What happens if I am hurt in a collision involving Uber, Lyft, or another rideshare company?
Rideshare companies (like the two most common ones, Uber and Lyft) have created a new kind of "car and driver for hire." They are becoming more popular than taxi companies as a preferred mode of transportation. But rideshare drivers have accidents too. People who have been injured in rideshare collisions are facing new legal challenges.
Usually, the rideshare passenger uses the app to contact a driver who is "online." Once the passenger is in the rideshare car, he or she is usually covered by the company's auto liability policy, which has high limits and provides underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage. The two well-known companies say they provide $1,000,000 of coverage.
This coverage protects the passenger, whether or not the rideshare driver is at fault for the accident. It will also apply to the driver of the other car, or his passengers, if the rideshare driver (a) has a passenger and (b) is at fault for causing the accident. Here are some possibilities:
- A rideshare passenger could be injured by the rideshare driver's negligence or fault.
- A rideshare passenger could be injured in a two-car collision, where it is NOT the rideshare driver's fault.
- A rideshare driver could be injured, either while "online" using the app, with or without a passenger, or offline, alone in the car.
- A driver or passenger in another car could be injured by a rideshare driver, while he is "online" driving a passenger, or is between passengers, or is "offline."
- The rideshare driver could hit a bicyclist or a pedestrian.
If you were injured in an accident involving a rideshare driver, you may be covered by the rideshare company's insurance policy, as well as the driver's personal auto insurance policy, and possibly your own underinsured motorist coverage. However, in addition to who was at fault for the accident, your claim may be met with rideshare company defenses and insurance company defenses.
Rideshare companies try to classify their drivers as "independent contractors," rather than "employees." Generally, an employer is responsible for the actions of employees during their course of employment, but a company is not responsible for the actions of an independent contractor. The rideshare company may try to use an "independent contractor defense" to deny liability for the actions of a rideshare driver.
Rideshare company coverage may also depend on whether the driver is "online" or "offline.
The rideshare company's insurance may be available if a rideshare driver is "online" with the app, has been matched with a rider through the app and is carrying a passenger.
If a rideshare driver is "online" but in between trips and waiting to be matched with a passenger, then the company's large policy may not apply. In addition, the driver's personal auto policy may deny liability if it has a coverage exclusion when a personal vehicle is being used for commercial purposes. Ideally, rideshare drivers will have their own commercial auto liability insurance policy. The rideshare company may also provide some secondary liability insurance with limits of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident.
If the rideshare driver is "offline," the rideshare company's insurer will probably deny liability. Coverage may be available only through the driver's personal auto insurance policy. This policy may deny liability if it finds that the driver has failed to disclose that he or she was using the car as a rideshare vehicle.
If you were using a rideshare company, such as Uber or Lyft, and you were injured in an accident, the experienced attorneys at Jacobs & Dow will help you deal with the insurance coverage issues so you can recover the compensation you deserve for your injuries, medical expenses, and lost wages as the result of the accident.