You call a driver with a rideshare company – probably Lyft or Uber – and the vehicle is involved in an auto accident. You are injured in the crash. On the way to the emergency room, you wonder whose insurance will pay for your medical costs. Will it be the rideshare company (Uber or Lyft or another company) or the rideshare driver or the other driver(s) involved in the crash or you?
People have a range of opinions about calling a Lyft or Uber driver. Some people think ridesharing is the best thing since sliced bread. Others believe it is a tragedy waiting to happen. Some are not so sure due to some of the stories in the news. And others find the whole idea unfathomable.
Are Uber and Lyft liable for accidents?
It is unlikely that any large-scale rideshare company is structured in a way that leaves them liable for accidents. In fact, avoiding liability is part of the business plan that makes these businesses financially successful. The rideshare companies own an idea and an app that is programmed to facilitate communication between a person who needs a ride and another person who can provide that ride. The app facilitates both billing and payment, removing them from the responsibility of the driver. These drivers use their own vehicles, establish their work schedules, and define the terms of their service to a passenger.
Part of the business model and the company’s legal structure is the relationship between the company and its drivers. These companies do not hire their drivers; therefore, they are not employees. Rather, they are considered and treated as independent contractors. The legal point to understand is this: if the drivers are employees of the company, it can be held vicariously liable for the actions of those drivers. But when the drivers are independent contractors, the company is not responsible or liable for their illegal or negligent actions.
Rideshare Companies and Car Insurance
Drivers are required by the rideshare companies to purchase their own car insurance. Uber and Lyft will also supplement the driver’s insurance and provide additional coverage for accidents that occur when the driver is (a) available for a fare through the app or (b) is actively transporting a passenger. It is noteworthy, however, that the rideshare companies require that the driver’s policy must be used first. If the driver’s policy refuses to cover an accident, then the company’s insurance will cover it.
It is important to know about this insurance. Many personal insurance companies deny coverage if an accident occurs while the insured is “driving for hire” in the insured vehicle. In some states, drivers may purchase ride-sharing “endorsements” for their personal policies. These come into play if a passenger files a claim.
In most cases, passengers injured in an accident while a passenger in a rideshare vehicle may recover the same general and special damages (or economic and non-economic damages). A rideshare driver has a legal duty to deliver you safely to your destination.
If you are involved in an accident while a passenger in an Uber or Lyft driver’s vehicle, you should follow the same steps after the crash as you would if you were driving. Take photos, get contact information from bystanders and witnesses, as well as other drivers. Get checked out by your physician or at an Emergency Room and document all injuries resulting from the crash. Then call a trusted auto accident attorney.
Altizer Law, P.C., in Roanoke, VA is a top auto accident law firm. We can help you unravel the liability issues and either negotiate a settlement on your behalf or try a case in court. Bettina Altizer and her expert team have been helping people who have been injured through no fault of their own for more than 30 years. We understand that when rebuilding your life, it’s about the money.