Ridesharing, or rideshare, has become one of the most popular forms of transportation globally, especially in large U.S. cities like San Francisco, New York City, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and many more. In fact, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have collectively made 11 billion trips in the United States since they launched in 2009 (Uber) and 2012 (Lyft). Uber made 4.98 billion trips in 2020 alone, which works out to be about 45 rides per second.
A study done by The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business shows that:
- Almost 1,000 daily car crash deaths are directly related to the growing number of rideshare vehicles on the road
- Uber vehicles were involved in 97 fatal crashes between 2017 and 2018, leading to 107 deaths
- 21% of those accident victims were the rider
- 21% of those accident victims were the driver
- The remaining 58% of those accident victims were third-party drivers or passengers
The unfortunate truth is that, like any method of transportation, accidents are going to happen. And rideshare accidents are no exception.
What is Considered a Rideshare?
According to Oxford Languages, ridesharing is an agreement where a passenger travels in a private vehicle driven by its owner, for free or for a fee, usually arranged using an app or a website. Ridesharing often refers to carpooling, vanpooling, or peer-to-peer ridesharing.
- Carpool- An arrangement between people to make a trip in one single vehicle, usually with each passenger taking turns to drive the others.
- Vanpool- A transportation system component that allows groups of people to share rides similar to a carpool but on a larger scale with simultaneous savings in fuel and vehicle operating costs.
- Peer-to-peer ridesharing- Process where existing car owners make their vehicles available for others to rent for a short amount of time.
What is a Ridesharing Company?
A ridesharing company is a company that, via mobile apps and websites, matches passengers with drivers of a vehicle for hire that, unlike taxis, cannot legally be hailed from the side of the street. The two largest ridesharing companies are Uber and Lyft.
Ridesharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, have become extremely popular over the past few years, as individuals are looking for a more economical and fuel-efficient way to travel. With the increase in technology and the ability to reserve rides at the touch of a button, this industry has proven to be more convenient for most people than the traditional way of hailing a taxi.
Rideshare Business Model
Uber and Lyft are now ever-present in most U.S. cities, and Uber’s imprint is worldwide. Both Uber and Lyft’s services are similar to that of taxi services, in which they do not operate, own, or control the cars, and they also do not hire the drivers themselves. Instead, the drivers are contracted out through these companies to pick up individuals or passengers.
Unlike taxis, passengers cannot hail an Uber or Lyft; instead, they download the Uber or Lyft app to their smartphone and arrange for a driver to pick them up at a particular location by interacting with the app. Pricing often varies for rides; however, one controversial aspect of ridesharing is “surge” pricing, where prices are boosted when the demand for rides increases.
Rideshare Accident Liability
Like any other form of transportation, accidents happen often. And rideshares are no different. Just like any other car accident, the person filing a claim must be able to prove two things: liability and damages. When you are involved in an accident with another driver, and they are the ones at fault, you must start by filing a third-party claim with the driver’s insurance carrier. But the question is, will their insurance cover damages?
When a driver is driving to make money, it gets tricky. Unless the driver has a commercial insurance policy or has purchased a ridesharing “endorsement” (made available by Uber and Lyft in select states), the driver’s personal car insurance policy will not cover the accident. This is because the policy explicitly states that “the driver will use the vehicle that is insured only for personal use,” and ridesharing is not personal use. Do not be surprised if your insurance carrier denies any car accident claim made under a personal policy if the accident happened while a rideshare driver was transporting you (a passenger).
Due to the growing industry and unforeseen accidents, Uber and Lyft have responded to this problematic scenario by offering their drivers’ liability insurance, which only kicks in when a driver’s individual insurance carrier denies the accident claim. It is vital to understand that even though it is known that a rideshare driver’s personal insurance carrier will deny the claim, to still submit a claim with them first to be able to use your liability insurance. No matter the circumstances, it is possible to hold Uber or Lyft financially responsible for any injuries you suffer when involved in a car accident with a rideshare driver (it is also very similar if you have been injured while riding in a rideshare vehicle).
I’ve Been Involved in a Rideshare Accident—What Do I Do?
The unfortunate truth is that when a vehicle is involved in a car accident, in this particular case Uber or Lyft vehicles, passengers can be severely injured, or even worse, killed. Many of the steps you should take after being involved in a rideshare accident remain the same as any other vehicle accident.
- Seek necessary medical treatment. Your health should always come first, so if you see any signs of pain or discomfort after being involved in an accident, make sure you seek adequate medical attention as soon as you can. Protecting what could be an injury claim stands at a distant second, but any case you make will only be helped if you can show that you pursued medical care soon after the accident.
