Ridesharing is becoming increasingly popular, especially in larger cities like Columbia and Charleston. Instead of taking taxi cabs, more and more people summon a ride through companies like Uber and Lyft using an app on their smart phone. This is a very convenient way to travel, but there are some risks involved as well.
For one thing, Uber and Lyft drivers work on their own with very little interaction with these companies, and for this reason, they are often not be as well-vetted as a typical employee or contractor. Another common issue is liability insurance in the event of an accident with injuries. This area is very confusing, because there are several scenarios under which an accident might occur, and the available insurance coverage will be different with each one.
Liability for South Carolina Rideshare Accidents
In order for someone to drive for Uber, Lyft, or another ridesharing company, they are required to have their own auto insurance. The problem is that most drivers are not covered through their private insurance policies when they are driving for pay. And in fact, in some cases, an insurer will cancel a driver’s personal coverage if they learn that they are working for a rideshare company.
Uber and Lyft do provide insurance for their drivers, but their level of coverage is different depending on what the driver is doing at the time of the accident. There are three general statuses that a rideshare driver could be in at the time of an accident:
- Driving App Off: If a rideshare driver does not have their driving app on, then the company presumes that they are not working and extends no coverage. In this type of case, an injured party would go to the driver’s personal auto insurance policy for liability coverage. Hopefully, the insurer would not deny coverage claiming that they were not aware that the driver was working for a rideshare company, but this is always a remote possibility.
- Driving App on Without a Passenger: If the driver has their app on, they are considered in “driving mode”. But when they are in driving mode without a passenger in the vehicle, Uber and Lyft both provide only $50,000 in liability coverage for each injured person, $100,000 in total liability coverage per accident, and $25,000 in property damage coverage. This happens to be the same as the South Carolina state minimum coverages.
- Driving App on With a Passenger: When a rideshare driver is in driving mode and has a passenger in the car, Uber and Lyft extend their liability coverage up to $1 million total for the accident.
As you can see, there is a very significant difference in the type of coverage an Uber or Lyft driver will have depending on what they are doing at the time of the crash. For example, if a rideshare driver hits a pedestrian right before they drop off their passenger, then there would be a total of $1 million in liability coverage available for the pedestrian’s injuries. But if that same pedestrian were hit right after the driver dropped off the passenger, then the liability limit would only be $100,000 total for the accident.
Another wrinkle to be aware of with ridesharing accidents is that, while the rideshare companies provide liability coverage for passengers, other vehicle drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and others who are hurt in accidents, this same coverage generally does not extend to injuries suffered or property damage sustained by the rideshare driver. This situation would apply, for example, if a rideshare driver was injured by another driver who did not have auto insurance or did not have an adequate level of coverage. Uber or Lyft drivers would need to go through their own private auto insurer for this coverage.
Injured in a Ridesharing Accident in South Carolina? Contact an Experienced Auto Accident Attorney
There are an increasing number of accidents involving Uber or Lyft drivers, and these cases are more complicated because of the varying types of insurance coverages that might apply. If you or a loved one suffered injury in a ridesharing accident, it is important to work with an experienced vehicle accident lawyer who thoroughly understands this area of law and what legal options are available to you.
If your accident occurred in South Carolina, Peake and Fowler is here to help. For a free consultation and case assessment with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 803-788-4370 or send us a message online. We look forward to serving you!