The rapid growth of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft brought the taxi industry to its knees and ultimately forever changed the way we get around. In fact, in 2016 alone, Uber and Lyft had a combined 52 million active riders per month. In 2017, Uber gave four (4) billion rides. To put that in further context, if you combine all Uber trips taken in the past five (5) years, the total distance would equal a trip to Saturn and back! With all these rideshare vehicles on the road, accidents are inevitable.
As in any car accident case, the person bringing the claim must be able to prove two things in order to receive compensation: liability (who was at fault for the accident) and damages (how badly the claimant was injured). There is a common misconception that ridesharing falls under “common carrier” law, similar to taxis, buses, trains, and other modes of public transportation. Under common carrier law, the carrier is automatically deemed at fault in an accident unless proven otherwise. However, Uber and Lyft are NOT considered common carriers, and therefore your recourse after an accident is to go after the driver of the vehicle.
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. In Pennsylvania, all vehicle operators are required to carry a minimum of $5,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and $15,000 in Bodily Injury Liability Coverage. However, both Lyft and Uber provide additional liability coverage for their drivers: keep in mind the driver MUST be logged into the Uber/Lyft app.
• When the driver is not logged into the app, no additional coverage.
• When the driver is logged into the app, but has not accepted a ride request, Uber/Lyft provides liability coverage for any accident that is the fault of the driver, up to $50,000 per person injured, $100,000 total injury liability per accident, and $25,000 in property damage liability.
• When the driver has accepted a ride, Uber/Lyft provides liability coverage in the amount of $1,000,000 for death, bodily injury, and property damage.
This inconsistency in coverage is why you may sometimes encounter an Uber or Lyft driver asking if you need a ride that you didn’t request; enabling them to skirt the system and can carry lower coverage Therefore, never accept a ride without going through the company’s rideshare app. Keep in mind the additional coverage is only applied as needed. For example, the driver’s personal insurance will likely pay any third-party claim first, up to the driver’s policy limits, and then Uber/Lyft’s coverage will pay any amount left over between the value of your claim and the driver’s personal policy limits, if applicable.
Because Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors, you should handle an accident just as you would any other vehicle accident: get names, insurance information, take photos, and ask any witnesses for their contact information too. As previously stated, if you do decide to bring forth a claim, just as with any automobile accident, you would need to be able to prove liability (that the rideshare driver was at fault) and damages (that the rideshare driver’s negligence resulted in an injury).
It’s always best to consult with an attorney experienced in automobile accidents immediately following the incident. If you’ve been in an accident with a rideshare driver, talk to the experts at Wilk Law.