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Who Pays for Accident Damages Caused by a Drunk Uber Driver?

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and partner Uber announced that the ride-hailing app has helped cut down on drunk driving by making getting a taxi easier. Their promising statistics say that 78 percent of urban dwellers said they’re less likely to drink and drive since Uber came to town, which is great news. But what happens when the Uber driver is drunk, which has been reported in numerous cases. And who is responsible if that drunk driver crashes the car?

With groundbreaking apps that re-examine old paradigms and quickly become billion dollar multinational companies, legislators and insurance companies struggle to keep up with protecting and compensating users. In the case of Uber, there is no short answer. Many factors come into play, including the state the accident occurs in, at what point in the ride the driver crashes, the driver’s personal insurance policy, the victim’s policy or lack thereof, and more.

Uber Insurance Only Covers Part of a Ride

Uber calls its drivers “driver partners,” which from a critical insurance standpoint is a tricky way of sounding chummy while passing the buck. Drivers are mandated to have their own insurance, which is responsible when they are not actively engaged in using the app to pick up paying rides. For insurance purposes, Uber breaks down the ride-seeking process thus:

  • The app is off and the driver is covered by his or her own liability insurance
  • The app is on but a ride request has not come in yet
  • The app is on and the driver is en route to pick up the passenger
  • The app is on and the ride is in session

Uber’s online policy outlines that when a driver goes online with the app until “you accept a trip,” Uber provides third-party liability coverage of $50K/$100K/$25K. They also state that the driver is given personal injury protection for medical expenses up to $10,000 and $5,000 for death benefits “per incident.” A caveat it gives is that the above coverage is “contingent” on the driver’s personal policy and “will apply in the event that your personal insurance cannot be applied.” So, who covers any injuries resulting from a crash takes some investigating.

Personal Injury Protection

Adding to the confusion are no-fault states like our own Florida. (If you need a West Palm Beach car accident lawyer to help you sort out an accident caused by a drunk rideshare driver, we can help.) That means that the personal injury protection (PIP) of the victim’s policy will pay some of the victim’s expenses up to the policy’s limit.

After that limit is exceeded, if damages are bad enough, the victim can seek damages from the other party. However, PIP doesn’t apply with for-hire drivers in Florida, so there is a potential debate as to which part of the ride process the Uber driver was in. Also, if a victim is a rider, they might not have car insurance at all, and compensation must then be sought elsewhere. If the driver has not told his or her insurance company that the vehicle is being used for commercial ridesharing, there is a chance coverage can be withheld in the event of a crash.

Car Insurance and Drunk Driving

As far as whether insurance policies will cover the drunk driver, some pay for their driver’s bad behavior as long as it was not fraudulent or intentional. But sometimes drunk driving can be presented as an intentionally harmful act, and sometimes there are specific clauses about drunk driving included in a policy.

Drinking and Driving Help

Many of us have friends and family members who drink and drive. If you are concerned with their drinking habits, you can look for treatment options here. You can also encourage them to keep a breathalyzer in their car to help them determine when they’ve had enough—and maybe certain Uber drivers should have one too.

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