In the modern world, taxis have become something of a relic. Instead, millions of Americans rely on ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to get to where they want to go. With just a few clicks, you can order a ride from your phone, and then pay your driver through the app.
Uber has become incredibly popular in the United States, with an average of 14 million trips completed each day. The company operates statewide in West Virginia, which has been particularly helpful in more rural areas of WV that lack taxi services.
While getting an Uber is certainly convenient, it comes with certain risks. There are few restrictions on who can drive for Uber: you just need a driver’s license, meet the minimum age to drive in your city, have an eligible 4 door vehicle, and have had your license for at least one year.
Because these drivers are independent contractors, not employees, and are using their own vehicles, the question of who is financially responsible for a WV Uber accident can be complex. There are specific rules that govern which insurance policy applies in an Uber crash. Generally, if the driver was “on the clock,” you will be able to recover through Uber’s commercial auto insurance policy.
If you have been hurt in a collision with an Uber, a West Virginia Uber accident attorney will advocate for your right to full compensation for your losses, including medical treatment for serious injuries. With more than 50 years of experience representing clients in personal injury cases, the law firm of Johnstone & Gabhart has the knowledge and skill to get you the best possible outcome for your claim.
Determining Fault in a WV Uber Accident Case
Under West Virginia law, personal injury lawsuits are based on a theory of negligence. A person acts with negligence when they fail to use the care that a reasonable person would use in a similar situation. All drivers in West Virginia have a duty to use reasonable care when they are operating a motor vehicle.
There are four elements in a negligence claim. To prove that another driver was acting negligently, and therefore should be held responsible for a car accident, a personal injury victim must show:
- Duty: the driver had a duty of care to avoid driving in a negligent manner.
- Breach: the driver breached (violated) that duty.
- Causation: the driver’s violation caused injuries to someone else (the victim or plaintiff).
- Damages: the victim suffered losses.
In an Uber accident, these principles are used just as they would be in any personal injury lawsuit to determine who was at fault. For example, if an Uber driver was texting and driving and rear-ended another vehicle, they will likely be responsible for the accident and any injuries suffered in the crash. This is because the driver (1) had a duty to use reasonable care when driving; (2) breached that duty by texting and driving; and (3) caused an accident through their negligence driving, which led to injuries.
If an Uber driver causes an accident, then they will be held financially liable for any injuries suffered by passengers, pedestrians, or other drivers. A West Virginia car accident attorney may seek to recover damages from the Uber driver’s personal automobile insurance policy or Uber’s commercial liability policy. If the crash was caused by another driver, then that driver’s insurance policy will apply.
Damages in an Uber Car Crash
Like any car crash, Uber accidents can result in a range of injuries, from broken bones to whiplash to traumatic brain injuries — or even death. In these situations, you may require extensive medical treatment for serious injuries. A personal injury lawsuit can help you get the compensation that you need to move forward with your life.
In any personal injury case, accident victims may be able to recover for the losses that they have suffered. There are three types of damages that may be available in a car accident claim: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages are meant to address the tangible harm that a person has suffered. It may include items such as medical bills, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, and property damage. Typically, economic damages are relatively easy to prove through invoices, pay stubs, and other documents.
In contrast, non-economic damages are more difficult to prove, as they involve intangible losses. Examples of non-economic damages include things like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and disfigurement. If your loved one was injured in a car accident, you may also be able to recover loss of consortium damages in a personal injury or wrongful death claim, which are intended to compensate for the companionship that you have lost as a result of your family member’s injuries.
Finally, punitive damages are possible in personal injury cases — but rare. These damages are intended to punish a wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar conduct. Because most car accident cases involve negligence, rather than intentional or reckless conduct, punitive damages are unusual in this type of case. However, there may be some situations, such as drunk driving accidents, where punitive damages may be appropriate.
If you are hurt in a car accident with an Uber or any other vehicle, it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the collision. Adjusters work for the insurance company, not you. Their goal is to maximize profits for their employer, not to make sure that you get the compensation that you deserve.
A West Virginia car accident lawyer will advocate for your rights throughout the process, starting with a thorough investigation of the car wreck. Your attorney will make sure that your claim is filed within the statute of limitations, which is the time period that you have to file a lawsuit under West Virginia law. If your lawsuit is not filed within this time, then it may be barred. Whether the case is resolved through a settlement or at trial, your attorney will stand up for your best interests.
Untangling Insurance Issues in Uber Accident Cases
Like all rideshare companies, Uber carries commercial liability insurance for its drivers. Access to this insurance coverage — which is typically larger than most personal car insurance policies — is based on what the driver was doing at the time of the motor vehicle accident. The highest level of insurance coverage is available when the Uber driver was working at the time of the crash.
If a driver is not working or the app is off, then their own insurance policy will cover damages from a crash. Depending on the size of their policy, this may mean that victims of the accident won’t recover fully for the accident. In West Virginia, drivers are only required to carry $25,000 in coverage for liability per person, $50,000 for liability per accident, and $25,000 in property damage per accident.
If the driver has the app on and is waiting for a passenger when an accident occurs, then Uber’s insurance policy will apply. For this scenario, however, the policy limits are fairly low: up to $50,000 in bodily injury per person, up to $100,000 in bodily injury per accident, and up to $25,000 in proper damage per accident. Victims of Uber accidents who suffer damages in excess of these amounts may be able to seek compensation from the driver’s personal insurance policy.
Finally, if the driver is on their way to pick up passengers or currently has a passenger in their vehicle, then anyone injured in an Uber crash will be able to access Uber’s $1,000,000 commercial insurance policy. Passengers in the Uber vehicle, pedestrians or bicyclists, and drivers and passengers of other vehicles may seek financial compensation through this policy.
You may also be able to seek compensation through your own insurer, under an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy (UM/UIM coverage). Under this type of policy — which is mandatory in West Virginia — your own insurance company will be responsible for your losses in a car accident to the extent that the at-fault driver is uninsured or lacks sufficient insurance to cover your losses.
In some cases, you may be able to file a lawsuit directly against Uber for the company’s role in the accident. While most Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees, Uber may still be held responsible for negligence in hiring, training, or supervising these drivers. These issues can be complicated, so it is best to consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as you are able to do so after a crash.
Figuring out what insurance policy will apply to your WV Uber accident claim can be confusing. A skilled West Virginia personal injury lawyer can investigate the case and fight for your right to compensation.
Hurt in an Uber Crash? We Can Help.
Even when an Uber driver is clearly at fault for a collision, Uber accidents are often more complex than other types of wrecks given the different insurance policies involved and the nature of the relationship between Uber and its drivers. It may be more difficult to figure out who was at fault, or what insurance policy should apply. An experienced West Virginia Uber accident attorney can work with you to get you the highest possible recovery.
At Johnstone & Gabhart, we are dedicated to helping people in Charleston and throughout West Virginia with their personal injury claims, from truck accidents to bus crashes to Uber accidents. With substantial experience and knowledge of the law, we will aggressively advocate for your right to compensation. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 304-343-7100 or email us at any time.