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I’ve Been Involved in a Rideshare Accident— What Do I Do Now?

Ridesharing, or rideshare, has become one of the most popular types of transportation worldwide, specifically 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 alone made 4.98 billion trips in 2020, which estimates to be about 45 rides per second.

A study done by The University of Chicago's Booth School of Business reveals that:

  • Nearly 1,000 daily auto accident deaths are directly related to the growing number of rideshare automobiles on the road
  • Uber vehicles were involved in 97 deadly crashes between 2017 and 2018, resulting in 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 all other methods 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 personal automobile driven by its owner, either for free or for a fee, usually organized utilizing a mobile app or a website. Ridesharing frequently describes carpooling, vanpooling, or peer-to-peer ridesharing.

  • Carpool- A plan between individuals to make a trip in one single automobile, typically with each passenger taking turns to drive the others.
  • Vanpool- A transportation system element that allows groups of people to share rides similar to a carpool but on a larger scale with simultaneous savings in fuel and automobile operating costs.
  • Peer-to-peer ridesharing- A process where existing car owners make their automobiles available for others to rent for a short amount of time.

What is a Ridesharing Company?

A ridesharing company is a company that, through mobile apps and websites, matches passengers with drivers of an automobile for hire that, unlike taxicabs, cannot legally be hailed from the side of the street. The two biggest ridesharing companies are Uber and Lyft.

Ridesharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, have become very popular in recent years, as people are looking for a more affordable and fuel-efficient method to travel. With the increase in technology and the ability to reserve rides right from your smartphone, this industry has proven to be more convenient for many people than the traditional way of hailing a taxicab.

Rideshare Business Model

Uber and Lyft are now ever-present in most U.S. cities, and Uber's imprint is global. Both Uber and Lyft's services resemble that of taxicab services, in which they do not run, own, or control the cars, and they likewise do not hire the drivers themselves. Instead, the drivers are contracted out through these companies to pick up individuals or passengers.

Unlike taxicabs, guests cannot hail an Uber or Lyft; rather, they download the Uber or Lyft app to their mobile phone and arrange for a driver to pick them up at a specific 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 often happen. And rideshares are no different. Similar to other automobile accidents, 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 should begin by filing a third-party claim with the driver's insurance provider. But the question is, will their insurance coverage really cover damages?

When a driver is driving to make money, it gets complicated. Unless the driver has a commercial insurance policy or has bought a ridesharing "endorsement" (provided by Uber and Lyft in select states), the driver's personal automobile insurance policy will not cover the accident. This is due to the fact that the policy specifically states that "the motorist will use the car that is insured only for personal use," and ridesharing is not personal use. Do not be shocked if your automobile insurance provider rejects an accident claim made under a personal policy if the accident took place while a rideshare driver was carrying you (a passenger).

Due to the growing industry and unanticipated accidents, Uber and Lyft have responded to this problematic scenario by offering their drivers' liability insurance, which only kicks in when a driver's personal insurance provider rejects the accident claim. It is crucial to understand that even though it is known that a rideshare driver's personal insurance provider will deny the claim, to still submit a claim with them before you are able to use your liability insurance. No matter the situation, it is possible to hold Uber or Lyft financially responsible for any injuries you suffer when involved in an automobile accident with a rideshare driver (it is likewise comparable if you have been injured while riding in a rideshare automobile).

I’ve Been Involved in a Rideshare Accident—What Do I Do?

Unfortunately, when an automobile is involved in a vehicle accident, in this specific case Uber or Lyft automobiles, passengers can be seriously injured, or even worse, killed. Many of the steps you should take after being in a rideshare accident remain the same as any other automobile accident.

  1. 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 sufficient medical attention as soon as you can. Protecting what might be an injury claim stands at a distant second, but any case you make will only be aided if you can prove that you pursued medical attention not long after the accident.
  1. Report the accident. Although reporting an accident to police (or to a motor vehicle agency) is not the passenger's obligation, 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 seriously injured, it is a good idea to make the rideshare representative aware that a lawyer has already been contacted and that no statements will be made yet.
  1. Gather details about the accident. Details that should be gathered are the names and contact information of all individuals associated with the accident, in addition to any witnesses. Photos should be taken of the accident scene and license plates of all automobiles involved.
  1. Document everything you can remember about the crash. The quicker you can do this, the better. Notes like these can end up being very valuable if you need to explain what happened to a lawyer, police officer, or any other kind of investigator some time after the accident.

Whose Insurance Covers A Rideshare Accident?

Usually, in any kind of passenger injury claim after an automobile accident, the automobile insurance provider 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 automobile insurance provider or the liability coverage offered 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 protection for accidents that take place when driving for a rideshare company.

The liability coverage that both Uber and Lyft offer their drivers differs depending on when the accident takes place:

  • 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 supply liability coverage for an accident that the rideshare driver caused, as much as $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 up the passenger, liability protection increases to $1 million.
  • Period 3: When the rideshare passenger is in the vehicle, ending at drop-off. Liability coverage of up to $1 million, plus limited coverage for any damage to the driver's automobile and uninsured automobile drivers' coverage.