- Report the accident. Although reporting an accident to law enforcement (or to a motor vehicle agency) is not the passenger’s responsibility, the passenger will still want to report the accident to the rideshare company. Both Uber and Lyft have specific accident reporting procedures in place.
A rideshare company has representatives that passengers may contact to hear the passengers’ perspective of the accident. If a passenger has been severely injured, it is a good idea to let the rideshare representative know that an attorney has been contacted and that no statements will be made yet.
- Collect information about the accident. Information that should be collected is the names and contact information of all individuals involved in the accident as well as any witnesses. Pictures should be taken of the accident scene and license plates of all vehicles involved.
- Write down everything you can remember about the crash. The sooner you can do this, the better. Notes like these can become exceedingly helpful if you have to explain what happened to an attorney, police officer, or any other type of investigator some time after the accident.
Whose Insurance Covers A Rideshare Accident?
Typically, in any type of passenger injury claim after an automobile accident, the car insurance coverage of the individual that caused the accident will apply to the passenger’s injuries.
If the rideshare driver caused the accident, the passenger would likely file a claim either through the rideshare driver’s personal car insurance policy or the liability coverage provided to drivers by Uber or Lyft. The majority of the time, it will be the Uber or Lyft liability coverage that applies, but the rideshare driver could have a commercial insurance policy or a personal insurance policy with special endorsements that provide coverage for accidents that occur when driving for a rideshare company.
The liability coverage that both Uber and Lyft provide for their drivers varies depending on when the accident occurs:
- Period 0: Neither company will provide coverage when a driver is not logged into the Uber/Lyft app.
- Period 1: When the driver is logged into the Uber/Lyft app but has not yet accepted a ride, both companies provide liability coverage for an accident that the rideshare driver caused, up to $50,000 per individual hurt in an accident, $100,000 total injury liability per accident, and $25,000 property damage liability.
- Period 2: When the driver has accepted a ride and is on the way to pick the passenger up, liability coverage increases to $1 million.
- Period 3: When the rideshare passenger is in the car, ending at drop-off. Liability coverage of up to $1 million, plus limited coverage for any damage to the driver’s car and uninsured motorists’ coverage.
If the non-rideshare driver caused the accident, the injured passenger would file a claim with that driver’s personal insurance policy. This claim would be filed via a third-party car insurance claim against the driver who caused the accident’s car insurance carrier or through a personal injury lawsuit.
However, it is possible that the non-rideshare driver who caused the accident does not have any car insurance or lacks adequate insurance coverage to pay for your injuries. The injured passenger can file a claim through the rideshare company’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage if this is the case.
Who is Responsible for a Rideshare Passenger’s Injuries?
If you are hurt as a rideshare passenger, your injuries will most likely be covered by insurance, but the big question is, “Whose insurance policy applies to cover these costs?”
Sadly this is a legal gray area, and it’s growing rapidly. Because of the legal relationship between Uber/Lyft and their drivers, these companies generally do not have legal liability for injuries that are the result of a rideshare accident, no matter who caused the accident (financial responsibility is an unrelated issue).
In order for Uber or Lyft to be held legally liable for a passenger’s injuries, there has to be a primary or vicarious liability.
- Primary Liability: the company was negligent itself or acted in a wrongful way in relation to the accident.
- Vicarious Liability: the principal entity (such as an employer) is held legally responsible for the wrongful behavior of one of its agents (such as an employee).
However, because rideshare drivers are considered independent contractors for Uber/Lyft, not employees, the implementation of vicarious liability is not a good fit when the rideshare driver caused the accident.
This contrast makes a big difference for Uber and Lyft because they can avoid legal responsibility for their driver’s behavior and save lots of money by paying fewer taxes, providing practically no benefits to their drivers, all while avoiding the workers’ compensation insurance scheme.
That is on the legal side; however, on the practical side, if a passenger ends up injured while ridesharing, Uber or Lyft will most likely be held financially responsible for their injuries. Most states require rideshare companies to provide insurance coverage to compensate those that are harmed in a rideshare accident. Although, how much insurance depends on when the accident happens and whether you were an Uber or Lyft passenger or a passenger in another vehicle.
If you have been injured in an accident and are a paying rideshare passenger at the time of the accident, the maximum coverage you will receive from Uber or Lyft car insurance coverage, as stated above, is up to $1 million.
On the other side, if you are a passenger in a vehicle that is not rideshare but are hit by a rideshare driver, the amount of insurance protection you will receive from Uber or Lyft car insurance will depend on the working status of the rideshare driver:
- If the Uber or Lyft app were off at the time of the accident, the rideshare company’s insurance would not apply. Instead, you need to file a claim through the rideshare driver’s personal insurance policy.
