You’re late for work on a rainy morning, you miss the bus. Thankfully, you called an Uber and your ride will be at your door within minutes. Problem solved. But what happens if the Ubercar in which you are travelling gets in to an accident? What should you do?
Don’t panic, we’re here to help.
Uber defines itself as “everyone’s private driver.” A ride-sharing program launched in 2009, the company aims to connect those in need of a ride with their drivers through an iPhone or Android app. Passengers have their credit card information saved in the app, which is also connected to their Facebook accounts, allowing a picture to display for drivers to identify the rider. The amazingly simple operation allows a rider to open the app, and using the GPS capabilities on the phone, request a ride from the drivers close by. Within minutes, the map shows the driver’s arrival, along with their name, picture, license plate number, and the make and model of their car. Upon reaching the desired destination, the driver ends the ride and the card on file is automatically charged.
Uber eliminates the need to call a taxi dispatcher or hail one on the street. Bostonians know how difficult and frustrating it is to deal with taxis in the city, and city dwellers are flocking to the ride-sharing start-up in record numbers. Uber offers a few options to riders depending on how cheap or luxurious they want their car to be. Uber Lux is the most expensive option, offering a riders top-of-the-line sedans like Mercedes, BMW, and Audi. Uber Black and Uber SUV are black livery vehicles driven by professional drivers. Customers can request a taxi through the app, which uses the taxi meter plus an additional fee. The cheapest and most popular option is UberX, in which regular drivers in their personal cars can drive customers to their destinations.
There’s no denying Uber is a great idea in concept, but many customers wonder what will happen if they get into an accident while being driven in an Uber. Are they covered under insurance? Is the company liable? According to company policy, per the support blog, Uber X drivers are covered first by their own insurance policies on their cars. The company touts a $1 million per ride insurance policy as an extension, as well as other options. However, the company’s insurance system is flawed, according to many city and state officials around the country who deem the rider-sharing app unsafe. A new addition of contingent coverage between trips has been added as a result of a tragic accident involving an Uber driver and a pedestrian on New Year’s Eve.
Up until March of 2014, Uber drivers were only covered under the company insurance policy when they had a passenger in the car and there was an active trip being logged on the app. Because Uber considers its drivers “independent contractors,” the company frequently refused to cover drivers if they got into an accident without a passenger in the car. On December 31st, 2013 Syed Muzzafar, an Uber driver in California was logged into the app when he hit Sophia Liu, her mother, and her brother. Uber denied responsibility for the accident arguing that the so-called “independent contractor” did not have a passenger in his car at the time and therefore was not covered by the company’s insurance policy. Sophia Liu, a six-year-old child, was killed in the accident and Muzzafar is currently on trial for gross negligence and vehicular manslaughter. Though the company notes the driver’s own insurance policy has offered the highest policy limit, Uber still has not offered any additional compensation, even after the change in their policy.
An investigation done by NBC Los Angeles turned up several serious issues with Uber drivers and the thoroughness of the background checks the company performs on its partners before they are allowed to drive strangers around the city. Uber hires a company to do background checks on applicants on criminal history dating back seven years, but the team at NBC Los Angeles found numerous instances of drivers with lengthy criminal backgrounds (sometimes up to 20 years of offenses) with convictions for serious crimes such as sexual assault, reckless driving, and robbery. According to news outlet The Verge, Syed Muzzafar was arrested for reckless driving more than seven years before he became anUber driver and hit and killed a young child.
While it is a brilliant idea for helping people get around in the city, Uber clearly has issues that inhibit driver safety. The shaky insurance policies and sketchy rules leave passengers on the edge of their seats instead of letting them sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride like the service promises. Though it touts a big additional insurance policy, Uber drivers and passengers are often left wondering if they really have coverage. The company is notoriously mysterious and difficult to contact, often placing blame on the drivers and denying responsibility. Uber still markets itself as a “tech” company rather than a car service, leaving passengers and drivers with medical bills and without adequate coverage.
If you or someone you know was injured in an accident involving an Uber driver or vehicle, it is advised that you contact a Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney right away to assure you receive the compensation you deserve. Companies like Uber can be extremely difficult to deal with, and victims can feel overpowered. At the Law Offices of Altman & Altman, our experienced attorneys have decades of experience successfully handling motor vehicle accident cases. Since Uber’s inception in 2009, our lawyers have been on the forefront in ensuring drivers and passengers receive the compensation and care they so rightfully deserve. Going up against a rapidly expanding tech giant like Uber may seem daunting, but our attorneys are here to assist every step of the way, answering any questions you may have.
At the law offices of Altman & Altman, we are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week – including nights and weekends to answer any questions regarding your case. Call us today to schedule a free initial consultation and case evaluation.
Read the full investigation by NBC News