My client, like many of you, utilizes ride shares to get to and from many places. It is fast, inexpensive, and easy. However, there are also insurance issues that may arise if you are injured while a passenger in an Uber, Lyft, or other ride share.
My client (we’ll call him "C.D."), a personal trainer, was a back seat passenger in an Uber when a car pulled out of an alley right in front of them. Despite yelling at his driver in advance of the presence of the offending car pulling out, the Uber driver failed to stop in time, slamming into the side of the other vehicle. According to C.D., the driver was looking at the GPS at the time. Driving not fully engaged in driving is distracted driving. The collision catapulted C.D. forward and back, causing his back to hurt immediately.
As someone who not only trains people for a living, but one who has dealt with a chronic bad back for years, he feared the worst, that he had injured his back enough to take him out of his zone of being able to live with it.
The driver of the Uber had a fare (C.D.) at the time, so the Uber policy would cover this. The driver of the car that pulled in front of them had State Farm insurance. The only question now was which one would take the blame.
Anecdotally, my experience is that ride share insurers tend to be rather unforgiving in handling claims, often denying nearly anything. Think about how often they handle claims (inexperienced drivers using their own vehicles as a second job sounds like a recipe for disaster), and you can understand their aggressive stance to some extent.
In this case, State Farm fell on the sword and took 100% blame for the entire crash. Relying upon this, James River Insurance, the carrier for Uber, denied the claim. Our focus would now be entirely on the State Farm insured.
Readers of this space will recall an article about ride shares and some of the insurance gaps. There, we noted that ride share drivers use their own personal cars for commercial purposes, which voids nearly every personal insurance policy (you cannot use your personal car for commercial use unless you purchase commercial insurance and fully inform your insurer).
Fortunately, ride shares have adequate insurance. The rub here is that it only covers drivers who are actively logged into the Uber or Lyft app, and who either have a passenger in their vehicle or are on their way to pick up a fare. It does not cover a driver looking for fares to pop up on the app.
In C.D.’s situation, the driver would have been covered under the Uber policy because he had the fare in his vehicle. Since he was arguably not at fault and because the other driver’s carrier took responsibility, this was not a factor.
Despite his best efforts at chiropractic treatment, rest, diligent core workouts, C.D. ultimately had to have the back surgery he’d avoided for so many years. While he recovered, the two year anniversary of his crash approached, so it was time to file suit.
I filed suit in this case against both drivers. Often the filing of a suit makes insurers change their opinions on responsibility and gets things moving toward settlement. That is what happened here.
I developed a friendly rapport with the State Farm adjuster, talking for dozens of minutes at a time about anything but this case until finally discuss the details in a friendly and professional manner. Ultimately, she agreed with my argument that the back surgery would not have been needed but for the negligence of her insured. We resolved the case well in to the six figure range, paid off C.D.’s outstanding medical bills, and left him with a significant tax-free chunk of money to compensate him for the pain and suffering, lost time from work, and change in his body. He is recovered and doing well. While still training people part-time, he has found a less strenuous line of work with benefits and advancement opportunities.
As soon as you can, contact a lawyer. More people make inadvertent errors that submarine their cases by not retaining lawyers early on than there are atoms in the atmosphere. It is always a good move to call a lawyer before doing anything.
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a personal injury lawyer.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He has been named a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury and workers' compensation claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.