Florida Law: What Happens When the Driver of a Car Sharing Service Causes an Accident
Author: Attorney Daniel Villalobos
Around 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve in 2013, a 6-year-old San Francisco child was hit and killed by an Uber driver. The child was in a pedestrian crosswalk with her mother and brother, neither of whom were injured. At the time of the accident, the Uber driver had his Uber app on his smartphone activated, indicating he was ready for work. He had just dropped off a passenger and was waiting to receive another transportation request.
The child’s family sued the driver and Uber for wrongful death. Uber responded that it was not responsible for the tragic death since the driver was an independent contractor and not an Uber employee. Even though the driver had his app on indicating he was ready to pick up a fare, he was not on his way to pick up a passenger and had not been asked to pick one up, so he was not, at the time, doing any work for Uber. The Transportation Network Company (TNC) settled with the family, but maintained its drivers are not employees, so the TNC should not be liable for any injuries.
The incident inspired California and *29 other states to pass legislation requiring Uber and other TNCs to provide insurance coverage when an Uber driver is responsible for causing an accident where people are injured and property is damaged at a time when the driver’s app is open and he or she is waiting for a call. Florida was not one of the them.
The Driver Has the App on Waiting for a Call
As of *May 2016, the Florida legislature was still struggling with how to fashion a law that would protect Uber as well as its drivers. Whether Uber or any TNC can be held liable for damages in an accident in Florida still depends on where the driver is in the driving cycle.
The Uber driver’s personal insurance will likely not cover any damages caused by drivers who are using their vehicles for commercial purposes. Whether that is the use of the car depends on the interpretation of “working for Uber.” If the TNC does not have insurance to cover your damages in this type of instance, and Uber driver’s insurance will not cover you since he or she was using the vehicle for commercial purposes, you may be, as they say, up a creek without a paddle. You will need to see a personal injury attorney to determine what your options are.
A Driver Has Accepted a Match and is on The Way to Pick up a Passenger
The Florida Legislature is pondering this issue. A bill was introduced that would provide coverage for those injured during this period, but as of March 2016, it had not yet passed and seemed destined to die without a final vote.
Passengers are in the Car and on the Way to Their Destination
Whether the driver hits a tree or has any other accident when you are in the car on the way to your destination, Uber says you are covered by their policy.
If you were in an accident caused by an Uber or other TNC driver, contact our experienced attorneys for a free consultation and learn what your options are.