On Sunday, December 13, 2015, in the early hours of the morning, a passenger in an Uber vehicle died as a result of a collision between an Uber vehicle and a Seminole County Sheriff cruiser. It is a tradegy. A family lost a loved one and many began scratching their heads about how the collision occurred. While losing a loved one in an automobile accident is mind-boggling in itself, many do turn to a personal injury attorney to find out about their recourse. Someone should pay, who is going to cover the medical and funeral expenses, what about taking care of their family members and children. In most automobile accidents the pathway to answer these questions is simple – who was driving the vehicle and what is their insurance policy like? However, in this case, with an Uber driver what happens? Are they like taxis and limo companies or a personal vehicle?
Ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft are here to stay, whether the local and state governments regulate them or not. It is becoming increasingly obvious that their system is more effective and cost-efficient for everyday consumers. But the question remains, how protected is the consumer if they are (1) hit by one of these ride share vehicles or (2) injured while in a ride share vehicle?
In Florida, all automobile insurance policies require the driver to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to protect them if they are injured (see Florida Statute §627.736). You have probably heard about this coverage on the endless television and radio commercials. One of the most important parts of the coverage is that you must seek medical treatment within 14 days of the accident to have the potential to have up to $10,000.00 in your medical bills paid for by your automobile insurance. You must also see a medical doctor, not a chiropractor (i.e. go to the emergency room/urgent care or your primary care physician). The idea behind PIP was to make sure injured persons could seek medical treatment after an automobile accident and not have to worry about how the initial bills would be paid for or the waiting game with filing claims/lawsuits.
So in the two scenarios above, here’s what you need to know about PIP coverage. If you are hit by a ride-share vehicle, your PIP insurance should still protect you for the first $10,000 if you follow all of the requirements mentioned in the link above. If you are in a ride-share vehicle and injured in an auto-accident – you likely will not have the benefit of PIP coverage. Here is why. In Florida, taxis and limos are not required to carry PIP coverage and thus ride-share vehicles usually do not require it either. There are obviously some exceptions to the rule and Lyft vehicles have policies that seem to include PIP for passengers who do not own their own vehicles or live with someone else who has a vehicle.
The next situation to be concerned with is the bodily injury coverage. It is important to remember that Florida does not require drivers to carry bodily injury coverage (if you think it should be mandatory, call your legislatures). This means that some drivers driving on the Florida roadways could get away free without paying you a penny if they cause an auto accident. It is another reason why we stress our clients to get Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage on their policies to protect them from the millions of drivers without bodily injury coverage.
Thankfully for Florida drivers and ride-share passengers, Uber and Lyft carries bodily injury coverage on their vehicles that will protect both drivers and passengers. Uber vehicles carry a sliding scale of coverage depending on what the driver is doing (i.e. picking up a fare, with passenger, or just driving around). The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation recently announced that Uber’s policy carries $1,000,000 in liability limits – more than required by everyday drivers, but more in line with corporate vehicle policies. But you should check with the insurance carrier to determine the actual coverage limits available to you in an accident.
A quick closing note about uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, if you are a passenger in an Uber/Lyft vehicle that is hit by another vehicle and that driver is not carrying bodily injury coverage – you are still protected. Most reports indicate that these companies carry $1,000,000 in UM coverage to protect the passenger in the event they are hit by an uninsured driver. It is another benefit that these companies are providing to their passengers. The Florida legislature is set to discuss in further detail regulations on ride-share companies to protect consumers and passengers in Florida, so please stay tuned to see what happens.
It is important to make sure that if you are involved in an automobile accident with a ride-share vehicle – either being a passenger or a driver – that you seek medical treatment immediately after calling 9-1-1. Afterwards, call an attorney to discuss your options because there are various moving parts with ride-share vehicles policies. You may be entitled to PIP, Bodily Injury, or Uninsured Motorist Coverage – a personal injury attorney can help you figure out what coverage applies.
Obtaining his law degree from the Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law—also known as the Barry Law School—Mr. Primrose received high honors in the Litigation Honors Certificate program before graduating in 2013. That same year, he joinedWooten Kimbrough, P.A. where he focused on litigating personal injury matters.
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