What If I’m In a Crash With an Uber or Lyft Vehicle?

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For a few years now, you’ve probably been sharing the roads in New York State with drivers who work for Uber or Lyft, the two most popular ridesharing services.  These drivers are regular people like you who have chosen to use their own personal vehicles to transport passengers to and from their destinations, earning money for each trip as determined by Uber or Lyft.  Uber and Lyft drivers may do this work full-time, part-time, or only on weekends or for special events.  Many rideshare drivers rely on this income to make ends meet, but some do it just for the enjoyment of meeting new people.

Given that ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft are still somewhat new, and operate on a different business model than, say, taxi cabs or limousines, you may have wondered what happens if you get into an accident with a rideshare driver.  You, or someone you know, may have been in an accident with a rideshare driver and are wondering about who pays for personal injuries you or your passengers suffered in such a collision as well as damages to your vehicle. This article will help to provide some insight into this type of accident.

How Are Rideshare Drivers Different from Taxi Drivers?

Taxi and limousine companies consider their drivers employees.  These employees make an hourly wage, plus tips, and can often be eligible to receive benefits such as health insurance or inclusion in a retirement savings plan.  Taxi drivers must also obtain a special license in New York State before being permitted to transport passengers.  Because taxi drivers are on the road much more than the average driver, their risk of being involved in a collision or other accident is much higher.  Therefore, they and their vehicles are insured under a commercial insurance policy from the moment they turn the ignition key to the moment they park the taxi at the company lot.  This level of insurance is costly to taxi cab companies but provides a high level of coverage to the driver, passengers, pedestrians, and other vehicles.  In addition, taxicab companies in New York have to meet specific vehicle safety requirements and perform maintenance and repair on the vehicles they lease to their drivers.

Uber and Lyft, on the other hand, categorize their drivers as independent contractors, not employees.  What this means, in a nutshell, is that rideshare drivers can choose their own hours, decide whether to take a fare or not, and must pay their own taxes on their earnings to the state and federal government.  From a legal standpoint, being an independent contractor also means that the company, be it Uber or Lyft, cannot ordinarily be held responsible for the actions of its drivers, unlike taxicab companies.  Rideshare drivers use their own vehicles, for which they have to maintain state registration and complete state inspection requirements themselves.  In addition, they alone are responsible for maintaining and repairing their vehicles. When it comes to insurance, things get a little more complicated, as discussed below.

What Type of Insurance Do Rideshare Drivers Carry?

In New York State, excluding New York City, drivers are only required to have insurance that meets the state’s minimum requirements to drive for Uber or Lyft.[1]  But that’s not the whole picture.

Uber and Lyft offer additional insurance coverage for their drivers depending upon which “phase” of driving they’re currently in, and there are three phases:

Phase 1

The driver is driving their car with the Uber or Lyft app turned OFF.  In other words, they are not open to picking up and transporting passengers.

Phase 2

The driver is driving their car with the Uber or Lyft app turned ON, meaning they are open to receiving a pickup request, but they have not yet received a request for a ride from a passenger.

Phase 3

The driver is driving their car, the Uber or Lyft app is turned ON, and the driver has received a passenger request and is either on the way to pick them up or is actively driving passengers to their destination.

In Phase 1, only the driver’s personal insurance policy is in effect.

In Phase 2, Uber and Lyft provide minimal insurance coverage only if the driver hasn’t purchased extra coverage, and because they are driving for commercial purposes, their personal insurance policy won’t cover others in the event of an accident.

Uber and Lyft provide the following minimum coverages:

  • $75,000 for the driver’s liability for bodily injury per person,
  • $150,000 per covered accident for bodily injury,
  • $25,000 per accident for property damage for which the rideshare driver is responsible,
  • $25,000 Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection,
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP), also known as “No-Fault” Insurance, as required by state law. ($50,000 per accident Upstate/$200,000 in New York City).

In Phase 3, Uber and Lyft both provide substantial insurance coverage, as required by law, for its drivers, passengers, other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

  • $1.25 million for bodily injuries to the driver, their passengers, pedestrians, people in other vehicles, and property,
  • $1.25 million in bodily injury coverage for the driver and their passengers against uninsured/underinsured motorists, and
  • If the driver has comprehensive & collision coverage already on their vehicle, extra coverage up to the value of the vehicle, with a $2,500.00 deductible.

[1] New York City law requires Uber and Lyft drivers to carry commercial insurance policies, just like taxicabs.

No-Fault Insurance in New York

New York is a “no-fault” state, meaning there is a program in place to compensate people for their losses, up to a certain point, after a vehicle accident regardless of who is at fault.  No-fault, also known as Personal Injury Protection, or “PIP”, covers up to $50,000 in medical expenses, a percentage of any lost wages, and certain other out-of-pocket expenses resulting from a motor vehicle accident.  Uber and Lyft provide no-fault insurance coverage both when a driver is active on the app and when that person is transporting passengers.

To file a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault rideshare driver, (or other entity, such as a municipality for failure to properly maintain their roadways), you must be able to prove that your injuries are “serious” under the law’s definition and therefore will exceed the $50,000 available through no-fault.

Even if your injuries are not “serious,” no-fault insurance providers can often delay, deny, or reduce the benefits you’re entitled to.  Having a qualified personal injury attorney on your side is often the fastest way to recover the no-fault compensation you deserve.

How Do I Know If I Can Sue for Personal Injuries?

Every motor vehicle accident is different, and an accident involving an Uber/Lyft driver adds an extra layer of complexity.  Determining who was at fault in an accident is best left to a qualified personal injury attorney.  An attorney can utilize the legal framework to determine who was at fault, and through a process known as discovery, determine which “phase” an Uber/Lyft driver was in at the time of the accident.  This is critical because, as mentioned above, compensation for your injuries may come from the driver’s personal insurance, Uber or Lyft’s insurance carriers, or a third party, depending on which phase of rideshare driving the Uber/Lyft driver was in when the accident occurred.  Furthermore, Uber and Lyft keep GPS and other electronic records which may be instrumental in proving who was at fault for the accident and can be obtained through discovery by your attorney.

Common Causes of Uber/Lyft Accidents

Although Uber and Lyft have become very popular alternatives to taxis, rideshare drivers are usually much less experienced than cab drivers.  Cab drivers have often been carrying passengers in the same area for years and know the quickest, safest routes by heart, whereas drivers for Uber and Lyft often have to rely on technology, such as smartphones and onboard GPS, to help them get where they’re going.  That means, sadly, that Uber and Lyft drivers may be driving distracted much of the time, whether going to pick up passengers, taking them to their destination, or just driving around aimlessly waiting for a passenger request.  Distracted driving is thus a common reason a rideshare driver may get in an accident.

distracted driver - rideshare driverOther causes include:

  • Speeding,
  • Reckless driving,
  • Drunk driving,
  • Fatigued driving, and
  • Aggressive driving.

Contact the Rideshare Accident Lawyers at Harding Mazzotti, LLP Today

If you or anyone you know has been injured in an Uber or Lyft rideshare accident, or an automobile accident of any kind, the attorneys at Harding Mazzotti, LLP have a wealth of experience in dealing with insurance companies and in protecting your rights to receive the compensation you deserve.  We’re ready to put that experience to work for you.  Contact us today for a free case evaluation by calling 1-800-LAW-1010 (1-800-529-1010). We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take your call or use our convenient online contact form here.

Helping you is what we do.