For people across South Carolina, Uber is becoming an increasingly popular option. After first appearing in Charleston, Uber now provides service in Columbia, Greenville, and other parts of the state. The company promises convenience, cleanliness, and a better overall experience than riding in a taxi. Uber also promises safety. So what happens if you are involved in an accident with an Uber driver - whether as a passenger or while in another car?
For Uber Passengers
Here's the good news: Uber carries $1m in liability, uninsured, and underinsured coverage. This means that regardless of whether the Uber driver or someone else was responsible for the wreck, there will be at least $1m to cover your injuries and other losses. For example, let's say a drunk driver with only $25,000 in liability coverage crashes into an Uber vehicle with you in the backseat, and your injuries result in medical bills over $100,000. In that scenario, Uber would provide up to another $1m in underinsured coverage, beyond the drunk driver's limits. Uber's policy limits are not based on where the collision occurred, be it downtown Charleston, Greenville, or even outside South Carolina.
Here's the bad news: Uber classifies its drivers as independent contractors. What does that mean for passengers? Essentially, that Uber will deny liability for harm caused by any intentional act on the part of one of its drivers - including assaults against passengers. Stories of assaults and other inappropriate conduct by Uber drivers are making headlines across the country. At this time, the law is undecided on whether the company will be held liable for attacks by drivers, but Uber has repeatedly taken the position that because drivers are not actual employees, it cannot be forced to pay for intentional acts of harm.
For Non-Uber Passengers Involved in the Collision
If you are in a car that gets hit by an Uber vehicle, the major question will be whether the Uber driver was carrying a passenger or between fares. If the other driver had a paying passenger in the vehicle, then the $1m policy limits noted above will apply. On the other hand, if the driver was off-duty or between pick-ups, then you may be limited to the driver's personal coverage limits, along with your own coverage, just like in a regular car accident. Even in this latter scenario, it is likely that there will be multiple insurance companies involved, probably pointing the finger at each other.
What You Can Do
You are already doing the right thing by getting answers to your questions. In addition to insurance issues, there may be questions concerning medical bills, whether you should attend the traffic court hearing, or how you should you be compensated for damages such as physical pain and the increased risk of later health problems caused by the collision.
When it comes to medical questions, I ask doctors. When it comes to legal questions, I encourage you to get free answers from a lawyer. You can request a free copy of my book on South Carolina car accident law or call my Columbia office today at 803-790-2800. Crashes involving Uber vehicles tend to have more nuances and potential pitfalls than ordinary accidents. You have already had harm done to you by an unsafe driver, do not allow more harm to occur by being uncertain of your legal rights. We are here to help.