Uber & Lyft Personal Injury Protection BenefitsNew Jersey Legal News
In New Jersey, there are many questions for Uber or Lyft drivers who are involved in a car crash. The same applies to passengers or pedestrians who are injured by a ridesharing vehicle. These people may wonder who is liable to cover the costs of their ensuing medical bills and other resulting damages after a crash. New Jersey’s No-Fault Insurance Law mandates that all drivers are required to pay for their own medical expenses, no matter who is liable for the collision. Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft make these situations more complicated, causing many unresolved insurance coverage issues.
Precedent as Established Under New Jersey Law
Under N.J.S.A. 39:6A-3.2, all “automobile” insurance policies are required to include coverage mandated by N.J.S.A. 39:6A-1. This includes personal injury protection. N.J.S.A. 39:6A-2 defines an “automobile” as: (1) private passenger automobiles, as long as they are not used as taxis or rented to other individuals; and (2) pickups trucks and/or vans, as long as they are used for recreational purposes, are owned by an individual and/or family, and are not usually used for business purposes (outside of farm work).
In the case of New Jersey Manufacturers Ins. Co. v. Hardy, 178 N.J. 327, the New Jersey Supreme Court examined the working definition of “automobile” in this context and found that the definition focuses on the type of vehicle and then focuses on the use of the vehicle as a secondary factor. For instance, a private passenger automobile used to deliver food would count as an “automobile,” despite it being used for commercial purposes because it is not being used as a taxi or rented to another driver. At the same time, if a van is used to deliver pizza, it would not count as an “automobile” under the working definition, meaning it would not need PIP due to its commercial use.
In the case of Bello v. Hurley Limousines, 249, N.J. Super. 31, the Appellate Divison analyzed a taxi service from 1991 and found that, when determining if a private passenger car qualifies as an automobile or a rented vehicle, the use of the car, regardless of its use at the time of a crash, had to be taken into consideration. The court effectively rejected the case-by-case analysis method regarding the use of the vehicle at the time of impact.
The Bello analysis may be reasonable regarding a traditional taxi service. However, in the context of a modern rideshare service, this decision needs to be re-visited by the court. When determining if an Uber or Lyft vehicle qualifies as an “automobile” using this context, a case-by-case analysis would be more sensible. Such a vehicle may stop qualifying as an “automobile,” starting from the moment that the driver accepts a trip and is in the process of picking up a passenger, if not at an earlier time when the driver becomes available to pick up a rideshare passenger. However, when a rideshare driver is not available for a ride and is driving for their own purposes, the vehicle should then qualify as an “automobile.”
How This Impacts Injury Claims Involving Rideshare Vehicles
If a ridesharing service as acting as a transportation service at the time of impact–so as not to qualify as an “automobile”–they would not be included under the Verbal Threshold defense. This could mean, for personal injury victims, that they would not have to provide evidence of their injuries to overcome this threshold.
Regarding medical costs or PIP coverage, if you were the driver or passenger in a non-ridesharing vehicle that was involved in a crash with a ridesharing vehicle, you could open a no-fault PIP claim with your own policy–if applicable–or that of a resident. However, if you were a rideshare driver, a passenger traveling in a rideshare vehicle, or a pedestrian involved in a rideshare collision, PIP coverage would become a complicated issue.
How a Rideshare Driver Can Recover Compensation
The primary source of medical bill coverage for a rideshare driver would be through your own car insurance policy. However, if your personal policy argues that you were involved in commercial vehicle-use at the time of impact, and your policy contains a commercial use exclusion (as is usually the case), your PIP coverage will likely be denied. Uber states on its website that PIP coverage “is provided in certain states at similar levels as limos or taxis.” However, in New Jersey, taxis and limos are not required to carry PIP. This means drivers will probably be unable to recover medical costs through Uber or Lyft. If their private health coverage denies coverage for crash-related medical expenses, rideshare drivers may have no access to PIP coverage and would have to file a liability lawsuit to obtain coverage.
How a Rideshare Passenger Can Recover Compensation
Concerning passengers who are injured while riding in rideshare vehicles, they would seek PIP coverage first through their own policy coverage. If they do not have auto coverage, they could perhaps use the policy of a resident relative. If neither option is applicable, they could seek PIP coverage through the personal auto policy of the rideshare driver or the ridesharing carrier’s liability policy. If there is no PIP coverage or insufficient PIP coverage, coverage could be sought through a liability lawsuit.
How an Injured Pedestrian Can Recover Compensation
Lastly, concerning pedestrians who are injured by ridesharing vehicles, as well as being covered under their own car insurance policy — if applicable — or that of a resident relative, pedestrians should know that they can seek PIP coverage through the liability care of the ridesharing vehicle because pedestrian PIP coverage is required for limos and taxi drivers under N.J.S.A. 17:28-1.3.
Rideshare Collisions in New Jersey
Rideshare services offer the residents of New Jersey convenience when traveling from point A to point B. However, these services have resulted in an increase in vehicle fatalities. These cases can be complicated, so victims should contact a trained New Jersey car crash attorney to recover their deserved compensation. Brady, Brady, & Reilly, LLC have been helping the injured victims of New Jersey since 1965. Contact us today at (201) 997-0030 to discuss your case.