Ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft have exploded in popularity in recent years. These services offer customers, called riders, an inexpensive and safe way to get around without driving. But when an Uber or Lyft car is involved in an accident, liability may be difficult to prove. Learn what you need to know about liability for these accidents if you've been injured in an accident when using a ride-sharing service.
Rideshare services function similarly to a taxi, but they do not fall under the same laws and rules that taxi companies do. The rideshare company itself does not provide the actual cars and drivers to riders. Instead, the company offers a way to connect riders with independent contractors who are driving their personal vehicles. Because of this difference, the way an Uber or Lyft accident is handled can differ greatly from the way a taxi accident would be handled.
WHO IS LIABLE FOR AN UBER OR LYFT ACCIDENT?
It may be simple to say that the rideshare company is responsible for your injuries. As a customer using their service, this may seem like an easy solution. Unfortunately, liability for these accidents typically isn't so straight forward. Because of the way that Uber and Lyft are structured, drivers are not employees of the company. Taxi drivers typically are employees of the taxi company. Because of their classification, taxi companies are responsible for the actions of their employees while they are on duty. Typically, the taxi service would be liable for passenger injuries. Uber and Lyft operate differently, however.
Drivers for rideshare services are not classified as employees but are instead classified as private contractors. This distinction is important because a company is not responsible for accidents involving a private contractor. Because of this, Uber or Lyft are protected from liability. Both companies do have extensive insurance policies, however.
RIDESHARE SERVICE INSURANCE COVERAGE
Coverage through these policies depends on whether a driver is carrying a passenger, available to pick up passengers, or is unavailable to pick up passengers.
Unavailable for Rides
If an Uber or Lyft driver is on their own personal time and is not accepting riders through the service, they are covered by their own personal insurance. They are not by Uber or Lyft's policies during this time. If you are in an Uber or Lyft vehicle and are not a fare-paying passenger, your injuries will be covered by the at-fault driver's insurance. For instance, if you are riding with a friend who drives for Lyft or Uber, but they are off-duty, and your friend causes an accident, you should be able to make an injured passenger claim against your friend's insurance. You will not be able to make a claim against the rideshare service's insurance since you were not using the service at the time of the accident.
Available for Rides
When a driver is waiting to pick up passengers, but there are no riders in the car yet, they are considered available for rides. The driver is covered by the rideshare service's insurance policy, but only under specific circumstances. The driver's personal insurance policy must first reach its policy limit before the company's insurance will kick in. The driver must request this additional coverage.
Carrying a Rider
The rideshare company's $1 million insurance policy will be the primary coverage once a driver has accepted a ride request until the ride has finished. During this time, accidents will be covered by the company's policy, as well as a personal commercial policy that covers ridesharing, if the driver has such a policy. Third parties, such as pedestrians or bicyclists, are also covered under the company's policy.
It is possible that these claims may be denied by the rideshare company's insurance. It's not uncommon for claims to be denied by the company's insurer. Insurance companies are dedicated to avoiding making payments for accidents. If a driver was drunk or driving recklessly, it still may be difficult for a rider to make a claim and recover compensation, due to the fact that drivers are not considered employees of the company.
If a rider's claim is denied by the company's insurer, they have several options. One is to bring a lawsuit against the rideshare company directly. Another way is to seek compensation from the driver's personal insurance company. This may be ineffective since many insurance policies will not cover a driver who is using their personal car for work. The third option is to bring a lawsuit against the driver. This may not be the most effective route, as the amount you can claim may be limited by the driver's assets.
GET HELP WITH YOUR CLAIM
Our Rhode Island car accident attorneys can help you fight for the compensation you deserve. Taking on a large rideshare company can be a challenge, but our experienced attorneys will guide you through the process. Our team has the resources and support to ensure that your case is handled efficiently and comprehensively. We can help you pursue compensation through every means possible.
At Inman & Tourgee, we are backed by more than 125 years of collective experience, and we are dedicated to providing high-quality legal representation and personalized client service for every client. Don't wait to begin your case and recover the compensation you deserve.
Contact our firm today to schedule a free case evaluation. Call (401) 823-9200.