- If the app was on, but the Uber or Lyft driver was waiting on a ride request when an accident happens, then each company’s insurance will apply, but limited coverage will be much lower.
- If the app was on and the rideshare driver was on the way to pick up a passenger, or a passenger was already in the car, both company’s insurance will cover injuries and other losses up to $1 million.
An important thing to note is that insurance coverage provided by Uber or Lyft is dependent on the rideshare driver also having a personal car insurance policy. It is crucial to remember that if the rideshare driver caused the accident, you must first file a claim with their personal car insurance company. But in most cases, no other coverage will be available because unless a driver has a rideshare endorsement, their personal car insurance policy will not cover accidents that occurred while a driver is performing commercial activities, such as driving for a rideshare company such as Uber or Lyft.
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What is a Rideshare Passenger Injury Claim Worth?
The value of a personal injury claim comes from the extent of the injured person’s injuries and other losses they have experienced. Losses (or damages) as an injured rideshare passenger generally include the following elements:
- Lost income
- Past and future medical bills, and
- Pain and suffering
Lost income plays a role in determining the value of an injured person’s claim because, in many cases, injuries prevent individuals from working, otherwise limiting someone’s ability to make a living for themselves. If injuries prevent someone from working for say 3 months, then the lost earnings element of a claim will equal the earnings an individual would have made had they worked for those 3 months.
Generally speaking, past and future medical expenses are straightforward—an injured person receives financial compensation for any medical bills they incurred as a direct result of the accident. Things can become complicated when the seriousness of an injury is unclear, and in some instances, there can be disputes over whether some of the medical expenses are the result of pre-existing injuries.
For instance, say an individual has a neck injury that has existed well before they are injured in a rideshare accident. Then this person claims part of the rideshare accident medical expenses involved treatment for their neck. There is the potential that insurance companies will argue that they will not include compensation for medical expenses related to neck treatment. When something arises like this, it is crucial to have an experienced auto accident attorney by your side.
Pain and suffering damages are the most complicated to determine in an injury claim because it is tough to put a monetary value on those types of losses.
Does a Rideshare Passenger Injury Lawsuit Need to Be Filed?
It is not necessary to file a rideshare passenger injury lawsuit; however, it will depend on the approach the car insurance company will take on the claim. In most cases, the reason someone decides to file a personal injury lawsuit is that the insurance company (Uber/Lyft) is not making a reasonable settlement offer.
The fact of the matter is that it is rare for a rideshare passenger injury claim to lead to a lawsuit. Usually, both sides are motivated to settle the claim because they know the expenses that come with going to court as well as the unpredictable outcomes. However, in the rare chance, a lawsuit is necessary, it is important to consider hiring an experienced attorney to help you navigate the complex legal process.
I’ve Hired An Attorney—What Can I Expect?
In the instance that you do file a lawsuit and have already hired an attorney of your choice, it is a good idea to come to the first meeting prepared. Some of the relevant documents you should bring include:
- All records related to the rideshare accident (email confirmations, credit/debit card receipts, your driver’s rideshare profile information, etc.)
- Medical bills and records
- Documentation of income you have lost
- Insurance documents, including policies, emails, forms, letters, or any other communication between you and any insurance company that is involved with aspects of the accident
- Police report (if there is one)
- Names of witnesses
- Your personal notes related to the accident, medical treatment, and the impact the accident has had on your life
- Any other sources of additional evidence
Although the legal process can be daunting, the right attorney can help make it less stressful. Our attorneys at The Cochran Firm Cleveland are ready to fight for the compensation you deserve during this unprecedented time. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation initial consultation regarding your rideshare accident claim.
Why Choose The Cochran Firm Cleveland
The attorneys at The Cochran Firm Cleveland are among the nation’s most successful and tenacious attorneys. When navigating through the legal process, you deserve to have an experienced attorney by your side. The Cochran Firm Cleveland attorneys know how to fight for you.
Here at The Cochran Firm Cleveland, our experienced attorneys are ready to help you or someone you love that has been involved in a ridesharing accident that resulted in injuries. Our attorneys work closely with each of our clients using pooled resources and their access to legal expertise to ensure the most effective legal representation available is provided.
You need the help of an experienced attorney who has proven successful results in other similar cases to guide you through the process and help you to receive the monetary damages you are entitled to under the law. Our attorneys have won over $30 Billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients. At The Cochran Firm Cleveland, we have the experience, the results, and the resources to aid clients throughout northeast Ohio.
If you’re looking for an experienced rideshare accident lawyer to help you pursue justice for your medical costs, lost work, lasting injuries, and more, please contact our attorneys at The Cochran Firm Cleveland today for your free, no-obligation initial consultation today. 216-333-3333.