A Seattle woman was injured in an Uber crash. The Uber driver was not at fault, but the at-fault driver’s insurance company required her to front thousands of dollars in medical bills before it will reimburse her.
“We were nearly to my work at Queen Anne and Mercer when I was rear ended. And I wasn’t rear ended, the whole car was rear ended at a red light,” said Samantha Sieverling.
Sieverling was a passenger in an Uber when it was hit in downtown Seattle.
Her back was injured, but the insurance of the at-fault driver is requiring that she front the costs of her medical treatment.
“And I was just stunned. I was like, what? How can this be?” said Sieverling.
It’s the law. Insurance companies can make victims wait until their treatment is complete before paying.
Sieverling is facing a few thousand in medical costs with no guarantee she will get repaid in full.
“And it was about $250 an appointment for physical therapy. So, let’s say I have to go 10 times, that’s $2,500 right there. So that would have to come out of my pocket,” said Sieverling.
“This is how insurance law works. Insurance companies are going to take care of their insured first and their own bottom line first,” said Steve Valandra from Washington’s Insurance Commissioner’s Office.
Valandra said all victims can do is keep good records and hope for a good settlement.
“If they get the run around, a person may need to hire an attorney to make a claim. A third-party claim against the company to get whole again. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it works,” said Valandra.
Personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer Lee Tucker said that is why so many of these cases end up in court.
“The lawyer has no choice but to file a lawsuit because the injured party can’t afford the medical care that they received,” said Tucker.
As for Uber, it’s drivers have insurance, but do not have no-fault Personal Injury Protection or PIP.
I asked Tucker if it needed to change. “That does need to change,” said Tucker.
Tucker says PIP would pay Samantha’s immediate medical expenses.
“It covers anyone who suffered medical injuries, either by the fault or no fault of someone else, they are always covered,” said Tucker.
In the meantime, Sieverling will have to hope she gets a reasonable settlement or lawyer up.
“What if it is worse and I have thousands or tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of bills? What’s going to happen to someone? I mean, that could bankrupt someone. That could ruin their life,” said Sieverling.
Uber wrote to us showing that it does have a legal level of insurance for drivers and passengers. It’s a million dollar policy if they are at fault.
Tucker said If you have auto insurance you can use your own PIP for cases like this, but not everyone has a car or has auto insurance. Plus, your medical costs could go above PIP coverage.