Love or hate Uber, the ride-share service has been making significant in-roads in Florida. Most recently, UberX has begun operating in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
For those who are still unfamiliar with the brand, Uber has two basic services: Uber Black and UberX. Uber Black is the higher-end option and uses licensed chauffeurs who drive black sedans or SUVs. UberX is a lower-cost option where ordinary people (not licensed chauffeurs) use their own cars to transport passengers.
Uber, which began operating in Miami over the summer, expanded to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in August. Bill Guernier, the general manger for the Uber expansion in Florida, told the Sun Sentinelthat the launch has so far been successful and that the company has received hundreds of applications from Floridians interested in working as Uber drivers. The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau has given their stamp of approval to Uber, saying that more transportation options will provide greater convenience for the city’s visitors. However, not everyone is thrilled about the arrival of the ride-sharing program as there are still unanswered questions about liability in the event of a car accident involving an Uber vehicle.
Uber Drivers Lack Commercial Driver Insurance
Just about anyone can become an UberX driver, provided they pass a background check and can show that they have auto insurance on their personal vehicle. Drivers are not required to get a commercial driver’s license, which means they also do not carry the commercial driver’s insurance that traditional taxi drivers do and may not be able to fully cover the medical expenses of a passenger injured in an Uber car accident.
Uber says that they solve this problem by offering $1 million in additional coverage beyond each driver’s personal insurance, but there are some gaps in this coverage. Currently, the coverage is in effect from the time a passenger accepts a ride using the Uber smartphone app until the time they exit the vehicle.
Drivers do not receive as much coverage when they are using the Uber app but not picking up or transporting a passenger. So, for example, if a driver was distracted by the app and hit a pedestrian or another vehicle as a result, Uber might avoid liability and the injured party might not receive the compensation they need. This is essentially what happened in an Uber car-pedestrian accident in San Francisco in January: the Liu family is suing for wrongful death because their daughter, Sophia, was struck and killed in a crosswalk by a driver who was logged into the UberX app, and Uber is claiming that they are not liable for the accident. The company’s reaction shows that they have not fully thought out the risks and liability associated with hiring non-professional drivers and requiring them to use a smartphone app that can take their eyes off the road for crucial seconds.
It’s hard to deny the convenience and cost-effectiveness of ride-share services like Uber, but it’s important that anyone thinking about using or driving for the service in Fort Lauderdale be aware of the risks. Hopefully the still-young business will evolve and figure out how to offer better coverage for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, but in the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact a South Florida car accident lawyer if you or someone you love is injured by a driver using the Uber app.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphey. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”