Uber and Lyft compete with (and typically come out on top of) taxis and other car services in most major cities in the U.S., and Uber's imprint is worldwide. Uber and Lyft are similar to many taxi services in that they do not own, operate, or control their cars, and do not hire their drivers. Rather, their drivers contract with these companies to pick up passengers. The major differences between Uber and Lyft, on the one hand, and taxis and traditional car services, on the other hand, is their pricing structure and the manner in which customers "hire" an Uber or Lyft driver.
Unlike taxis, customers cannot hail an Uber or Lyft driver on the street. Rather, customers download the Uber or Lyft app to their smartphone and arrange for a driver by interfacing with the app. Pricing for a ride can vary. Some rides can be cheaper than a standard taxi, and other rides can be more expensive. One unusual (and often controversial) aspect of Lyft’s operation is "surge" pricing, which boosts fare rates when the demand for rides increases.
As in any car accident case, the person bringing the claim must be able to prove two things in order to get compensation: liability (who was at fault for the accident) and damages (how badly the claimant was injured). If you were hit by an Uber or Lyft driver (or injured as a rideshare passenger), you must be able to prove that someone was negligent in order to have a claim.
If the negligent party was an Uber or Lyft driver, your most straightforward case will be against that person, and it would proceed just like most other car accident claims. The trick is figuring out whose insurance will apply to your claim: the driver's or the rideshare company's.
It's an uphill battle to try to hold Uber or Lyft liable for a car accident caused by one of their drivers, but it's also largely a moot point, since these companies have recently started carrying liability car insurance coverage for their drivers. So, legal responsibility aside, it's entirely possible to hold Uber or Lyft financially responsible when you're a non-negligent driver in an accident caused by an Uber/Lyft driver.
Uber and Lyft require all of their drivers to have personal car insurance that meets or exceeds state minimums for liability coverage, even though the driver's personal policy probably won't provide coverage when they're driving for Uber/Lyft. Most personal (non-commercial) car insurance policies exclude coverage when the policyholder is driving for hire. So, what happens when an Uber/Lyft driver causes an accident?
Both Uber and Lyft provide liability coverage for their drivers, and the companies have adopted very similar policies, with coverage that varies depending on when the accident occurs:
Note: It's rare, but when an Uber/Lyft driver has his or her own commercial liability insurance, or if their personal car insurance policy specifically covers ridesharing, Uber's/Lyft's coverage will probably only act to supplement that coverage. Specifically, the driver's personal insurance will likely pay your third-party claim first, up to the driver's policy limits, and Uber/Lyft's coverage will pay any amount left over between the value of your claim and the driver's personal policy limits.
The first thing you should do after a car accident is get the names, contact information, and insurance details of everyone involved, and ask any witnesses for their contact information too. Next, take as many pictures of the accident scene, the vehicles, and anything else relevant to the accident -- from as many angles as you can -- before you leave the scene.
You should also call the police from the accident scene. Many states have a law requiring that law enforcement be alerted to any car accident that causes bodily injury or more than minor property damage, but, in any accident involving an Uber/Lyft driver, you will generally want the accident officially investigated as soon as possible, so that a police report is generated.
Uber and Lyft -- and the rideshare-by-app marketplace -- are well-established, but legal issues related to these services are still being worked out in the courts. If you are injured in an accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver, especially if your losses are significant, you might want to discuss your situation with a car accident lawyer.