Who Do You Sue After an Uber or Lyft Accident in Florida?

One of the great transformations has been the proliferation of ridesharing across the United States.  According to a Pew Research report, in 2014 only 15% of Americans had ever used a ridesharing company like Uber or Lyft.  By 2018, that number had more than doubled, to 36%.

Even in New York City, the Mecca for cabs in this country, ridesharing is now king. As you can see from the chart below, in 2014, only 4.5 million rides were taken in a ridesharing vehicle in New York.  By 2017, that number had risen to 159.9 million rides. The growth is not slowing down.  In 2019 the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission indicated approximately 20 million rideshares occurred in New York City.  From 4.5 million rides to 200 million in 5 years – talk about explosive growth! If you were injured in a rideshare accident, you need to know who is liable for the crash. Boca Raton Uber + Lyft accident lawyer Brian Schwechter is here to discuss who you should sue for a rideshare accident in Florida.

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An Overview of Uber + Lyft Insurance Coverage for Drivers

At the beginning of the ridesharing phenomenon, ridesharing was unregulated.  Though customers never loved taking a taxi, at least a passenger in a cab could expect some assurances.  One of those assurances was that the cab was covered under a motor vehicle insurance policy and some screening of drivers to at least try to weed out the bad from the good.

When ridesharing was in its infancy, Uber or Lyft did not ensure its drivers were insured nor was there an established method to screening potential drivers. As ridesharing comprised such a small number of rides taken overall, no one really paid much attention.  As ridesharing grew in popularity, however, the city and state governments took notice and action. Governments enacted laws requiring all ridesharing services to screen their drivers and maintain an auto insurance policy with high policy limits, just like they do with cabs.

While the screening was easy to implement, the insurance requirements were not.  The issue was that a ridesharing vehicle is not being used like a cab.  A cab’s primary purpose is to deliver passengers for a fee. A ridesharing vehicle, on the other hand, while used commercial purposes, it is mostly used for the driver’s own daily needs. So if the government forced ridesharing drivers to maintain high policy limit insurance on their vehicle at all times, it would have deterred many rideshare drivers because the cost would have been  too high.  This, in turn, would have led to fewer drivers and less profits for ridesharing companies.

Eventually, a solution was crafted allowing insurance to fluctuate depending on the activity. Instead of maintaining a high policy limit insurance at all times, rideshare drivers can now have three different “modes” of insurance, which turn on or off, depending on what they are doing at a particular moment. There are three modes that respectively cover actively transporting a fare, in route, and neither.

  1. While Actively Transporting a Fare – This activity will turn on the $1,000,000.00 policy that the State of Florida requires when a driver is actively participating in ridesharing.
  2. While In Route to Pick Up a Fare – When the driver is in route to get the fare, Florida law does not require a high policy limit, but does at least $50,000.00 per person and $100,000.00 per accident in bodily injury coverage.
  3. Neither Transporting or In Route to Pick Up a Fare – A driver’s vehicle is then treated like any other regular, normal vehicle in Florida.  Therefore, the driver only needs to maintain an auto insurance policy complies with legal minimum in Florida.

Florida Insurance Requirements for Uber + Lyft

So what does Florida require?  Only Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage (PD) coverage. PIP, also called No-Fault Insurance, pays 80% of your “reasonable” bills up until a $10,000.00 cap is reached. This policy of the driver’s policy may or may not cover your bills, based on the circumstances.

The PD policy requirement, on the other hand, allows the other driver to recover up to $10,000.00 in property damage caused by the rideshare driver’s negligence.

That is all the State of Florida requires. Florida does not require bodily injury insurance or uninsured motorist protection.  So, if you are struck by a rideshare driver, and they are in Mode 3, there might not be any financial compensation from the driver’s insurance for your medical bills, injuries, lost wages and pain and suffering.

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If all this seems a bit confusing here is a chart, direct from Lyft’s own website, further explaining how the insurance turns on and off.

Who Is Liable for an Uber or Lyft Accident in Florida?

Now that you understand what insurance may or may not be in play in a rideshare accident case, it is important for you to know who the responsible party is in your accident because often it is not the rideshare company. When a client who was injured in a ridesharing accident comes to our office, the most often asked question is “who are you going to go sue to compensate me for my injuries?” The short answer, when it comes to ridesharing, is the driver is the responsible party. Why is Uber/Lyft not responsible? Let me explain through an example.

Let’s say a moving company, ABC, sent its employee to move some furniture in a moving truck for a client.  While employee was driving the truck, he caused a car accident.  Who is responsible for this accident? First and foremost, the employee is personally responsible for the accident because a Florida driver is always responsible for their actions on the road.

The driver, however, is not the only one responsible. The moving company may also responsible under the legal theory of vicarious liability. Under Florida law, an employer is vicariously liable for an employee’s actions if the employee was acting to further the employer’s interest through the scope of the employee’s employment at the time of the incident.  In this example, the employee was clearly furthering ABC’s interest, namely moving furniture for a customer, and that act was in the scope of the employee’s job at ABC.

With ridesharing, however, UBER and Lyft have structured their relationship with drivers in such a way as to avoid vicariously liability.  All ridesharing companies perceive themselves (and so far, the courts have agreed) as only logistics companies supplying drivers with a software platform to locate fares. Drivers are not employees but instead classified as independent contractors.  As vicarious liability only covers an employee’s actions, ridesharing companies are not held responsible for an independent contractor driver’s negligence.

Recovering Compensation for Injuries and Damages After a Rideshare Accident

That does not mean all hope is lost, far from it.  As stated before, state governments including Florida, have imposed high insurance policy limits for all ridesharing drivers. So while you will be unable to recover from Uber or Lyft directly through vicarious liability, you should be able to recover against the driver for your damages.

Our Boca Raton Uber + Lyft Accident Attorneys Will Fight For You

If you were injured due to the negligence of a rideshare driver, we want to fight for you to get you the compensation you deserve. At Schwechter Law Group, our Boca Raton personal injury lawyers fight every day for the rights of those hurt by rideshare drivers.  We are here to help and we take your injuries personally.

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