Millions of people all over the world use Uber for their personal transportation needs. The ride share concept has become a significant part of the worlds transportation needs being utilized for every aspect of daily life. Long are the days were one hailed a cab on a street corner or reserved a cab for a ride to the airport. The ease and low cost of ride sharing has changed everything. With hundreds of thousands of drivers in the United State alone a variety of events have occurred which raises safety questions about passenger safety during an Uber ride.
Uninsured Motorist Claims Involving Uber Car Accidents
Scenario #1: you are an Uber passenger and the Uber vehicle you are in involved in a rear-ended accident on the freeway. The Uber driver is not at fault and you sustain injury as a result of the accident. In California, as a negligent free passenger, you would have a right to recover damages for medical expenses, lost earnings, and what the law refers to as “pain and suffering” compensation. As far as medical expenses goes, the allows for the recovery of medical expenses which are reasonable and caused by the accident. With regard to lost earnings, California law requires that the amounts claimed as lost earnings are “certain” and not “speculative” and caused by the injuries associated with the accident. When it comes to pain and suffering, the law allows for reasonable compensation for any pain, discomfort, fears, anxiety and other mental and emotional distress suffered and caused by the injury.
But what if the responsible driver is uninsured or under-insured? Can the insurance policy covering the Uber car offer an avenue of compensation for an injured passenger?
In many instances, the insurance company providing uninsured/underinsured motorist insurer for Uber will cover damages suffered in an accident where the liable driver either had no insurance or did not have enough insurance to cover the injured party’s losses. Uber represents to its passengers in standard Uber rides that uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage is provided. This would also cover in a “hit and run” accident where the liable driver flees the scene. Even though you as the passenger do not have an actual insurance contract with the uninsured motorist insurance company they must act in good faith when looking at your claim. Even though you as the passenger are not a named insured under the policy, you would be an un-named beneficiary of the uninsured motorist coverage. The duty of an insurer to deal in good faith extends to insureds who were not parties to the insurance contract, inasmuch as public policy of California declares that uninsured motorist coverage was provided for their benefit. Cancino v. Farmers Insurance Group 80 Cal.App.3d 355.
Claims of Assault and Negligent Hiring against Uber in California
Scenario #2: On an evening out with friends or co-workers you feel you have had too much to drink. Knowing the dangers of drunk driving and with safety in mind you do the responsible and reasonable thing: call an Uber. During the course of your ride you doze off and awakened to realize that you are being assaulted by the Uber driver. Unfortunately, this scenario has taken on national attention as a result of recent news reports. In a disturbing number of cases the passenger is a woman, is intoxicated and has passed out.
Scenario #3: or what about a case where a passenger wishes to get out of the vehicle but the driver refuses? Is the Uber driver obligated to stop the vehicle and/or terminate the ride? Does this scenario amount to a kidnapping? Clearly these scenarios involve serious crimes, but what about the civil liability of Uber or Lyft or any other ride share company? Can Uber be held liable for the criminal acts of its “partner-drivers”.
In an effort to combat criminal assaults by their drivers Uber has recently made various changes to their driver qualifications. They are making the background checks more stringent and also adding a panic button to their app that will automatically call 911. It is extremely important that if you are the passenger in a ride share vehicle and you are the victim of a crime you must contact the police. Also as a matter of self-protection stay alert when a passenger. Try not to fall asleep or doze off. Stay aware of your surroundings. Also, if you sense anything out of the ordinary, suspicious or concerning about your driver, end the ride and exit the vehicle when safe to do so. Personal safety requires reasonable efforts to not place yourself in dangerous situation. While doing 15 million trips per day worldwide it will be interesting to see how Uber and other ride share companies deal with the safety of passengers.
If you were the victim of an assault during a ride share, or if you were a passenger in an Uber vehicle that was involved in an accident you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. An experienced attorney should be consulted so that you can understand what your options are under the law.