By: Chris Reynolds
Share This Post
Who Is Responsible in a Car Share Accident in Florida?
The rise of ridesharing through companies like Lyft and Uber has changed the landscape for local travel. However, with all of these vehicles being driven by private individuals who are not actual employees of Uber or Lyft, ensuring these trips which are essentially professional/business rides are now being done by individuals and not companies like they were when taxi’s ruled the short rental ride business. Before Uber and Lyft, we knew the taxi company who owned the taxi vehicles and these companies were required to carry commercial policies or we could sue them because there were assets from the company an attorney could pursue. However, with Uber and Lyft, we can’t sue Uber or Lyft directly because their drivers are not employees and the vehicles are typically owned by private individuals, so a new problem was created with Uber and Lyft with respect to car crash injuries. For example, if a taxi injured you, you knew the taxi was owned by a company that you could sue if the taxi was at fault. This all changed with ridesharing, and so new laws were needed to keep up with this new technology. In Florida, private vehicles are only required to have $10,000.00 in property damage and $10,000.00 in personal injury protection (which only covers the people in that vehicle for medical bills). In Florida, if someone hits you and they are at fault, they are not required to have insurance that will cover your medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering. It is estimated that 1 in 3 vehicles does not have bodily injury coverage, and that is the type of coverage from the at-fault vehicle that would compensate you. Companies obviously usually have big bodily injury coverage policies because if they don’t, you can always sue the company and go after their assets. However, since the vehicles in ridesharing trips are not owned by Uber or Lyft and the drivers are not employees of Uber or Lyft, you can’t sue Uber or Lyft directly for a rideshare accident. Accordingly, the laws changed so that we require Uber and Lyft drivers to have bodily injury coverage since they are effectively professional drivers who are driving for profit.
There are 3 general stages to a rideshare insurance investigation. The first is if the rideshare vehicle does not have a rider and is not actively looking for new riders to pick up. In that situation, the driver’s own personal policy will cover any accident or injury.
The second type of situation arises when the Uber or Lyft driver does not have a rider but does have the app open and is actively looking for a new fare. In this circumstance, the law requires that Uber or Lyft have a policy that will cover up to $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident. Uber and Lyft also require their drivers to have special coverage that will cover them typically for $100,000 per person and $300 per accident. The issue here is that when someone signs up to drive for Uber or Lyft, they get the required policy and they show it to Uber or Lyft, but it’s then up to Uber or Lyft to keep checking to make sure they policy didn’t lapse or wasn’t cancelled. I recently had a client who was injured in a Lyft accident, and upon investigation we learned that the driver got the required policy at the beginning and then cancelled it after he showed proof to Lyft, and the accident happened 5 months later, so the Lyft driver was driving for over 5 months with no insurance at all and Lyft never checked. Fortunately, Lyft has an umbrella policy that will cover injured people if there is not enough coverage from the Lyft driver.
The third stage is if the Uber or Lyft driver is when the Lyft or Uber driver has accepted a fare in the app, whether the driver is on the way to pick up the rider or has already picked up the rider. In this stage, then the Uber or Lyft driver is required to have $1 million in coverage during this stage.
In 2015, Florida passed a law that designated ridesharing apps as “transportation network companies” and specifically states all of the insurance requirements. These requirements include the three stages already discussed and their corresponding insurance limit requirements.
In 2015, Rick Scott signed a Florida law that, in certain situations, can change the amount of coverage available under Uber or Lyft’s insurance coverage. This Florida law has various requirements, including specific required insurance coverages depending on the status of the app. It’s important to note that all of these rules are still very new and the situation is fluid with things changing often, so it’s important to get an attorney who is well versed in ridesharing accidents and the complex and changing rules that accompany Uber and Lyft.