With more than a million Uber drivers on American roads every day, there are accidents involving Uber drivers pretty much every hour of every day. As such, it’s a good idea to have a basic awareness of the legal and insurance issues that will affect you if you’re ever injured in an accident with an Uber driver — either as a passenger or a pedestrian, bystander or other driver. A good understanding of how Uber’s insurance works will help you be more efficient and effective in handling the accident and getting fairly compensated for it.
But first …
What to do right after an Uber accident
Call 911 if there's an injury
If you’ve been involved in an accident with an Uber driver, whether as a pedestrian, as the other driver or as a passenger, you should do what you would do in any other accident situation. First, make sure you’re physically OK. If not, call 911 immediately and request medical attention. If you’re OK physically, check with everyone else involved and make sure they’re OK. If they’re not, then call 911 for them.
Even if nobody was injured, you'll probably still want to call the police. More on that in the next sections.
With those basics out of the way, you can then worry about taking care of the accident situation. You’ll of course want to get the names and contact info, as well as the insurance details for everyone involved. You should take pictures and video of the scene. Get photos of all the vehicles involved and take as many as you can, from every possible angle. Also get close-up shots as well as shots taken from a distance large enough to show the whole scene.
You will also need to get your driver’s insurance information. If he tells you Uber covers it so you don’t need his information, then you’ll have to either work it out with him or get the police to force him to provide the information when they arrive. Chances are you may need to contact his insurance company before Uber’s insurance will kick in. You may, if the driver has all the proper insurance, end up going through his insurance company for the entire process and never have any contact with Uber’s insurance.
Get a police report
Many states have laws that require you to alert the police of any car accident that causes bodily injury or any accident that causes more than minor property damage. But if an accident involves an Uber driver, you’ll definitely want to call the police and have them write up a report. You will need this to establish and substantiate any claim you may have.
In addition to this, if the accident occurred while you were an Uber passenger, you will definitely want to report it to Uber through the Uber app if there was anything more than minor damage involved, and certainly if you or anyone else was injured. They have a place on the app where at the end of your trip you can report accidents.
Understanding the web of legal relationships
As an Uber rider, if you are involved in an accident that causes you any kind of injury, you will be covered, but by whom will depend on the specifics of your case.
Uber drivers are independent contractors who are primarily covered by their own personal auto insurance policy. Uber mandates that all its drivers have and maintain this coverage, and they will deactivate any driver who does not have this coverage. Uber’s insurance is called “contingent liability” insurance because its use is contingent upon a claim being filed with the driver’s primary insurance first and only if that insurance denies the claim will Uber’s insurance kick in.
But here’s where it gets a little complicated. An Uber driver’s personal insurance policy only covers accidents he is involved in while driving for Uber if he has what is called a “rideshare rider,” that is, an addendum to his regular insurance policy that adds coverage for those times when he is driving for Uber. If he has this rider, and he was at fault for the accident, then his personal insurance company should cover any damages you are due.
However, a survey we did recently showed that for a variety of reasons, more than half of all Uber drivers do not have the necessary rideshare rider on their policy. The two main reasons for this were because either they were not aware that they needed it or they were aware but they did not feel like they could afford it based on how much it would increase their insurance premiums in light of the low driver pay in the rideshare industry.
So, what happens if your driver doesn’t have the proper insurance coverage? It is then and only then, that Uber’s liability policy kicks in. Uber’s policy is not the primary policy to cover you, since your relationship to the driver is not primarily a relationship between you and Uber. It is, technically speaking, a relationship primarily between you and the driver. That means if you’re involved in an accident, your first line of recourse will be to the driver and his insurance company. Uber’s insurance will only kick in if and when, for any reason, the driver’s insurance carrier denies the claim.
What does Uber’s insurance cover exactly?
If you do end up resorting to Uber’s insurance, which happens in a majority of cases, they provide different coverages based on the different periods of an Uber driver’s work.
Period 1: This period begins the moment a driver logs into the Uber driver app and marks themselves as available for trips. This is the time during which drivers are waiting to be matched with a rider.
Period 2: This period begins the moment a driver has been matched with a rider and while they are on their way to pick them up.
Period 3: This period starts once the rider is in the car and ends when the rider exits the car and the driver marks the trip as ended.
If you are involved in an accident with an Uber driver during Period 1, you cannot, by the definition of Period 1, be a passenger at that moment. That means you will either be a pedestrian who was hit by the driver, or you will have been involved in a car accident with him.
If you are involved in an accident with an Uber driver during Period 1, Uber’s liability policy provides coverage for any accident that is the fault of the Uber driver, and only after his insurance carrier denies the claim, for up to $50,000 per person who is injured in an accident, $100,000 total injury liability per accident, and $25,000 property damage liability.
Period 2 is similar to Period 1 in that if you are involved in an accident with an Uber driver during that period, you cannot be a passenger of the driver — you will instead be either a pedestrian or a fellow motorist who has in some way been involved in an accident with the Uber driver.
However, Uber’s coverage during Period 2 is higher than Period 1 because their responsibility is higher. During Period 1, the driver is simply sitting in his car waiting for a call. He has not so far acted on a request or direction from Uber. All he has done is signed into the driver app and informed Uber he is ready to start accepting calls — but he has not yet accepted any.
Period 2, on the other hand, is the time just after the driver has accepted a job for Uber and is now officially acting on behalf of Uber as he travels to the passenger’s location to pick them up. Since the driver is now actually responding to Uber’s directions, Uber’s liability coverage increases to a total $1 million — up from the total payout available under Period 1 of just $100,000.
If you’re involved in an accident with an Uber driver under Period 3 — it means you are a passenger at the time of the accident. In other words, you are not a pedestrian or another driver. This means the accident is necessarily between your Uber driver and someone else — not yourself — as could be the case in Periods 1 and 2. Because of that, Uber adds uninsured motorist coverage to this period because that other party may be at fault and they may not have any auto insurance at all. In that case, Uber will cover you as well with its additional uninsured motorist coverage. The total liability Uber is willing to take on in Period 3 is the same as in Period 2, which is $1 million.
Uber carries the most insurance for Period 3 because that’s when an Uber passenger is most at risk because he or she is completely in the hands of the Uber driver during this period.