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New Rules of the Road: How Uber, Autonomous cars are changing personal injury law

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July 28, 2018 By Greeenman, Goldberg, Raby and Martinez

Ride-sharing companies and self-driving cars have changed the way people travel. They've also changed how insurance companies write policies and how juries decide who’s liable after an accident.

“That's not uncommon,” said Toby Yurek, a partner at Nevada law firm Greenman, Goldberg, Raby and Martinez (GGRM). “New technologies are constantly emerging, and lawmakers throughout the country often find themselves scrambling to keep up.”

But drivers, riders and people just crossing the street should understand how the rules have changed since companies like Uber, and features like self-braking cars came on the market.
 

CAN SELF-DRIVING CARS BE NEGLIGENT?

Lawsuits that stem from traffic accidents are normally about proving negligence. That could be anything from the driver was drunk to the driver was texting.

“If nobody is driving the car, it's very difficult to prove negligence,” Yurek said.

Those cases would fall under a part of the law called product liability, which means a person would have to prove a defect in the car caused it to malfunction in a way that caused the accident.

But nearly all cars with autonomous features aren't driverless, Yurek said.

Automated Emergency Braking is supposed to sense an impending collision and “hit” the breaks on its own. But someone hit by one of these cars could still argue the driver wasn't paying attention.
 

SHOULD RIDE-SHARING DRIVERS CARRY EXTRA INSURANCE?

How much car insurance to carry is a question that Yurek gets a lot from clients, and his answer depends on the person.

There's no one size fits all policy – even for people who do the same job like driving for Uber or Lyft.

That's one of the reasons GGRM offers free consultations to anyone who wants to go over their insurance policy. The company has been in the personal injury business for over 45 years. That experience has given their attorneys a substantial amount of knowledge about what coverage is important and what's not necessary based on someone's personal circumstances.

“You don't have to be a client,” Yurek said. “Just bring in a copy of your policy, and we will look over it.”

For ride-sharing drivers one of the things GGRM attorneys check is whether they should carry additional coverage for the time they spend driving around waiting for customers.

Uber and Lyft both have commercial auto insurance policies that cover up to $1.5 million of damages, but only if the driver has a paying customer in the car.

When there's no customer in a car, the companies must provide $50,000 per injury, per person, $100,000 bodily injury per accident and $25,000 in property damage.

A driver could potentially be on the hook for anything above those amounts.

Most insurance companies offer something called a ride-sharing endorsement, which would cover the driver beyond those limits.

Ride-sharing endorsements can also protect drivers from having to pay their commercial policies deductibles ($1,000 for Uber, $2,500 for Lyft).
 

CAN I SUE UBER OR LYFT IF I'M HURT?

The short answer is probably not. Uber and Lyft consider their drivers to be independent contractors rather than employee drivers.

“It's much more difficult, legally speaking, to hold a company responsible for an independent contractor's actions”, Yurek said.

What happens if you're hit by a Lyft driver or hurt while paying for a ride is that you technically sue the driver who is covered by the company's insurance policy.

The exception to this, however, is if the driver has a pattern of inappropriate behavior that the company should have known about. This could mean a history of poor driving or accidents while driving for ride-share companies. It could also mean a criminal record if the case is about an assault by a driver.
 


This article was presented and sponsored by Greenman, Goldberg, Raby and Martinez. For more information, go to GGRMLawFirm.com.


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