Uber and Lyft disrupted the transportation industry when they launched in the early 2010s. The rideshare companies match riders with drivers on demand. They offer riders a convenient and cashless way to get around and drivers a flexible way to earn some cash. But the services have also raised legal and safety concerns by blurring the line between personal and commercial driving.
Before you schedule an Uber or Lyft ride, you should know:
If you're involved in a crash while riding in an Uber or Lyft, you should take the same steps you would take after an accident in your own car and report the accident to Uber or Lyft.
Make sure everyone involved in the accident is safe. If anyone is injured, immediately call 911. Try not to move anyone or provide assistance that goes beyond your training. If you're experiencing pain or discomfort, get prompt medical attention right away.
If you've called 911, a police officer will be sent to the accident scene. If you haven't, you or the driver might still want to call the police to report the accident. An officer will speak to everyone involved in the accident and write a police report, which summarizes the officer's investigation. Get the name of the responding officer and an incident report number so that you can request a copy of the report when it's ready.
Exchange names and contact information with everyone involved in the crash. If there are witnesses, get their names and contact information too. Gather evidence to help your car accident claim, including pictures of the accident scene, vehicle damage, and your injuries.
Rideshare companies want drivers and riders to report accidents. Accident reporting forms are available on Uber and Lyft's websites. A rideshare company representative may contact you for a statement about the accident. If you have questions or if you've been seriously injured, you might want to talk to a lawyer before you talk about the accident with anyone.
Write down everything you can remember about the accident. The sooner you can do this, the better. Your notes may be very useful down the road if you have to explain what happened to an insurance adjuster or testify in court about the accident.
Get more tips on what to do after a car accident.
Before Uber and Lyft, drivers on the road were either commercial or personal. If you needed a ride, you could pay a commercial driver, or catch a ride with a personal friend or family member for free. Commercial drivers typically drive work vehicles and have commercial car insurance. Personal car insurance policies don't cover drivers who are transporting passengers for a fee.
Rideshare drivers fall somewhere in between. According to Uber and Lyft, rideshare drivers aren't employees, but rather, independent contractors who drive paying customers in their personal vehicles. An Uber driver might use his personal car to drop off his kids at school in the morning, switch on the app and pick up paying customers for a few hours, and then pick up dinner for his family on his way home in the evening. So, what kind of insurance should rideshare drivers have?
For several years, Uber and Lyft chose not to carry insurance coverage for their drivers. Most drivers had personal policies that didn't cover them when they were engaged in commercial activity. That started to change in 2013 when an Uber driver struck and killed a child in San Francisco. The child's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Uber that led to a new standard in insurance coverage by Uber and Lyft.
Now Uber and Lyft require drivers to carry personal car insurance and offer some commercial coverage of their own when drivers are logged on to the apps. (Learn more about Uber and Lyft insurance coverage. Coverage limits vary by state.)
Just because you were injured in a rideshare accident, doesn't mean Uber or Lyft will automatically cover your damages. Like most car accident claims, you have to show fault for the accident before you can get compensation for your losses.
As of 2022, if you were injured by a rideshare driver who was waiting for a ride request, Uber or Lyft will cover up to:
If you were injured by a rideshare driver when the driver was picking up passengers or during a ride, Uber or Lyft provide up to $1 million in liability coverage. The companies might also offer uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance (UMI) in some states and comprehensive and collision insurance for drivers who maintain the coverage on their personal auto insurance.
If you were injured by a rideshare driver who isn't using the Uber or Lyft app at the time of the accident, you're limited to filing a claim with the driver's personal car insurance. A lawyer can subpoena electronic records to find out whether the driver had the app on or off at the time of the accident.
The driver who is at fault for an accident is typically legally responsible (liable) for paying for accident-related losses. If you're a passenger in an Uber and you break your arm when a truck driver t-bones you, you can file a claim with the truck driver's insurance company, just as you would if the accident had happened when you were driving your own car.
