If you or someone you care about has been injured by an Uber ride as a passenger, a bystander, or as another driver, you may have many questions. For instance, you may want to know “Who will pay for my injuries – the Uber driver or the Uber company?” or “Is the Uber driver actually an Uber employee?” You may have questions about the laws concerning ride sharing services as well.
Most Uber riders don’t need to understand the answers to these questions. However, if you’ve been injured by an Uber ride, you may have questions about how to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Can an Injured Uber Passenger Sue Uber Directly after an Injury?
It depends. The answer to this question is important to the injured party because a business usually has more money to compensate an injured victim than an individual rideshare driver. Also, the rideshare business’ policies may be partly to blame for the injuries if it did not thoroughly vet the driver.
In most cases, directly suing the ridesharing business after a passenger sustains injuries isn’t an option. That’s because drivers for these sorts of companies are considered independent contractors and not employees. This means the ridesharing business isn’t legally responsible for their drivers’ negligent behaviors and actions.
Ridesharing businesses classify drivers to protect themselves from victims’ legal claims as well as a range of labor laws. They continue to fight in court to maintain the status quo.
However, recent events in some states may be changing all that for Uber and similar ridesharing businesses.
California weighed in concerning Uber’s corporate practice of considering its rideshare drivers as independent contractors. Although Georgia, New York, and Texas courts held in favor of its classification practices, courts in California didn’t agree.
How Does an Independent Contractor Differ from an Employee?
It’s important to understand why the courts want to know if the company considers its worker an independent contractor of employee.
Generally speaking, an employee is legally entitled to an array of benefits and protections that the independent contractor might not receive:
- Protection under wage and hour laws (e.g. meal breaks, the right to receive minimum wage, overtime, and business expenses’ reimbursement).
- Protection from discrimination under the law, including the right to be protected from harassment and/or discrimination in the workplace.
- Financial benefits (e.g. payroll withholding – federal and state taxes withholdings).
- Unemployment compensation benefits (if the worker loses his or her job).
- Workers’ comp benefits (if the worker is injured on the job).
When a business improperly classifies the worker as an independent contractor, it typically deprives the worker of a range of benefits they’re entitled to receive under state and federal laws.
California’s Case against Uber
In September 2014, one of Uber’s drivers filed a wage complaint. She asked to be reimbursed for business expenses (e.g. road tolls and gas).
Uber stated the driver wasn’t considered an employee and wasn’t legally entitled to receive these business expenses.
Unfortunately, the Labor Commissioner in California disagreed with Uber. It awarded the employee thousands of dollars.
Independent Contractor Analysis
The California’s Labor Commission used the economic realities test (California Supreme Court, S. G. Borello Sons, Inc. v. Dept. of Industrial Relations). It applied the 11-factor test to determine if a worker is an independent contractor or an employee:
- Is the worker engaged in a distinct or separate occupation from the principal business?
- Is the worker performing labor that’s part of the principal business’ operations model?
- Does the business provide the equipment, tools, and materials to the worker who performs the labor?
- Does the worker invest any of his or her own materials/equipment in order to perform this work?
- Does the worker have any special skills? (Does the labor performed require the worker to have special skills?)
- Does the worker’s labor require supervision or direction by the principal business?
- Does the individual worker have a personal profit/loss opportunity in the business?
- How long does the worker have the ability to perform these services?
- What’s the “permanency” of the worker-principal relationship?
- How does the principal pay the worker – by the “job” or by the hour?
- Do the principal and worker consider their interaction is an employment relationship?
California’s Labor Commission considered the driver was an employee of Uber because:
- Drivers don’t get involved in a separate or distinct occupation that diverges from the core of Uber’s business.
- Drivers are considered an “essential” part of the regular business model of Uber.
- Uber acted like an employer by providing work materials (e.g. mobile phones) and monitored drivers’ customer approval ratings.
- Uber’s sole discretion was used to negotiate or establish rideshare prices paid by customers.
- Drivers didn’t need any special skills to work for Uber.
Uber’s legal arguments didn’t persuade California’s Labor Commissioner. It argued that drivers were allowed to establish their own hours, could refuse passenger customers, and didn’t receive on-the-job supervision.
However, California’s Labor Commission ruled that Uber maintained tight controls on its operation and, because of the nature of ridesharing work, Uber didn’t need to specifically control individual drivers.
What Steps Should I Take after an Uber Crash?
After an accident involving an Uber vehicle:
- Call “911” immediately.
- Take images of the accident site.
- Write down contact details of any witnesses (e.g. names, phone numbers, and email addresses).
- Get the Uber driver’s name (if it’s not in your mobile phone).
- Take screenshots of your Uber receipt.
- Contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible if you’re seriously injured.
If another driver besides the Uber driver is at fault, his or her insurance policy will be drawn on first. If the at-fault driver’s insurance is insufficient to cover serious medical bills, Uber has a $1 million uninsured/underinsured policy that may apply.
What’s Uber’s Insurance Coverage?
As a reputable ridesharing business, Uber requires its drivers to maintain auto insurance coverage. It also provides additional insurance to protect the passenger and driver in the event of a vehicle crash.
When the driver is operating his or her personal vehicle for personal business, this additional insurance doesn’t apply. However, when the driver is in “driver mode,” the driver is covered for bodily injuries in the event of an accident:
- Period 1 Contingent Liability – $50,000 per injury, $100,000 total, $25,000 property damage
- Period 2/3 Contingent Liability – after the passenger’s ride begins (i.e. the passenger is en route to his or her destination): up to $1 million/occurrence, $1 million to protect against underinsured or uninsured motorists
In other words, if the Uber driver wasn’t working for Uber when the crash occurred, he or she is covered by a personal insurance policy, not Uber’s insurance policy.
If the Uber driver turned on the Uber app and it was in driver mode but he or she didn’t engage an active passenger at the time of the crash, he or she is covered by Uber’s liability insurance up to $50,000/person for bodily injuries, $100,000/accident for bodily injuries, and $25,000/accident for property damages.
The Uber driver is covered by Uber’s insurance from the moment he or she accepts a ride request until the passenger is dropped off. The Uber driver is dually covered by liability and underinsured/uninsured driver coverage (up to $1 million/accident for bodily injuries. He or she is also covered by property damages).
If you or someone you care about has been injured in a crash involving an Uber vehicle, you might be eligible to receive financial compensation for these injuries, including payment of medical/hospital bills, lost wages or earnings, pain and suffering, etc.
How Does an Injured Uber Rider File a Claim after a Crash?
It’s possible for the injured Uber rider to file a personal injury lawsuit. As with any car accident, the injured party can do so without the assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer.
However, it’s probably unwise to file a personal injury claim yourself. The insurance company plaintiff will use all of its considerable resources to pay you, the injured victim, as little as possible.
In addition to handling an extensive amount of procedural work necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit, you must keep track of timeframes and deadlines of the court.
Ridesharing injury claims are often complex. To know that the case has the best chances of success and to focus your energies on getting better, speak with a knowledgeable Uber injury lawyer about your case.
Contact an Experienced Uber Injury Lawyer
If you or someone you love was seriously injured or killed in an accident that involved an Uber vehicle, retain our experienced trial lawyers now.
We’ll protect your legal rights and address your financial losses, pain, and suffering.
If necessary, we will fight aggressively in trial to make sure you receive every dollar you deserve.
Contact our experienced Uber injury lawyers now for an initial case evaluation.
California Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument to Define “Independent Contractor”