Ordering up a ride from an app on your phone can be a convenient and relaxing way to get around. Hopefully, your ride with one of these car services, such as Uber or Lyft, will be a safe one, too. At Courtlaw, we know well that, unfortunately, accidents can and do happen. Our attorneys have handled cases on behalf of Lyft and Uber drivers and passengers.
New Jersey law refers to a ride-share company such as Lyft or Uber as a “Transportation Network Company” or “TNC.” Under New Jersey law, when a TNC driver is “providing” a ride, the TNC or the TNC driver, “or any combination of the two” must have primary automobile liability insurance in the amount of “at least” $1,500,000.00 for death, bodily injury and property damage. N.J.S.A. 39:5H-10c(1). The TNC law requires that there be the same amount ($1,500,000.00) of uninsured and underinsured coverage in place as well, for those times when the TNC driver is “providing” a ride. N.J.S.A. 39:5H-10c(3). Finally, there must be primary medical payments benefits of at least $10,000 per person per accident for the benefit of the driver in the event he or she is involved in an accident while in the course of a prearranged ride. As a general rule, TNCs will provide the full coverage required by law itself, in addition to whatever insurance coverage the TNC driver may have himself or herself. Depending on the TNC, a company may require a driver to have a commercial auto policy or a personal policy that provides coverage for driving for a TNC, with the TNC driver’s policy primary to the TNC’s own insurance coverage.
These insurance coverages are available for the benefit of passengers of a TNC vehicle, occupants of other vehicles involved in an accident caused by a TNC driver, or bicyclists and pedestrians struck by a TNC driver.
What is a Prearranged Ride?
The questions arise as to what is meant by “providing a prearranged ride”? When does a prearranged ride begin? The law is clear that a Lyft or Uber ride “begins” as soon as a driver accepts a ride requested by a rider through a digital network controlled by a TNC. N.J.S.A. 39:5H-2. In other words, when your ride is accepted by a TNC driver, the ride is considered to have begun, even though it could be several minutes before you get into the vehicle. This is important for drivers who may then be able to access the $1.5 million UM/UIM coverage required by N.J.S.A. 39:5H-10c(3) if they are involved in an accident after accepting a ride and on the way to pick up the fare.
The insurance requirements are different – and less – for that period when the driver is logged on to the TNC’s digital network, available to receive a ride but is not actually “providing” a ride. For that time, a TNC driver, the TNC or both must maintain primary liability insurance coverage of at least $50,000 for death or bodily injury per person ($10,000 per accident); $25,000 for property damage, and PIP, UM and UIM coverage pursuant to New Jersey law.
If the TNC driver is not transporting a passenger, driving to pick up a passenger, or logged into the TNC app, then the driver’s own personal or commercial auto insurance policy will apply and someone injured by the driver in an accident will not be able to look to any insurance policy held by the TNC.
There is one last very important feature of the TNC law: If you ever have to bring a lawsuit against a TNC and its driver, the so-called ‘verbal threshold” cannot be raised as a defense to your suit.
The law of New Jersey tries to see to it that you will be adequately compensated for your injuries in the event you are injured in an accident while riding as a passenger in a Lyft or Uber or if a driver is in an accident while on her or his way to pick you up. Proof of insurance coverage must be carried by TNC drivers the same as any other driver.
What Happens If Someone Else Was At Fault for Your Uber/Lyft Accident?
Although many motor vehicle accident cases involving a TNC vehicle are caused by the negligence of the TNC driver, it is just as likely that an accident involving a TNC vehicle is caused by another driver. If you are a passenger in a TNC vehicle and you are injured in an accident that was caused by another driver, what do you do?
Normally, your first recourse would be to pursue a claim against the other driver and his or her insurance company for your injuries, since that party was at fault for the accident. However, it is certainly likely that driver’s insurance coverage will be quickly exhausted, since your TNC driver and any other passengers in the vehicle may also have been injured. You may also be entitled to seek coverage under the TNC’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for any damages that are not compensated by the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage.
In addition, there may be accidents where both a TNC driver and another motorist share fault for the accident. If you are a third-party injured by the accident, such as a passenger in the Uber or Lyft, you would look to both the TNC driver and the TNC as well as to the other driver for compensation. In all likelihood, the insurance companies for the other driver, the TNC driver, and the TNC would negotiate their respective shares of compensation they pay to you for your injuries and damages, based on each driver’s share of fault for the accident. As a practical matter, most of your compensation would likely be paid by the TNC’s insurance policy, since most drivers only have liability coverages of tens of thousands of dollars, whereas the TNC and its driver are required to have a combined liability policy of $1.5 million and combined uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage of another $1.5 million.
Contact a Jersey City Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Uber/Lyft Accident Case in New Jersey
Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries due to an Uber/Lyft accident in New Jersey? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Karim Arzadi Law Office represent clients injured because of Uber/Lyft accidents in Paterson, Elizabeth, Clifton, Trenton, and throughout New Jersey. Call (732) 442-5900 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 163 Market St., Perth Amboy, NJ 08861, as well as offices in New Brunswick, Roselle, East Orange, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Linden, Newark, Paterson, South Amboy, and Trenton.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.