Uber or Lyft Driver At-Fault in a Car Accident? Here is What You Need to Know.

Uber or Lyft driver looking at GPS appIf you own a vehicle registered in the state of Florida, you are entitled to Personal Injury Protection (PIP)/No-Fault benefits through your own auto insurance policy, even though you were not in your own vehicle at the time of the collision. If you don’t have your own PIP coverage, you may qualify for PIP benefits through a family member’s insurance policy as long as you live in the same household. These PIP benefits will be used to pay for 80% of your initial medical care as you seek treatment, but they are limited to $10,000. Good news, they are not your only option after a car crash.

No PIP for Ridesharing Passengers

Ridesharing companies, Uber and Lyft, do not carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage for their occupants or people who are injured by their drivers, so if you do not have PIP through another insurance policy, you will be responsible for 100% of your medical bills while you seek treatment. One exception is for Transportation Network Company (TNC) drivers, who are entitled to PIP if injured while the app rideshare is turned on, but they are not engaged in a ride (en route to a fare or transporting a fare to their destination). The TNC driver’s own PIP will not apply because it is tied to his or her personal insurance policy and specifically excludes any ridesharing activities from coverage.

Uber and Lyft Insurance Coverage Varies Within the App

First, let me explain the basics. Bodily Injury (BI) coverage is a form of liability coverage. It protects people who are responsible for causing injuries to others by compensating those injured people up to the agreed upon limit of insurance. It also provides a legal defense team in the event of a lawsuit.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) coverage protects people injured by someone else who does not have any (or does not have enough) Bodily Injury coverage to compensate them for the harm caused.

Whether you are a passenger, cyclist, pedestrian, or victim in another vehicle, this does not mean you are out of luck. Uber and Lyft each carry $1,000,000 in Bodily Injury coverage and in Uninsured Motorist coverage, but this coverage is only in effect while the driver is engaged in a ride (on his or her way to pick up a fare, or delivering that fare to their destination). Florida case law has established that passengers are only entitled to BI or UM benefits from a negligent driver’s policy, and cannot get both benefits from the same policy when there is valid liability exclusion in the insurance policy documents. The logic behind that is that when a policy provides Bodily Injury coverage for a vehicle, it cannot be deemed to be “uninsured or underinsured” by the same policy to have the effect of entitlement to UM.

The rest of the time the app is running the companies have lower coverage limits. As soon as the passenger exits the vehicle and up until until the TNC driver has started the trip to pick up the next passenger, Uber and Lyft only carry bodily injury coverage up to $50,000 per person, $100,000 per occurrence, and $25,000 for property damage coverage, the minimum required for TNCs. A cautious and responsible TNC driver may purchase commercial liability insurance to supplement the coverage of Uber or Lyft, but as a passenger I would not count on it.

What if the TNC Driver is Off Duty?

If the application is off, meaning there are no fares currently in the vehicle and the driver is not searching for a new fare, the driver’s personal insurance policy is in effect. Florida law only requires drivers of personal automobiles to carry $10,000 in PIP and $10,000 in property damage coverage. That means, PIP coverage is back on the table for the driver as well as for passengers, pedestrians, cyclists involved in a collision and do not possess their own PIP, but there may not necessarily be any bodily injury coverage or uninsured motorist coverage at all.

Guy hailing for his Uber or Lyft rideExample of a Car Crash Caused By an Uber Driver

Abe is an Uber driver. He has a passenger named Ben. Abe runs a red light and crashes into a vehicle driven by Cary. Abe is solely responsible for the collision. Abe, Ben, and Cary are all injured in the collision despite having been wearing seatbelts.

  • Abe (Uber driver)
    • Abe is not entitled to PIP through the TNC insurance because he was engaged in a ride. He is not entitled to PIP benefits through his own personal insurance because he was driving for employment purposes.
    • He is ineligible to receive BI coverage from the TNC or anyone else’s insurance, because he was solely at fault in causing the collision. The bodily injury coverage exists to compensate people he has harmed, not him.
    • He is not entitled to UM through the TNC or anyone else’s insurance because he is solely responsible for causing the collision.
  • Ben (passenger)
    • Ben is not entitled to PIP through Uber’s insurance because TNCs do not offer PIP for passengers. Ben is entitled to PIP through his own auto insurance policy, or that of a resident relative if he does not have a vehicle registered in the state of Florida.
    • He is eligible to receive compensation from Uber’s BI coverage because the Uber driver, Abe, was responsible for causing his injuries. He may also be entitled to any commercial BI coverage purchased by Abe. He is not entitled to receive money from anyone else’s BI coverage because no one else was at fault.
    • If Ben is not fully compensated for his injuries by the BI coverage, he is entitled to receive UM benefits from his own auto insurance policy. He may be not entitled to Uber’s UM benefits or Abe’s commercial UM benefits because the insurance policy language generally excludes UM coverage for vehicles insured under the liability provisions of the policy.
    • Note: If there was a question of shared liability among the two drivers and there was not enough combined BI to cover Ben’s injuries, he may be entitled to a percentage of Uber’s UM benefits based on the fault distribution of the drivers.
  • Cary (other driver)
    • Cary is entitled to only her own PIP, whether it is through her own auto insurance policy, or if she does not own a vehicle, through the policy which insures the vehicle she was driving.
    • She is entitled to receive compensation from Uber’s BI coverage because the Uber driver, Abe, was responsible for causing her injuries. She may also be entitled to any excess commercial BI coverage, if purchased by Abe. She is not entitled to receive money from anyone else’s BI coverage, nor her own, because no one else was at fault.
    • If she is not fully compensated by the available bodily injury liability coverage, Cary is entitled to UM through her own auto insurance policy, or that of a family member who lives in her household. She may not be able to seek UM benefits through the Uber policy or Abe’s policy if she collects BI proceeds, because most insurance policies prohibit defining an insured vehicle as an “uninsured or underinsured” vehicle in the same policy.

As you can see, the law regarding Uber and Lyft collisions is dense and nuanced. If you were involved in a collision with a TNC driver, it may be in your best interest to contact an attorney to discuss your rights

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Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.