Florida is the most dangerous state in the country for pedestrians, according to a January 2019 report on TheDrive.com detailing a new study from Smart Growth America. The study looked at National Highway Traffic Safety data showing that nearly 50,000 people had been killed while walking in the state between the years of 2008 and 2017. Thousands more were injured during that time. Nationwide, the number of injuries to pedestrians by cars nationwide increased more than 14 percent between 2006 and 2015, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center noted.
Pedestrians hit by motor vehicles face severe injuries and long recoveries. The last thing they need is difficulty recovering compensation for their injuries. That’s why pedestrians struck by a car driven by an Uber driver should seek assistance from an attorney experienced in representing ridesharing accident victims.
Yes, It Happens
There have been a number of accidents involving pedestrians and Uber drivers. One widely reported pedestrian accident occurred in San Francisco on New Years Eve 2013 and involved an Uber driver who plowed into a six-year-old girl, her mother, and her three-year-old sister as they crossed the street. The accident revealed a gap in the insurance coverage Uber provided for drivers. As a result, Uber later began offering limited insurance coverage to drivers when they have their app on but no passenger in the vehicle.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2018 that the driver in that accident was found guilty of manslaughter. In 2015, the family of the child sued Uber and the driver for wrongful death. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.
A new danger to pedestrians has also emerged from Uber. In 2018, the news was filled with reports of one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles striking and killing a 49 year old woman in Tempe, Arizona. In early March 2019, nearly a year after the accident, the New York Times reported that Uber would not be charged with a crime over the accident.
The accident was the first one involving self-driving technology in the death of a pedestrian. Tempe is one of Uber’s test cities for autonomous vehicles, which still require the presence of a human “safety driver”. An investigation into the accident revealed that the safety driver in this case had been watching a popular television show at the time when the crash occurred and that the autonomous vehicle had spotted the pedestrian six minutes before the crash, but had incorrectly identified her first as an unknown object, then as a vehicle, and then as a bicycle. Uber suspended its self-driving vehicle program after the crash, but reinstated the program in December at lower speeds and in safer situations.
How Florida Law Protects Pedestrians
Florida law requires all individuals who register a car in the state to obtain a minimum of $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage. This is an insurance policy that covers 80 percent of medical expenses for injuries relating an accident, and 60 percent of wages lost due to injuries. If a pedestrian owns a vehicle or is covered under someone else’s PIP policy, PIP coverage applies to the injuries received in an accident involving a car.
Further, the law allows injured Florida pedestrians to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against a driver, or a company who employs the driver, if the costs of his or her injuries exceed the limits of the PIP policy and if the pedestrian sustained a serious, permanent injury in the accident. Unfortunately for pedestrians, if the accident involves an Uber driver, generally they are unable to sue Uber itself, due to the company’s classification of drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.
The Uber Insurance Factor
When an Uber driver strikes a pedestrian, there may be additional insurance available to the pedestrian. Under Florida law, all Uber drivers are required to carry the following insurance:
- During times the driver is not transporting a passenger and his or her Uber app is not on, the driver’s own personal auto insurance policy applies and may cover injuries sustained by the pedestrian victim.
- During times the driver has the app on and is waiting for a ride, the law requires that the driver carry at least $50,000 in personal injury liability coverage per person, and at least $100,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $25,000 per accident for property damage.
- During times the driver has the app on and is en route to pick up a passenger or is transporting a passenger, the driver must carry at least $1,000,000 of liability coverage for bodily injury and property damage.
The Uber Liability Factor
As previously mentioned, Uber classifies its drivers as independent contractors, rather than as employees. This purports to limit the company’s liability for accidents involving its drivers. However, there are some cases in which Uber can be found liable for damages, including situations in which the driver had a past history of traffic offenses that should have been discovered in the company’s new-driver background check and should have precluded him or her from being allowed to drive for the rideshare.
Arguments continue to be made about whether the rideshare app, which drivers access and interact with, causes a dangerous driving distraction. In 2018, the company responded to such arguments with the release of a voice control option within the app that allows drivers to keep both hands on the wheel.
Can We Help You?
Accidents involving Uber drivers can be complicated due to the various insurance policies involved and the uncertainty over whether Uber can be held liable. If you have suffered injuries as a pedestrian due to an Uber driver’s negligence or recklessness, don’t settle for just any attorney. Hire experienced Uber accident attorneys who understand the latest developments in the law and can help ensure you recover the maximum compensation available for your injuries. Let’s talk about your legal options. Contact us through our online contact form or by calling (305) 964-8806.