Who Pays the injured party when Uber Driver is responsible for the accident?
1. A passenger contacts Uber, and an Uber driver picks up the passenger to be driven to a given destination. If there is a subsequent accident, who will pay the injured party?
2. Did the passenger suffer any injury as a result of the car wreck? If there was an injury, was it a proximate result of the car accident or was it a worsening or preexisting condition from a prior injury?
3. Is the Uber driver an independent contractor working for himself or is he an Uber employee?
Areas of the Law
The most integral areas of the law for a lawyer to review under this fact pattern are, contract law and negligence law. If the Uber driver is at fault who is responsible for the damages that result? Is it the driver’s insurance company or the insurance company for Uber?
These facts support that the Uber driver and the passenger entered into an agreement where the driver promised to take the passenger to a destination if the passenger agreed to pay a fair. Consideration or some value is necessary to support a contractual relationship.
b. The law of negligence is far more complicated than contract law in order to arrive at a solution. To establish negligence four elements are necessary, Duty, Breach of Duty, Causation, and Damages. All four elements involve legal analysis which is beyond the scope of this article.
* To create a duty the driver must owe a particular standard of care to the passenger. In this case, the duty is to drive carefully and lawfully. When there is a car wreck, that standard of care is analyzed carefully for breach.
* The duty must be breached.
* The breach of the duty must be the cause of the car accident. For instance, if the
driver was driving on a suspended license, was that the cause of the car accident? No, a suspended license was not the causation of the accident. The breach must have resulted in the accident.
* There must be damages as a result of the breach of duty in order for the injured party to recover damages. For example, as a consequence of the car wreck is the fact that the passenger was scared, enough to be considered damages? No, there must be more.
If the car accident was a direct and consequential cause of a job loss, can the passenger recover lost wages? Yes, lost wages can be collected in appropriate cases. It is evident that negligence law has additional and sometimes greater measure of damages, such as pain and suffering and loss of consortium (damage to a marital relationship) when the injury is serious enough to impact the marital unit.
The driver has some defenses depending on state laws that alter his responsibility to his passenger. Such as, did another driver cause or contribute to the happening of the accident. Sometimes more then 1 vehicle may have contributed to the loss or the injury. The driver could argue that the passenger caused or contributed the car wreck. Some states adjust the damages depending on who was more at fault and will compare the negligence of all contributing parties.
Is Uber liable? The question remains whether Uber authorized the driver to enter into the contract as its employee, or was the driver, not an employee but an independent contractor. Thus, Uber may not be responsible for any breach of the contract, between the passenger and driver. It appears that in many cases Uber will be called upon to satisfy any claim for damages as a result of negligence attributed to their driver. Uber is required to carry it’s own insurance policy. Under the theory that Uber had ultimate control of the driver, Uber would face financial liability. Even if the issue of Uber’s liability were not clear, Uber’s insurance most likely would settle the matter with an injured passenger for an accident that was their driver’s fault.