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Maureen May
Maureen May
Attorney • (410) 321-6000

Uber and Accidents: Who’s Responsible?

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Transportation network companies, or TNCs like Uber started in San Francisco and have spread to 57 countries around the world. They’re popularity can be attributed to the fact that they’re convenient and cheap – users are just a smartphone app away from a ride straight to their desired location, at a price lower than they would pay for a taxi.

But the popularity of such rideshare services brings up legal questions, such as: If you’re hurt in a crash while riding in an Uber, who’s responsible?

Uber’s Insurance

As required by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Uber maintains three-part insurance coverage on their drivers and passengers:

  • When drivers are not available to pick up passengers, they’re covered by their own personal auto insurance.
  • When drivers are available but have not yet picked up a passenger, they’re covered by their own personal insurance PLUS additional contingent liability coverage of up to $50,000 per person/$100,000 per incident and up to $25,000 in property damage, if the driver’s personal insurance is insufficient to cover the damages.
  • Uber drivers who are transporting passengers are covered by a $1 million liability policy and another $1 million in uninsured/underinsured coverage.

But since Uber classifies its drivers as independent contractors and not employees, the company has been known to deny liability for the actions of its drivers, as was the case with a six-year-old San Francisco girl who was hit and killed on New Year’s Eve 2013 by an Uber driver. In response to this incident, the CPUC has re-examined its insurance requirements for TNCs operating in California:

  • TNCs are now required to provide insurance from the moment a driver turns on their app.
  • Drivers are responsible for maintaining primary liability insurance coverage on their vehicles.
  • TNCs are required to provide a minimum of $1 million in coverage from the time the passenger is picked up until the transaction is complete or the passenger has exited the vehicle, whichever happens later.
  • Drivers are required to carry proof of insurance.

Although Uber denied responsibility for the crash in which the little girl was killed, saying the driver was between fares, the company settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the girl’s parents for an undisclosed amount in July 2015.