If you’ve been in an accident involving an Uber vehicle, you might be unsure about what happens next or who will be liable for your medical bills, property damage, or other costs. The legalities of Uber accidents are complex, considering the multiple parties, insurers, and contractual terms involved. However, Uber has been around long enough that some precedents have been established, and many of the same pieces of advice that apply to any car accident apply to Uber accidents.
1. Uber Drivers Are Legally Considered Contractors, Not Employees
Uber has always maintained that its drivers are independent contractors, not employees of Uber. This means that they, not Uber, are generally legally liable for accidents or for any illegal acts they commit. However, Uber still may be liable for failure to exercise care in hiring drivers or negligence in system design and safety training, and some states have ruled that Uber owes a duty to passengers.
2. The Insurance Cap Depends on What the Driver Was Doing at the Time
Uber provides $1 million insurance policies covering injuries, medical expenses, and deaths caused by Uber drivers or by uninsured and underinsured drivers who hit an Uber (including hit-and-run collisions). However, this is only in effect if the accident takes place when the driver is en route to a passenger or has a passenger in the car. If the driver is logged into the app but waiting for a fare, the coverage limits are much lower.
3. Most Car Accident Cases Never Go to Court ― But Here’s the Process If They Do
The vast majority of car accidents, Uber-related or otherwise, either do not result in a lawsuit or are settled out of court. Trials are usually only necessary when the parties don’t agree on who caused the accident, whether the plaintiff was injured, or how much the plaintiff should be compensated.
Details vary by state, but in most places a twelve-person jury, rather than a judge, decides the case. After each side’s opening statement, the plaintiff’s attorney calls witnesses such as bystanders present at the scene of the accident or doctors who treated the plaintiff’s injuries. The defendant’s attorney then calls its own witnesses, both sides give closing statements, and the jury deliberates and returns its verdict. The process usually takes several days once jury selection has started, though actually collecting the judgment may take a few weeks.
In short, you should handle Uber accidents largely the same way you handle any car accidents: get the contact information of all drivers, passengers, and witnesses; document the scene, injuries, and damage with photos; call 911 for police and paramedics; and contact a lawyer.