When it comes to hired driver accidents (such as those involving Uber and Lyft drivers, taxis and limousine services), Florida personal injury compensation guidelines and expectations will depend heavily on a number of factors. Among important elements: The type of service, whether the driver was an independent contractor or employee, whether a vehicle defect was a factor (and if so, how long ago the vehicle was manufactured), how many other people were hurt and how much fault is assigned each motorist if more than one vehicle was involved.
Recently, a hired driver accident in New York that resulted in 20 deaths, including all 17 passengers, the driver and two pedestrians, raised questions about whether the limousine company (a national firm with locations in Florida) had the appropriate level of auto insurance and whether the driver (who reportedly ran a red light) was properly licensed. There is a reason why the personal injury compensation guidelines pertaining to commercial and for-hire vehicles is so much higher, and it’s precisely because such crashes can result in utter devastation.
The Sarasota Herald Tribune recently asserted that the limousine crash in New York isn’t an “isolated incident,” detailing one incident in August 2016 when an Uber passenger picked up from the Tampa airport on his way home had to leap from the moving car on I-275 after the vehicle caught fire and the driver screamed the brakes weren’t working. The driver was killed. The passenger was rushed to the intensive care unit’s burn center, where doctors gave him a 20 percent chance of survival. He was able to recover about $1 million in medical expenses, but had no legal recourse to recover damages from the vehicle manufacturer (thanks to the Statute of Repose, barring product liability lawsuits for any vehicle made more than 12 years earlier). This was despite the fact the vehicle had been recalled for a faulty switch that could cause fires and electrical failures. Though they did not pursue a personal injury compensation claim against the driver, they did file one against the car service, learning it had minimal liability insurance.
Florida Personal Injury Compensation Guidelines Involving Limos, Taxis, Buses and Ubers
Florida has long stipulated that for-hire drivers, such as those operating taxicabs, limousines, party buses and motorcoaches, carry bodily injury insurance rates in excess of what is expected of the average passenger vehicle driver. Anyone making personal injury compensation claims in Florida should know that while state minimum insurance requirements for passenger vehicle drivers was very limited ($10,000 in personal injury protection, $10,000 per-person and $20,000 per crash for bodily injury liability coverage, plus $10,000 for property damage), such requirements are substantially higher where for-hire drivers are concerned. F.S. 324.032 holds that owners or lessees operate one or more taxis, limousines, jitneys or any other for-hire transportation must carry a minimum $125,000 per person and $250,000 per crash for bodily injury liability coverage, plus $50,000 for property damage. (More can be required of those maintaining larger fleets, but F.S. 627.7415 pertaining to commercial vehicles between 26,000 and 35,000 pounds does not require personal injury protection coverage.)
These Florida personal injury compensation guidelines have gotten confusing, however, as applied to recent and fast-growing newcomers in the for-hire driver game: Uber and Lyft. Are they commercial vehicles? For-hire transport like taxis?
Florida law wasn’t updated to clarify until fairy recently. Per F.S. 627.748, Uber and Lyft are considered “transportation network companies,” and don’t fall under the same guidelines as taxicabs, jitneys, limousines or other for-hire drivers. They are not common carriers, are not required to register the vehicle used for pre-arranged rides and must maintain a primary auto insurance policy that covers at least $50,000 for death and bodily injury liability per person, $100,000 for death and bodily injury per incident and $25,000 for property damage. They must also have at least $10,000 in PIP benefits, as well as UM/UIM coverage equal to their bodily injury liability coverage. This requirement can be satisfied with an insurance policy maintained by either the driver, the transportation network company or some combination of both. Some ride share companies like Uber have adopted death and personal injury liability coverage in the amount of $1 million per crash to satisfy a wide array of state and federal guidelines. However, that is only applicable where the ride-share driver is actively transporting a passenger. Rates are lower while drivers are looking for passengers.
If there are multiple people injured in a crash involving a for-hire driver, it can impact the amount of insurance coverage available for individual personal injury compensation claims and wrongful death claims.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Seidman: New York limo accident no isolated case, Oct. 11, 2018, By Carrie Seidman, Opinion, Sarasota Herald Tribune
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Car Accident Injury Attorney: Orlando No. 1 for Florida Distracted Driving, Oct. 4, 2018, Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Compensation Claim Attorney Blog