A recent spate of serious auto injuries in Miami, Florida involving the ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, underscored the need for passengers and other motorists to have underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage in the event of a property damage or injury accident. In one accident with a Lyft driver, a motorcyclist was ejected and killed. In another accident with an Uber driver, a couple visiting from North Carolina were both injured with the woman suffering serious brain injuries.
Obviously, in cases like these the injured parties have or will incur substantial damages in medical expenses, wage loss and pain and suffering. Often a brain injury requires prolonged periods of rehabilitation and expenses as well as the trauma of having one’s life permanently altered. In the death case, the family of the deceased motorcyclist may have suffered significant loss of financial support as well as the emotional loss of a loved one.
Are Uber Accidents Covered?
In an Uber or Lyft accident, the companies provide coverage for property and injury claims up to $1 million, provided the Uber driver had the app on and was transporting a legitimate passenger. Who knows if the app is on? If in between rides, Uber offers $50,000 in coverage if a private insurer refused to pay because of a commercial use policy exclusion.
Recently, the two companies revised their coverages so that they will offer the full $1 million in coverage when the app is on. If the app is on but no passenger is in the vehicle, then Uber and Lyft offer coverage of $50,000/$100,000/$25,000. This means that any one individual who is injured in a Lyft or Uber accident caused by that driver is covered for bodily injury up to $50,000. If there is more than one injured person, they must divide up $100,000. Property damage is $25,000. Should a passenger be in the vehicle, then the $1 million coverage is available
Importance of UIM Coverage
In Massachusetts, after insurance coverage of the driver who caused the accident, the driver’s own personal UIM coverage applies. Massachusetts law only provides that drivers have minimum coverage of $20,000/$40,000/$5000, which is below Uber and Lyft’s coverage. Personal coverage is applicable if you are a motorist or pedestrian injured by a ride-share driver with no passenger on-board and the app is turned off.
You can and should consider purchasing uninsured (UM) and UIM coverage of at least $100,000/$500,000 considering the real possibility of incurring a serious bodily injury or worse in any kind of car accident. Faced with the prospect of only collecting $20,000, or even only $50,000 for a permanent car accident injury is not comforting considering the medical costs and lost earnings, let alone the pain and suffering. Review your own policy and then inquire about increasing your UM and UIM coverages as the increased premiums are usually not that much more.
If your accident injuries exceed the coverage provided by the driver’s personal policy or that of Uber or Lyft’s 50/100 coverage, then you look to your own policy for UIM coverage once those amounts are paid in full. The process is similar to handling a claim against the responsible driver but is against your own insurer with the same discovery procedures. A significant difference is that the matter, if not settled, is resolved by binding arbitration rather than a court or jury trial. The same rules of evidence apply except that a single individual, usually a retired judge or attorney, is the trier-of-fact and makes the award.
Damages in an Uber Accident
Damages in a car accident flow from the economic and non-economic losses sustained by the injured claimant. These typically include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future wage loss
- Permanent disability
- Permanent disfigurement
- Diminished quality of life
- Emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
In a wrongful death action, members of the decedent’s immediate family may recover:
- Medical expenses from last hours or days of treatment
- Loss of financial support
- Funeral and burial costs
- Pain and suffering if the decedent was observed to have consciously suffered before succumbing
- Loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, guidance and counsel
- Punitive damages if the defendant exhibited grossly negligent conduct
Retain a Boston Uber Lawyer
The Boston metropolitan area now boasts some 17,000 riders who are using Uber and over 1000 ride-sharing vehicles. Expansion is likely. With increased ridership comes inevitable accidents and the issues outlined above regarding coverage for injuries may well affect you or a loved one.
Injury accidents can present complicated issues, not only those regarding insurance coverage. An injured victim needs to prove liability, causation, and damages, each of which have their own problems in terms of proof. Neil Burns is a Boston Uber lawyer who has been handling personal injury cases in the Boston area, and indeed throughout the Commonwealth, for over 30 years, now including those concerning Uber and Lyft accidents. Contact him today for a free, in-depth discussion regarding your injury claim: 617-227-7423.