How Ride-Sharing Accidents Are Treated in Massachusetts

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Cities like Boston and others across the country commonly have various ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft that allow passengers to set up rides by independent contractors hired by these apps. These drivers serve a role similar to taxi drivers.

However, these apps are usually considered a technology company rather than a transportation company. People can conveniently use these apps to get a ride when they need one, which helps them avoid the costs of vehicle ownership.

The drivers of these apps use their own vehicles, rather than one owned by the company and regulated by state law like taxi companies. As convenient as these apps are, situations can become complicated when accidents occur while receiving a ride from one of these ride-share apps. Today, there are more ride-share app drivers, so it is more likely that an accident will occur in this context. It is important to understand the regulations of these companies in Massachusetts and how to respond to if involved in an accident in a vehicle used for this purpose.

Issues Involving Multiple Parties

Claims involving ride-sharing customers are often much different than claims arising out of other accident. They may involve multiple parties, such as the passenger, the ride-sharing company, the driver and the other vehicle’s driver. Issues are often complicated, such as whether you are supposed to file a claim against the ride-sharing app or the driver for the app. You may have to deal with commercial insurance policies.

Determining Liability

In order to determine whom to file an insurance claim against, you must understand the relationship between the driver and the app. Typically ride share app drivers are considered independent contractors. The app is not typically considered the employer of the driver. Ride-share companies often use this distinction as a legal defense to liability when one of their drivers causes an accident.

Insurance companies have historically denied claims when the occupant is injured while riding a vehicle operated by an app driver. They may point to exclusions in the policy for driving for commercial purposes. Due to the popularity of these apps, some insurance companies have commenced the creation of solutions involving this issue and have established specialized policies for this specific purpose. If a ride-share insurance policy is in effect, it typically applies when the driver accepts a request for a ride and starts to drive to the pick-up location. When the driver is not working, his or her personal insurance policy applies.

However, there are still gray areas involved in the process. For example, if the driver turns on his or her app for the ride-share program before he or she has a passenger or is on the way to a pick-up location, a ride-share policy may not apply. However, the personal insurance policy may not apply either because the route was on the way to the location for a commercial purpose. When the app is turned on and the person is available for work, he or she is considered working. The personal policy likely does not cover a commercial use for the vehicle.

These situations can make it difficult to discern who is liable and which insurance policy applies when an accident occurs in a ride-share app vehicle. In these situations, a portion of the claim might be paid by the driver’s personal insurance company. The remainder may be paid by the commercial policies of the ride-share app. Commercial policies sometimes have a $100,000 maximum per accident, and ride-share app insurance adjusters are often well-versed in negotiating down insurance claims, which may leave the victim not fully compensated for the injuries he or she suffers. It is important to have legal representation during the process of negotiating with a ride-share app insurance adjuster to have someone skilled in negotiating for the maximum compensation you deserve.

Contact an Experienced Massachusetts Car Accident Lawyer

If you have been injured in a car accident while a passenger in a ride-share vehicle, it is important that you have a strong legal advocate on your side. An experienced Massachusetts car accident lawyer can help assess the circumstances surrounding the accident to determine which party or parties may be responsible for the accident. A car accident lawyer can review evidence involved in the car accident, such as photographs, witness statements, video surveillance, the accident report, property damage and other evidence to identify the responsible party and to substantiate the victim’s claim.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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