Am I able to claim if I am injured in an Uber taxi collision?

Do cheaper fares mean fewer rights when things go wrong?

Car Insurance
Uber black Mercedes-Benz

Since its launch in San Francisco in 2009, Uber has reached 204 cities in 45 countries across the world. The service is operated via a mobile app, which unlike a regular taxi service, states that it is a “ride-sharing service” rather than a private hire taxi firm.

The considerable growth of Uber hit the headlines during 2014, thanks to unrest among private hire and black cab services throughout the UK. London, in particular, saw heavy demonstrations due to cabbie’s frustrations that Uber’s drivers are not regulated in the same way that black cab drivers are.

Statistics released in October 2015 by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, highlighted Uber’s phenomenal growth in London alone. In three years, the company has grown from zero designated drivers to 20,000, whilst there are now only 22,500 Hackney cabs available.

Recently, Uber won a significant High Court battle, rejecting the claim that the service was not a metered taxi because fares were calculated via a central system, rather than inside vehicles.

The accelerated growth of the company has led to the app’s British turnover increasing tenfold last year to more than £11.3m. This figure reflects Uber’s share of fares for trips booked via the service, with at least 70% of payments going straight to the self-employed driver. This growth is still continuing to increase.

How does Uber work?

Customers use an interactive map via a smartphone to submit a journey request. This request will then state a star rating for the user and designated driver, journey details, real-time map and breakdown of costs.

Unlike private taxi firms, Uber consider drivers to be independent contractors rather than employees. All Uber drivers must use their own cars and have to take out their own private commercial taxi insurance. A normal car insurance policy is insufficient and is likely to be void in the event of an accident.  Overall, this means that the service doesn’t keep check on the health of vehicles and the conduct of their self-employed drivers.

What happens if I am in an accident?

Normally, if you are an injured passenger in a taxi that crashes, you would expect to be able to claim for any injury sustained from the taxi company. But what happens if you are a passenger in an Uber vehicle?

Users who decide to download the app must agree to a list of terms and conditions which states that, “Uber will not be liable to you in respect of any acts or omissions of its employees, agents or sub-contractors.”

As Uber considers itself to be a technology provider and its drivers to be self-employed, passengers who are injured in a collision may find themselves frustrated. The company does not provide an official customer service phone number, and can only be contacted via a contact form on its website.

An Uber cab in flames after an accident

An Uber cab in flames after an accident. Image (c) Mirror.co.uk

Accidents in Uber vehicles can and do happen. In July 2015 a 32-year-old man was left traumatised following an accident where he was a passenger in an Uber vehicle. The driver collided on the motorway and the car burst into flames, leaving the passenger with significant cuts and bruises. The firm offered him a £35 refund for his journey before suggesting that he contact the driver. Uber later opened up an investigation and offered the passenger support throughout insurance claims.

Insurance policies for Uber remain a grey area across the world. In Toronto, Canada, it has been claimed that Uber does not insist on commercial insurance for vehicle owners, meaning that there may be drivers operating under policies that are not valid for private hire use. In other countries, police forces are actively involved in clamping down on Uber contractors who are operating without commercial insurance.

In the UK, the business has recently reviewed their systems after it was found that a London Uber driver had fake insurance documents approved by the company. In June 2015, Uber responded to the story and stated that the company had ‘backstop’ insurance in place that would cover customers if a driver had an accident without insurance, even though drivers were required to be covered with a private hire licence.

Many critics have noted that better strategies need to be implemented by Uber to ensure that drivers have the appropriate policies and that passengers are safely covered throughout their journey.

Natalie Richardson

Natalie Richardson is a content writer for Hudgell Solicitors, experts in road traffic accidents.

5 Comments

  1. Natalie,

    Thanks for the most interesting article. I, as well as my daughters, are users of Uber (in London) and am horrified that there seems to be such a weak control by Uber on their (sub-contracted) drivers potentially leaving passengers having to involve themselves with a driver who may be reluctant to help when an accident occurs. Is there anything I can do to mitigate this risk?

    Perhaps you could push Uber to give more details on their backstop insurance?

    Personally I think Uber should get a global insurance policy for all passenger risks and charge drivers. Not only is there a chance of Uber negotiating better rates, Uber could even make a turn on this ‘added service’.

    Reply
    • Stop using this unprofessional service, try Addison lee much better and cheaper on the weekends but not compromising quality

  2. Maybe suggest that your daughters pay that little bit extra and get a black cab, Edward, rather than try to save a few quid. Can’t put a price on piece of mind.

    Reply
  3. montypark

    I personally would never use a uber taxi or anything else that is purported to be supplied by them, they only appear to be responsible for supplying an app, and anything else that should happen ie: accidental injury whilst in one of their third party taxi’s you would not as it appears be covered under any insurance, as their is no control over the third party, ie: the transporter to be covered by the necessary insurance. Before you get into any taxi supplied by Uber, it seems reasonable to ask the driver if he is covered and moreso yourself are covered by the necessary insurance and would have to ask if you could inspect/examine that insurance document before entering he vehicle. If you do not do this, then you have no claim to any liability of the third party, or to Uber. So technically you would be travelling without any cover, to loss or injury, or even death.

    Reply
  4. Got shunted by an Uber driver yesterday who gave false details at the roadside AND whose license plate doesn’t match anything on the insurance systems. Had to contact the police to try to unravel it, but Uber clearly have next to no professionalism in their drivers at all. I wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole and as they have drivers willing to give false details at the roadside, I hope they are criminally prosecuted. The really worrying thing is, he had a fare in the back; not meant to be on the road, let alone taxi driving and yet collecting fares who trust in their driver.

    Reply

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