If the non-rideshare driver caused the accident, the injured passenger would file a claim with that driver's personal insurance provider. This claim would be submitted through a third-party automobile insurance claim against the driver who caused the accident's automobile insurance provider or through a personal injury lawsuit.

Nevertheless, it is possible that the non-rideshare driver who caused the accident does not have any automobile insurance coverage or lacks sufficient insurance coverage to pay for your injuries. If this holds true, the injured passenger can file a claim through the rideshare company's uninsured/underinsured driver coverage.

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; however, the big question is, "Whose insurance policy applies to cover these expenses?"

Unfortunately, this is a legal gray area, and it's growing rapidly. Due to 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 obligation is an unrelated issue).

In order for Uber or Lyft to be held legally responsible for a passenger's injuries, there needs to be 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, since rideshare drivers are considered independent contractors for Uber/Lyft, not employees, the implementation of vicarious liability is not a great 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 winds up injured while ridesharing, Uber or Lyft will probably be held financially liable for your injuries. The majority of states require rideshare companies to supply insurance coverage to compensate those that are hurt in a rideshare accident. Although, how much insurance coverage depends upon when the accident takes place and whether you were an Uber or Lyft passenger or a passenger in another automobile.

If you have been hurt in an accident and are a paying rideshare passenger at the time of the accident, the highest coverage you will get from Uber or Lyft automobile insurance coverage, as specified above, is up to $1 million.

On the other side, if you are a passenger in an automobile that is not rideshare but are hit by a rideshare driver, the amount of insurance protection you will get from Uber or Lyft automobile insurance coverage 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 coverage 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 occurred, then each company's insurance coverage 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 automobile, both company's insurance coverage will cover injuries and other losses up to $1 million.

A crucial thing to note is that insurance coverage offered by Uber or Lyft is dependent on the rideshare driver also having a personal automobile insurance policy. It is important to keep in mind that if the rideshare driver caused the accident, you must first file a claim with their personal automobile insurance provider. However, most of the time, no other protection will be available due to the fact that unless a driver has a rideshare endorsement, their personal automobile insurance policy will not cover accidents that occurred while a driver is performing commercial activities, such as driving for a rideshare company like Uber or Lyft.

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 a hurt rideshare passenger typically include the following aspects:

  • 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 most cases, injuries prevent people from working, otherwise limiting someone's capability to make a living for themselves. If injuries prevent someone from working for say three months, then the lost earnings element of a claim will be equivalent to the earnings a person would have made had they worked for those three months.

Generally speaking, past and future medical expenses are simple—an injured person will receive financial compensation for any medical expenses they incurred as a direct result of the accident. Things can become complex when the seriousness of an injury is uncertain, and in some instances, there can be disputes over whether some of the medical expenses were the result of pre-existing injuries.

For example, say an individual has a neck injury that has existed prior to them being injured in a rideshare accident. Then this individual declares that part of the rideshare accident medical expenses involved treatment for their neck. There is the potential that an insurance provider will argue that they will not include compensation for medical expenses connected to neck treatment. When something arises like this, it is essential to have an experienced automobile accident lawyer by your side.

Pain and suffering damages are the most complex to determine in an injury claim due to the fact that 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 submit a rideshare passenger injury claim; however, it will depend upon the approach the automobile insurance provider takes on the claim. In most cases, the reason somebody decides to file a personal injury lawsuit is that the insurance provider for either Uber or 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. Generally, both sides are motivated to settle the claim because they are aware of the costs that come with going to court, as well as the unpredictable outcomes. However, in the rare chance a lawsuit is needed, it is important to consider working with an experienced lawyer to help you navigate the complicated legal process.

I’ve Hired A Lawyer—What Can I Expect?

In the instance that you do file a lawsuit and have already hired a lawyer of your choice, it is a good idea to come to the first meeting prepared. A few of the relevant files you should bring consist of:

  • All records connected to the rideshare accident (email confirmations, credit/debit card invoices, your driver's rideshare profile information, etc.)
  • Medical bills and records
  • Documentation of earnings you have lost
  • Insurance documents, consisting of policies, emails, forms, letters, or any other interaction between you and any insurance company that is included with elements of the accident.
  • Police report (if there is one)
  • Names of witnesses
  • Your personal notes that are associated with the accident, medical treatment, and the impact the accident has had on your life
  • Any other sources of extra evidence

Although the legal process can be scary, the right lawyer can assist you in making it less stressful. Our lawyers at The Cochran Firm are prepared to fight for the compensation you deserve during this unprecedented time. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation initial consultation concerning your rideshare accident claim.

Why Choose The Cochran Firm 

The lawyers at The Cochran Firm are among the nation’s most successful and tenacious lawyers. When navigating through the legal process, you deserve to have an experienced lawyer by your side. The Cochran Firm attorneys know how to fight for you. 

Here at The Cochran Firm, our experienced lawyers are ready to help you or someone you love that has been involved in a ridesharing accident that resulted in injuries. Our lawyers 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 lawyer 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 lawyers have won over $30 Billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients. At The Cochran Firm, we have the offices, the experience, the results, and the resources to aid clients throughout the United States.

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 lawyers at The Cochran Firm today for your free, no-obligation initial consultation today. We serve the entire country with offices in many major U.S. cities.

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