The rise of Uber and Lyft created options that consumers never had before. Hailing a cab and overpaying for it is no longer necessary. As the practice is becoming more popular and widespread, the ridesharing companies have fine tuned their business practices in an effort to make things more safe for driver and passenger alike. This has not come without growing pains.
A new program called Amazon Flex was created in 2015, and it turns normal people into a package delivery service. As strange as it is to see an unmarked car pull up and someone not in uniform deliver your package, the idea is that with more drivers, your package could potentially arrive quicker. This is not without drawbacks.
What is Amazon Flex?
As long as you’re over 21 and have: a valid driver’s license, a 4-door sedan or larger vehicle, a smartphone that is less than three years old, a clean driving record and no criminal history, you can sign up to be an Amazon Flex driver. The background check takes about three days, and if you’re cleared to drive, you can start immediately. Drivers are paid on a per delivery basis, rather than hourly, and are responsible for their own maintenance, insurance and fueling costs.
The perceived benefit is that consumers theoretically get their packages sooner (more drivers equals a faster rate of delivery) and drivers can make some extra money. A few drivers for Flex have already filed a lawsuit, claiming they are employees rather than independent contractors.
This is in lockstep with what drivers for Uber and Lyft have done. When it comes to Amazon Flex, most consumers don’t care about driver designation; they are worried about package theft, and what happens if they are in an accident with one of these drivers.
Rideshare Driver Laws
Due to city ordinances in San Antonio and Austin requiring drivers to be fingerprinted, Uber and Lyft have paused operations in the city. Uber is threatening to do the same in Houston because of a similar provision. As it currently stands, Amazon Flex is available in all of these cities. So what are some of the laws by which prospective drivers for all of these programs in Texas must abide?
Many people often wonder if you need a specially designated driver’s license to become a rideshare driver. The only time a Commercial License is required in Texas is if you will be transporting 16 or more passengers. For Uber and Lyft, your car cannot be more than seven years old; this stipulation does not exist for Flex drivers. Small cars and flat-bed trucks are not allowed, but in some regions (such as New York), bicycles are allowed for use during deliveries.
Rideshare Driver Insurance Requirements
If you do want to drive for Uber, Lyft or Amazon Flex, you have to have a minimum amount of insurance. Usually, the companies abide by whatever the state law is, which in Houston, TX is: $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident and $25,000 for property damage. However, effective January 1st, 2017, Uber and Lyft drivers in the state will carry 50/100/25 in coverage. This change was made to properly cover any damages in an accident, as drivers aren’t completely covered by the company, save for some exceptions.
For the rideshare and Amazon Flex drivers, insurance works a little differently when you have a passenger compared to when you don’t.
- When you are off the clock your personal insurance is active.
- For Lyft, when the app is on but you do not have a passenger, the 50/100/25 of liability coverage is in place. For Uber, their coverage applies as long as you have the app on.
- Upon picking up a passenger, or accepting the fare and are en route to them, the company protections, which is $1 million for all three companies, applied to uninsured or underinsured motorist kicks in.
The insurance the company provides takes precedent over any personal insurance the driver may have when they are carrying a passenger. Each company has a different deductible for their drivers; Uber’s is $2,500, while it is $1,000 for Lyft. It’s unclear what it is for Amazon Flex drivers.
What To Do If In An Accident
Of course, if you are in a car accident there are certain things you should always do no matter the type; check yourself for injuries and call the police if there are any. If you’re able, take down all of the other driver’s information, take any witness statements, document the scene with pictures and note anything else about the circumstances leading to the accident. When using a rideshare service, the procedure is different depending on your situation; whether you are a passenger in the Uber or Lyft, or are the other driver.
If you are a passenger in the vehicle during an accident, it’s not required that you remain on the scene if there is only property damage and you are uninjured, but you may have to give a statement to the insurance adjuster or to the company itself. If you are the other driver and they caused the accident, whether or not they are carrying a passenger changes whether you would file a claim with the driver or the company.
Filing a Claim Against the Driver
Uber, Lyft and Amazon Flex drivers are considered independent contractors, and therefore are not employed by the company. The uninsured motorist coverage the company provides will help if the other driver caused the accident, but if your driver is at fault, you may have to file a claim against them. These services deem their drivers independent contractors, rather than employees, so they will try to limit their liability as much as possible.
If you were in an accident involving a Lyft, Uber or Amazon Flex driver, contact the experienced Houston injury attorney Brian White. Brian is a knowledgeable Houston car accident attorney, and will fight to ensure you are fairly compensated for your injuries. Contact Brian White now for your free consultation.