and very different from what would happen if the person that hurt you was a "normal" driver. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that we get as personal injury lawyers in Baltimore.
Will the Ride-Sharing Driver Who Hit Me Be Insured?
They should be, yes. In the application process for both Uber and Lyft, ride-sharing drivers need to provide proof that they have the necessary insurance coverage to drive in Baltimore. If they fail to show that they have the necessary insurance, they are not supposed to pass the application process.
However, ride-sharing companies do not seem interested in maintaining current records of their drivers: It is the driver's responsibility to notify Uber or Lyft about changes in his or her insurance coverage. If the coverage falls below the respective ride-sharing company's requirements, a driver has an incentive to cover it up – if he or she does not, he or she will likely be removed from the ride-sharing platform.
What Type of Insurance Will the Ride-Sharing Driver Be Carrying?
It depends, quite literally, on the precise instant of the ride-sharing accident that hurt you.
If you were hurt by a ride-sharing driver in between their acceptance of a ride hail and the completion of that trip, the ride-sharing company's insurance policy is supposed to cover the incident. While these companies vaunt the extent of the coverage – Uber loudly proclaims that it covers $1,000,000 in damages – they also quietly try escaping liability through any means necessary.
If you were hurt by a driver who was on the clock, but had not yet accepted a ride, then the driver's personal insurance policy will likely cover the incident. The coverage limitations will be lower, but the insurance company will probably be more likely to take the claim seriously and provide the coverage they promised.
Ride-sharing drivers who were not on the ride-sharing app at the time of the incident will only be covered by their personal insurance coverage, like a normal driver.
How Does a Ride-Sharing Vehicle's Insurance Coverage Compare to a Taxi Cab's?
The answer depends both on the county and whether the ride-sharing driver's personal insurance will cover the accident or the ride-sharing company's insurance will apply. Generally, though, ride-sharing vehicles have more extensive coverage than taxis because taxis almost always have the bare minimum insurance coverage allowed by law.
For example, Baltimore City uses the state minimum insurance coverage protocol. This requires vehicles to carry liability coverage for $30,000 per person and $60,000 per crash. Taxis in Baltimore, therefore, have no incentive to go higher than this and rarely do. Uber, meanwhile, requires its ride-sharing drivers to carry at least $50,000 per person and $100,000 per crash in liability insurance.
What if I Was a Passenger in the Ride-Sharing Vehicle at the Time of the Crash?
Passengers are covered by the ride-sharing company's insurance policies that are in effect during the time of the ride. These policies have very high limits to liability but also provide ride-sharing companies with lots of room to escape liability. However, passengers are the people that ride-sharing companies are the most concerned with pleasing, so are more likely to be fully compensated than other injured parties.
Why So Many Questions About Insurance? I Can Recover from the Ride-Sharing Company, Right?
Insurance is such a hot-button topic for ride-sharing injuries because the companies that run the ride-sharing apps, like Uber and Lyft, are structured in a way that is designed to limit their own liability in crashes involving their drivers.
Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing companies are adamant that they are merely software developers who have created a smartphone application that connects passengers with drivers. They insist that they do not employ the drivers who use their app to pick up passengers: Instead, those drivers are merely independent contractors. As independent contractors, the drivers are supposed to be liable for their negligent act that hurt others; not the ride-sharing companies they work for.
However, when ride-sharing companies exert lots of control over their independent contractor drivers, those independent contractors can become employees. Should this happen, liability for accidents can extend through the driver and to the ride-sharing company, giving injured victims access to the deep pockets that are more likely to fully compensate them for their injuries.
What if My Driver Assaulted Me During My Trip?
Ride-sharing drivers who assault their passengers during their trip can be held civilly liable through a personal injury claim and can even be prosecuted through the criminal justice system.
Unfortunately, intentional acts like assault frequently violate a ride-sharing company's policies, allowing the company to escape liability for their driver's actions. However, that does not mean that an innocent victim will only ever be able to rely on their driver's ability to cover their losses. Ride-sharing drivers have to pass background checks before picking up passengers. If they pass that background check, but should not have, then the ride-sharing company's negligent hiring would have put innocent passengers at foreseeable risk of being hurt. In these cases – like when, for example, your ride-sharing driver passed a background check in spite of past convictions for sexual assault, and then committed sexual assault during your ride – you could implicate the ride-sharing company into the lawsuit by claiming that their negligence put you in harm's way.
Gilman & Bedigian Represent Baltimore Victims of Ride-Sharing Practices
If you have been hurt by a ride-sharing driver – whether in a car accident, as a passenger, or from a criminal act by the driver – you have legal options. Reach out to the personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian to discuss them and determine the best course of action. Contact them online.