Accidents Involving Uber® or Lyft® Drivers in Florida: Who’s Responsible?
If you get injured in an accident caused by a Lyft or Uber driver in Florida, who is held responsible for your injuries? The answer may surprise you.
Ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft and other Transportation Network Companies (TNC) have become quite popular in Florida, given the amount of tourism in the state. Most of us have probably had some experience with one of the two ride-sharing programs, or an Uber or Lyft driver. Hopefully, your “experience” with ride-sharing doesn’t involve an accident with injuries, but if it does, you need to know the law.
Historically, transportation needs in Florida were handled by the combination of taxis, public transportation, rental cars and private limousines. Most of those past methods of transportation came along with a higher degree of legal responsibility for its customers or riders. For instance, the law imposes upon “common carriers” like buses, trains and taxi cabs a heightened duty of care that cannot be delegated to any other party. In other words, the carriers were the absolute responsible party for the safe movement of their passengers. If an accident happened causing injuries to their passengers while under their care and custody, the carrier was solely responsible unless otherwise proven.
When Uber and Lyft came onto the scene recently, most assumed that these ride-sharing programs were just another “common carrier” that would be held liable for its passengers’ injuries in the event of an accident just as other carriers have been in the past. Uber and Lyft pushed back however, maintaining that their companies were nothing more than technology providers bringing individuals together. The companies’ lawyers and lobbyists pressured state legislatures to treat them as they would any other website, forgoing any additional legal responsibilities or duties and holding the driver personally liable for passenger safety.
The showdown to determine who is responsible for the safety of Uber and Lyft riders in Florida recently took place in the Florida legislature. Uber and Lyft (referred to as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)) wanted all liability to fall on its drivers. After some serious lobbying efforts on behalf of the TNCs, Florida’s legislators passed legislation in their favor. Governor Rick Scott promptly signed the bill that governs how and when you can hold a TNC responsible for injuries and/or deaths sustained because of their drivers.
This bill, titled House Bill 221, has the following effects:
- Services like Lyft and Uber shall not be considered common carriers.
- Drivers are considered independent contractors and therefore the companies are not liable for the driver’s negligence in causing wrecks.
So, unlike taxis and other traditional means of transportation, Uber and Lyft will not be held to higher duties of care in moving their passengers and cannot be sued just because a driver causes a serious injury or death.
The bill does have some protections for Florida riders in the form of insurance requirements, but those insurance requirements are conditional. The Florida Legislature did however, recently adopt Uber and Lyft’s policies for driver insurance requirements. Those requirements are now the law in Florida, and are as follows:
- The driver is not required to have ANY insurance (other than their own personal coverage) if they are not logged into the application.
- Drivers only have to have $50,000.00 in coverage if the driver is logged in and has not accepted a ride request but instead just picks up a willing rider who does not ask the driver to accept the request.
- If the driver is logged in and officially accepts the ride on the application, then he/she is required to have $1,000,000.00 in coverage. In other words, the Uber or Lyft passenger with personal injuries as a result of an accident with someone who did not have car insurance or not enough car insurance would have 1 million dollars in insurance available to compensate for injuries and damages.
So, Uber and Lyft are shielded from most liability and only if the ride is requested and accepted through the app does the driver’s required coverage apply. Of course, this assumes that your driver has complied with the ride-sharing company’s policies and the company is checking to insure that such has been done.
If you’ve used these applications to any significant degree, you’ve probably gotten rides from drivers that you didn’t request or that didn’t officially accept your ride request. You should be vigilant about this in the future. Only accept rides that you request and that are officially accepted through the ride-sharing company’s applications.
There are some areas in House Bill 221 that an experienced personal injury lawyer in Florida may pursue that would allow including Uber or Lyft as a defendant, but the bill leans heavily towards furthering the ride-sharing business interests at the expense of our communities.
The question of PIP, or Personal Injury Protection, benefits has not been completely answered. It is assumend that the Uber or Lyft driver’s personal automobile policy would deny coverage. Most auto policies exclude coverage when its insured is using the insured vehicle for a commercial purpose like driving for Uber or Lyft unless the insurance company knows about it in advance. If the insurance company knows that the insured person or vehicle is driving for Lyft or Uber then they can offer the correct policy of insurance and charge an appropriate premium.
Zarzaur Law is closely watching this law as it progresses, in the area of Uber or Lyft car accident injury accidents. Pensacola Personal Injury Attorney, Joe Zarzaur works in all areas of personal injury including motor vehicle accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, motorcycle and boating accidents, medical malpractice, slip and fall and wrongful death. If you or a loved one was hurt or killed in an accident caused by an Uber or Lyft driver please don’t hesitate to contact our firm at zarzaurlaw.com or call 855-HireJoe. As always, if you have questions about any serious personal injury or wrongful death case in Florida please feel free to contact our firm.
Call us today 855-HIRE-JOE!
11 East Romana Street Pensacola, FL 32502