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Accidents are always scary and stressful. With Uber, they could also be complicated- for a number of reasons. Who was at fault? Who will foot the bill? Where will the buck stop? Should you engage a personal injury attorney? Would you be able to drive again as an Uber driver? These are some of the many questions that you’ll be confronted with if you get ever caught up in an Uber accident. Here’s a short guide.

When Did the Accident Take Place?
Your status when the accident took place is important and it’s the first thing you should consider. Were you driving the passenger? Or were you going to pick her up? Or were you just available and hadn’t yet accepted any trip? Uber’s insurance coverage differs depending on your status at the time of the accident. If you were just available and had not accepted any trip yet, Uber’s insurance liability is capped at $50k for injury, $100k for total, and $25k for property. But, there’s a catch here.

In the ‘available’ period, you’ll be able to avail Uber’s insurance coverage only ‘when necessary’. So when is it necessary for Uber to cover the losses? Uber finds it necessary to cover only if your insurance provider has refused to pay for it. In theory, it sounds simple: If you were just available and had an accident, you should first see if your own insurance covers that accident. If he doesn’t, Uber’s going to cover it up to the capped limit- Simple! But in practice, it becomes complicated.

If the accident took place in the available period, you’ll most probably get caught up in a tug of war between Uber’s insurance partners and your own insurance provider where each will try to pull itself as far as possible from you, the centre of the accident. Your insurance provider might have sly provisions and footnotes on the insurance contract to avoid liability. Not all insurance companies do it, but there are some who do. Usually the insurance company who will try to evade responsibility will say that they don’t cover any accidents when you have been ‘operating commercially’, even if you weren’t driving anybody yet. And understandably, it’s their claimed position, which may not be in line with the insurance contract. If your insurance company’s trying to use this card to shrug liability, you have two options: A) Accept their claim and hope for Uber to cover it since your own insurance provider has refused to do so; B) Get an attorney and take your insurance provider to court. You might need an attorney either way, so scroll to the section below if you’re in this situation.

But if it took place after you had accepted a trip, which means either you were ‘en route’ to pick up the rider or were driving her, the scenario changes significantly. Now, Uber’ cap goes as high as $1 Million. More importantly, now you won’t have to fight and push the ball in Uber or your insurance provider’s court. Uber maintains a commercial insurance policy that’ll take precedence over your own insurance coverage. Put simply, you don’t have to worry whether it’s covered by your insurance or not; Uber will cover it anyway. The best part is Uber’s coverage in this case is pretty expansive, so it extends to cover even hit-and-run cases.  

Should You Engage An Attorney?
A good attorney could come in really handy if the accident took place before accepting a trip. You might be tempted to go to Uber and tell them to pay for it since your insurance provider won’t. After all, why go through all the hassle when you can simply tell Uber to pay for it instead? The thing here is that you shouldn’t take Uber’s promise at face value either. Uber might also try to evade responsibility and dump it on your insurance provider. They could say things like “it has to be covered”, “it must be covered by them”, “we don’t think this insurance package doesn’t cover this”. In short, even if you don’t “lawyer up” and take your insurance provider to court, you might well find yourself negotiating with Uber to pay for it. In a line: it’s going to be tricky.

If this is your situation, “lawyering up” is probably your best option. A clever attorney will be able to negotiate for you and settle the matter. He will conduct research, look into your insurance contract and Uber’s policy, and then fight your case before the party he thinks owes liability. But the thought of engaging an attorney could be frightening, right?

Well, not really. Most people are afraid of engaging an attorney because they fear that it’ll cost them lots of money. This might be true in some cases, but in the case of Uber accidents, it’s not always so. In fact, most cases are settled out of court through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). What happens usually is your lawyer will charge you only for a few hours, and then he’ll probably be able to convince one party or the other to accept the claim. But why not do it yourself? Why can’t you talk to Uber or your provider yourself?

Technically, you can. You can talk to them, haggle with them and talk to every concerned person at their office. Practically, it might not always work. Worse, it might cost you more in terms of the number of hours and energy you put into it than it would have if you had engaged an attorney and let him do your bidding.

Lastly, if you were using Uber for going somewhere, and your driver ran into somebody, you might get unnerved and have a lot of questions, but there’s no need to panic. You should expect a few calls from Uber, their insurance partner or the police. But there is going to be questions. Just questions. They’ll ask you what happened, how it happened, and they’ll be done in a few minutes. Just take it easy and cooperate with whoever is talking to you; you’re not being investigated, somebody else is.

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