The situation is more complicated when the at-fault driver is under/uninsured or when you're the victim of a hit-and-run. Some states require Uber and Lyft to provide coverage in these situations. Coverage limits vary from state to state.
Learn more about fault and liability for car accidents.
If you've been injured in a rideshare accident, you're probably wondering if you can file a personal injury lawsuit against Uber or Lyft. Rideshare companies, after all, almost certainly have deeper pockets than a typical rideshare driver.
But suing Uber or Lyft directly is complicated. Uber and Lyft classify rideshare drivers as independent contractors, not employees. Companies are more likely to be held legally responsible for the negligence of an employee than for an independent contractor. (Learn more about employer liability for car accidents.)
Nonetheless, you might want to file a lawsuit against Uber or Lyft if, for example:
Each state sets a limit on how much time a person has to file an injury-related lawsuit in court. The limit—called a statute of limitations—varies by state. If you miss the deadline to file your lawsuit, your case will almost certainly be dismissed. Most states give people about one to three years to file a civil lawsuit. Talk to a lawyer if you have questions about the statute of limitations.
The value of your rideshare injury claim depends on many factors, including:
A personal injury damages award typically includes the cost of accident-related medical care—reimbursement for treatment you've already received and compensation for the estimated cost of medical care you'll need in the future because of the accident.
You can get compensation for lost income if your car accident injuries limit your ability to work. For example, let's say you're working as a roofer when your back is injured in a rideshare accident. If your injury prevents you from working for two months and you were earning $4,000 before the accident, you can recover $8,000 in lost income.
Pain and suffering—physical and mental— is difficult to measure and put a dollar value on. Insurance adjusters and lawyers often use the "multiplier method" to calculate pain and suffering damages. An adjuster using the multiplier method adds up your medical expenses and multiplies the total by a number between 1.5 and 4 (called the "multiplier"). Adjusters choose a multiplier based on the seriousness of your injuries and other factors.
For example, let's say that your medical bills are $10,000 and the adjuster decides that the appropriate multiplier for your claim is 2.5. Your pain and suffering damages will be $25,000 ($10,000 x 2.5). Learn more about using a multiplier to calculate pain and suffering and how insurance companies value an injury claim.
Another potential barrier to filing a lawsuit directly against a rideshare company is the terms of service you agree to when you download and use Uber and Lyft apps.
Terms of service are a contract between rideshare companies and their drivers and riders. Uber and Lyft's terms of service require riders to resolve most legal disagreements with the companies through binding arbitration. Exceptions to the arbitration agreement include:
Learn more about the pros and cons of arbitration.
Rideshare insurance claims and lawsuits are more complicated than typical car accident claims. If you think Uber or Lyft might be responsible for your injuries, talk to a lawyer. A lawyer can answer your questions about insurance coverage and liability.
You can be sure that Uber and Lyft have a team of expensive lawyers on their side. Having a lawyer on your side will help you get the best possible outcome in your case.
A car accident lawyer will probably be willing to handle your case on a "contingency fee" basis, meaning your lawyer will accept a percentage of whatever money you receive if you win your case. If you don't receive a settlement or court award, your lawyer doesn't get paid. Win or lose, you might be on the hook for expenses like court filing and copying fees.
Learn more about how an attorney can help with a car accident case.
If you decide to file a rideshare injury lawsuit, or you just want to make sure the rideshare company (or their insurer) is coming to the table with a fair settlement offer, you should talk to a lawyer. But how do you find the right one?
One of the best ways to find a lawyer is to ask for a referral from your friends, family, and coworkers. Even if the attorney you're referred to doesn't have the right experience or can't take your case, chances are someone in the attorney's network might be a good match.
You can also reach out to your local bar association. Many local and state bar associations have attorney referral services that can match you with an experienced rideshare injury lawyer in your area.
Websites like Nolo.com and AllLaw.com have lawyer directories you can use to find a lawyer in your area. You can also connect with a lawyer directly from this page for free.
For more tips on how to hire a lawyer after a car accident, check out: Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer.