Following a motor vehicle accident, you may encounter expected expenses like medical bills and repair costs for your vehicle. One often overlooked cost is the need for alternate transportation while you wait for those repairs to be completed, especially if you rely on your vehicle daily to get to work or to medical appointments. Rental car fees can add up quickly, into the thousands of dollars, depending on the length of time that your own vehicle will be out of commission. This can lead to financial strain for many drivers.
The current nationwide average wait time for car and body repair work is currently about two weeks in the shop, with the average daily cost of a rental car at approximately $66 per day, depending on the size and type of vehicle you require. To receive compensation for rental car reimbursement from an at-fault driver, you would normally start by filing a claim with the driver’s car insurance carrier. When another driver is driving their personal vehicle for commercial purposes, however, that process can become much more complicated.
Accidents involving an at-fault driver who is driving for financial gain can make it more difficult to get your rental car covered, as well as to recoup other costs in the event of an accident. Ridesharing services employ the use of personal vehicles that transport multiple passengers who pay for the service to their desired destinations. The issue becomes which party’s insurance company is responsible for covering damages related to an accident when it occurs during one of those rides.
Most liability insurance policies will cover rental car expenses for the driver who was hit, but you will have to contact the responsible policy provider directly to find out what they cover and for how long. In cases where liability is not clear due to ridesharing, the only way to recover all of your costs may be to file an insurance claim against the rideshare company or to pursue a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver.
If you’ve suffered losses due to an accident involving a rideshare service vehicle, contact the personal injury team at Berry Law for help. They can guide you through the process of pursuing compensation for a rental car while you wait for your personal vehicle to be repaired, as well as for property damage and bodily injury.
How Do Rideshare Services Like Uber and Lyft Work?
Transportation has changed since rideshare services like Uber and Lyft first appeared on the scene. Appealing to people looking for flexibility and a way to earn a little extra cash, rideshare companies allow drivers to use their own vehicles and set their own hours, with the ability to accept jobs when they want to do so.
These companies made finding customers easy by creating apps that connected drivers with passengers looking for a ride. Customers simply download the Uber or Lyft app to their Smartphones, and arrange for a driver through the app. Many people in both large urban centers and suburban communities are now using rideshare services in place of public transportation, taking a cab, or owning a personal vehicle. In some cases, rideshare services have made transportation more convenient and affordable than other alternatives.
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Who Holds Liability in an Accident where the Rideshare Driver is at Fault?
Unfortunately, as the number of rideshare drivers across the United States grew, so did the number of accident claims involving a rideshare vehicle. Most motor vehicle accidents occur due to another person’s negligence or inattention. The rise of technology in particular has contributed to more distracted driving behaviors than ever before. Talking, texting, browsing the Internet, and the use of GPS navigation are common contributors to accidents, and rideshare drivers may be at increased risk as they attempt to conduct business from their vehicles.
Distractions can lead to running traffic signals and stop signs, speeding, tailgating, a failure to maintain the lane or signal intentions, sudden stops, and other dangerous driving practices. Being involved in an accident with a rideshare driver often adds a level of complexity to car accident insurance claims in regard to whose insurance company is responsible for covering damages and out-of-pocket expenses.
Although it will depend on the type of insurance policy involved and whether or not it covers replacement vehicle costs, if you were not the at-fault driver in an accident, you may be able to recover the cost of your rental car by taking one of the following actions:
- Filing an insurance claim and/or legal action against the rideshare driver
- Pursuing a claim and/or legal action against the rideshare company
- Filing a claim through your own insurance policy
Insurance Claims Through a Rideshare Driver
Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft don’t own, operate, or control the vehicles that work for them, and they don’t hire the drivers directly. Instead, they simply own the apps that are used to connect drivers to passengers. As such, these companies have claimed that because their drivers are independent contractors and not employees, the companies are not liable for damages caused by an accident during a rideshare trip. This shielded rideshare companies from liability in the beginning because they argued that damages should be handled through a driver’s personal automobile insurance policy.
The idea was that an injured party could file a third-party claim with the car insurance carrier of the driver who was at -fault. Issues arose, however, because unless an at-fault driver had purchased a commercial policy or ride-sharing endorsement, his or her personal car insurance policy often refused to cover the accident. This is because many policies specify that a driver will use their vehicle only for personal use, and ridesharing is not covered under personal use.
As a result, an insurance carrier may deny a car accident claim, along with rental car reimbursement, if it’s made under a personal insurance policy and the accident occurred while the driver was transporting a rideshare passenger. Some states began requiring rideshare companies to carry a policy on each of their drivers covering $50,000 minimum for bodily injury and $100,000 for each accident up to $1 million in personal injury coverage before they can operate as a rideshare driver in that state. Nebraska doesn’t currently have such a policy.
Some major insurance carriers like State Farm, Geico, and Progressive offer current or prospective rideshare drivers insurance as an add-on to their personal car insurance policies, or they will combine auto and rideshare coverage into a single policy. This is a good option if drivers are concerned about a lack of coverage during rideshare trips.
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Insurance Claims Through a Rideshare Company Policy
The question of who is responsible for damages involving rideshare vehicles has come before the courts in recent years. In some states, legislation is pending to classify rideshare drivers as employees of the companies they work for. A recent ruling may cement that idea across the country. It established that drivers who are contracted to pick up passengers for a rideshare company are technically employees of that company, and that those companies can be held liable in the event of an accident.
In response, Uber and Lyft began offering liability insurance to their drivers. These policies will cover a rental car for another driver who is struck by a rideshare contractor if the contractor is found to be at fault for the accident. This type of insurance is only meant to kick in once the driver’s own carrier denies a claim. The rideshare driver must first submit the claim under his or her own insurance policy, and then once the claim is denied, the rideshare insurance will pick up the damages.
Rideshare companies typically offer different levels of liability coverage based on when the accident occurred:
When a driver hasn’t logged into the Uber or Lyft app, no coverage is available. In this case, an accident that occurred during this time would typically be covered by the driver’s personal insurance policy.
If the rideshare driver has logged into the app, but has not yet accepted a ride request, the companies will provide liability coverage for any accident that is deemed to be the fault of their driver, up to $50,000 per person injured in the crash and $100,000 in total injury liability per accident, plus $25,000 in property damage liability.
When a driver has accepted a trip and is on his or her way to pick up a passenger, accident liability coverage increases to $1 million.
From the time a passenger enters the rideshare vehicle until drop off, liability coverage is available up to $1 million, in addition to limited coverage for damage to the driver’s own vehicle, as well as underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage.
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Insurance Claims Through Your Own Auto Insurance Policy
You may also be able to file a claim with your own auto insurance carrier for rental car coverage. Be aware that certain types of auto insurance policies don’t automatically include coverage for a rental car while you wait for your vehicle to be repaired.
One way to ensure that your rental is covered in case of an accident is to add rental reimbursement to your existing policy, which is available for minimal cost with almost every major insurance carrier.
What Options Do I Have if an Insurance Company Refuses to Fully Cover My Claim?
You have the right to sue someone who has caused an accident for lost wages, medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering, and other out-of-pocket expenses. As with any motor vehicle accident suit, the claimant must be able to establish who was at fault for the accident and what damages were suffered as a result.
In order to support an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit involving an accident caused by a rideshare driver, you can do the following:
- Record the names, contact information, and insurance details of all parties involved in the accident.
- Collect the information of any witnesses at the scene of the accident when it occurred.
- When possible, take photos of the accident scene, including damage to the vehicles from many different angles.
- Contact law enforcement immediately to begin the process of filing a police report, which you will need to prove any claim you pursue.
- Keep all paperwork and documentation provided to you by the police, medical providers, and car rental agencies pertaining to the accident. Record all expenses related to the accident for future calculations of damages.
- Contact an experienced car accident lawyer who will look out for your interests during the claims process, and who can help you pursue litigation should it become necessary.
To learn more about what option is best for you, reach out to our office today.
Call or text 402-466-8444 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form