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Written By Eva Brindisi Pearlman | July 14, 2017
As of 12:01 am on June 29th, 2017, ride-booking apps Uber and Lyft began working for Upstate New York residents. Finally, rideshare services enjoyed by larger cities across the country are available to Utica natives after a much-anticipated wait.
For those of you saying, “What’s an Uber?!” we are here to explain. Uber and Lyft are transportation programs similar to taxi cabs, in which an app can connect those needing a ride to drivers working for the companies. These drivers use their personal vehicles and are paid fares based on the duration and length of the ride.
With the excitement of something new, many Central New Yorkers will rush to use or even work for the rideshare companies. However, there are a few items you need to know before signing up to earn some extra cash.
In New York State, your personal auto insurance policy will not cover accidents while driving for Uber or Lyft. NYS insurance policies have a list of exclusions and “driving-for-hire” is likely on that list. As such, from the time the driver turns on the ride-sharing app to the time they turn it off, there is no coverage under their personal auto policy for liability or physical damage to a car.
Since your personal insurance policy will likely contain an exclusion for “commercial driving”, you may wish to speak with your insurance broker about expanding your policy. The New York State Insurance Department is developing endorsements drivers can purchase in order to stay covered while the ride-hailing app is turned on, but those are not yet available. It is recommended that you talk with your insurance broker prior to becoming a driver for a ride sharing company, especially if you are unclear about your own personal insurance coverage’s exclusions.
If you plan on becoming an Uber driver or Lyft driver, New York State law requires the Transportation Network Company (TNC) to provide liability coverage for its drivers, as follows: if you’re driving alone to pick up a passenger the TNC must carry $75,000 per person/$150,000 per accident of Bodily Injury Liability; and $25,000 of Property Damage Liability for damaging another person’s car or other property. However, when you are transporting a passenger, the TNC must carry $1.25 million for both Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability.
If the app is turned off, you are considered to be “off the clock” and will not be receiving any requests for rides. At this time, there is no insurance coverage from the TNC since you are not driving on the Uber or Lyft platform during this period; and, as such, you are not covered by the TNC’s insurance policy for driver-partners. Any accidents that occur in a car while not driving with Uber or Lyft should be reported to the driver’s own personal automobile insurance coverage, which they purchased on their own.
It is important to know that you cannot rely on your regular, family auto policy to cover you if you drive for Uber or Lyft; and, you should always check with your personal automobile insurance carrier prior to driving for a TNC to discuss coverage issues while “on the clock” or “off the clock” with Uber or Lyft.
Once your app is on, you are able to receive ride requests. Potential riders would use their Uber app to ask for an idle driver in the area to take them to the destination. During this time, the NYS law insurance requirements for Uber or Lyft are applicable to cover damages in the event of an accident while driving “on the clock” without any passengers in the vehicle.
Once Uber riders request a ride and fill out the required fields for the trip including their current location and final destination, the app will connect drivers with them to get them to their end point. At this time, the rider will receive information about the driver including their name, vehicle type, and license plate number. When the driver is close, the rider will be notified via the app. Once an Uber driver or Lyft driver is assigned a passenger or the passenger has already been picked up, the car is now considered a commercial vehicle. This means NYS laws insurance requirements for Uber’s or Lyft’s commercial insurance policy will apply in the event of a car accident.
If you are involved in a car accident while taking an Uber or Lyft, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately. Even if your injuries are minor, it is important to get checked by a medical professional to ensure your health. Oftentimes, the shock from a crash can mask the extent of your injuries. Therefore, it is important to contact a physician to properly assess your overall well-being. Also, seeing a doctor and documenting your medical injuries is necessary if you intend to pursue a personal injury case in the future.
An Uber or Lyft crash is just the same to law enforcement so the police must be notified. Make sure to give your statement to the police so they can properly document the facts about the accident.
After police are notified, contact the ridesharing company to report the accident. Do this as soon as possible, as it may affect a future injury claim. Accident claim forms are available through the Uber and Lyft websites.
The final step if you are involved in an Uber or Lyft accident is to consult with a personal injury attorney. Contacting an experienced lawyer in this situation is even more crucial as insurance policies get complex with ridesharing services involved. They will be able to explain your rights in a clear manner and will be able to represent you to receive rightful compensation.
While it is exciting to have rideshare available in Central New York, your safety comes first. If you’ve been injured in a car accident with a Lyft or Uber driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Brindisi, Murad, Brindisi and Pearlman today to learn more about a potential Uber lawsuit and schedule a free consultation.
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