Were You Injured By A Drunk Uber Driver?New Jersey Legal News
Under New Jersey state law, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher. In fact, it’s illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol at all, so it’s possible to face DUI charges even with a BAC of less than .08. Obviously, these limits apply to everyone traveling the state’s roadways — including those who are driving others for money.
Understanding Uber, Lyft, & Their Impact on Society
Uber and Lyft are two of the leading and most popular rideshare companies in the nation. These companies have essentially dominated the rideshare market with inexpensive, reliable, and relatively safe transportation. These services are popular for those who are traveling to and from airports, train stations, and other transportation hubs.
Uber riders are able to download an app onto their smartphones to use the rideshare service. When using the Uber app, a rider can request and pay for rides while tracking the location of the driver. Riders are also provided the cost of their fare and are able to store this information online for even greater convenience.
Despite the many advantages and conveniences provided by ridesharing companies like Uber, there are always risks when traveling from one location to another — including drunk or intoxicated drivers. Impaired motorists have a much greater risk of being involved in motor vehicle collisions, and when they are, these crashes often result in serious injuries and damages to everyone involved.
In these cases, many individuals, companies, or insurance providers could share potential liability to cover the expenses of the injured parties. This is referred to as a third-party claim.
Rideshare Drivers in New Jersey Are Considered Independent Contractors
To drive for rideshare companies like Uber, it is required that companies have all potential drivers to complete a background check. Drivers are responsible for maintaining and covering their own auto insurance policies while not on the clock. While they are en route to or transporting a passenger, Uber provides an active insurance coverage policy.
Even though a driver may “work” for Uber, they are not considered to be employees by the company. Instead, they are categorized as independent contractors. The primary difference between an employee and an independent contractor is that employees receive a W-2 at the end of the tax year, while independent contractors receive a Form-1099. Also, independent contractors are able to set their own working hours and schedules.
How does this relate to personal injury cases? Well, the distinction between employees and independent contractors can greatly impact your case. Previously, Uber has attempted to distance itself from reckless drivers who cause crashes. More recently, however, Uber has been known to share responsibility — at least partially.
Uber’s Company Policies
Those driving for rideshare companies are designated as independent contractors, instead of direct employees for the company, but these companies still have some control over the actions of their drivers. Uber has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drunk driving. Uber does not allow alcohol or drug use by individuals using the Uber app and those who are driving under the Uber name — under any circumstances.
The Uber company’s website even encourages riders to publicly share their experiences with others online in order to promote safety in the ridesharing community. The Uber website specifically states that if your driver is operating his or her vehicle while intoxicated on drugs or alcohol, you should cancel your trip immediately.
Liability for Intoxicated Uber Drivers
If you’ve been injured in an accident involving an Uber driver, there are many different parties that could share possible liability. The most obvious at-fault party would be the drunk or negligent rideshare driver.
In order to drive with Uber, all applicants must have and maintain personal auto insurance coverage. Generally, insurance coverage follows a vehicle, not the driver. This means that, if a drunk Uber driver causes a crash while working, Uber’s insurance policy will be in action to provide partial or complete coverage for the crash.
Taking Legal Action
Pursuing legal action against Uber directly is often complicated. In many cases, ridesharing companies such as Uber have tried to make riders sign an agreement limiting your settlement or which prevents you from filing a claim directly against the company. It’s advised to never sign such an agreement — under any circumstances — without first contacting a New Jersey personal injury lawyer. By signing such an agreement, you could potentially lose out on a significant amount of compensation.
Uber’s liability policy limits for crashes caused by the rideshare driver include:
- $50,000/$100,000/$25,000 worth of contingent coverage by Uber in-between passengers — contingent to a driver’s personal auto insurance policy. Uber will only cover this amount if the rideshare driver’s personal auto insurance policy refuses to pay any of the injured passenger’s damage claim.
- $1,000,000 of uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits per accident (rather than per person). This amount only provides insurance coverage for rideshare passengers and drivers who are injured when another driver — not the rideshare driver — causes the accident.
- $1,000,000 of liability coverage per accident, divided into liability for bodily injuries and property damage.
Rideshare Crashes in New Jersey
We don’t usually expect to be involved in a crash when traveling in a rideshare vehicle, but all drivers are vulnerable to causing a crash. While some have lauded rideshare companies like Uber for making roads safer, studies have found that roadway fatalities have increased by as much as 3 percent since the advent of Uber. Injured parties should consult with an experienced New Jersey motor vehicle accident attorney to make sure their case is treated fairly.
Brady, Brady, & Reilly, LLC can help you make sense of the complicated claims process. We believe in providing top-quality legal representation to all our clients. Give us a call today at (201) 997-0030 if you’ve been injured while riding in a rideshare vehicle.