What Happens if I’m Injured in an Accident as an Uber or Lyft Passenger?
Existing in the newly created space between calling a taxi and asking a friend or family member for a ride, Uber and Lyft ridesharing services have seen tremendous growth in the personal transportation economy over the last several years. In many urban and suburban areas, the wait times are often shorter, and the fares are cheaper than calling a taxi when you dial up an Uber or a Lyft to get where you’re going. And though public transportation, such as a bus or a commuter train, may beat Uber and Lyft on price, you’ll likely get to your destination a lot faster with the latter. It’s no wonder they’re so popular.
Because ridesharing is so new compared to these other tried-and-true ways to get somewhere, you may have wondered what happens in the event of an accident. For example, what if you’re a passenger in an Uber or a Lyft and there’s an accident? Who exactly is responsible for paying for your injuries?
Uber/Lyft Drivers and Insurance
In most states, New York included, a driver for Uber or Lyft must maintain an insurance policy on their car that meets the state’s minimum coverage requirements. Unlike taxi cab drivers, Uber and Lyft drivers do not need to maintain a commercial insurance policy for their cars and passengers, (except in New York City, where it is required). A very few Uber/Lyft drivers outside of metropolitan areas like New York City may have a commercial insurance policy in force, but it is highly unlikely.
At this juncture, it is important to point out that an Uber/Lyft driver’s personal insurance policy will not cover injuries sustained by their passengers in the event of an accident, as personal policies have a “business use exception” to their coverage when the driver is engaged in commercial activity. Transporting passengers in exchange for money is certainly a commercial activity in the eyes of insurance companies.
Some, but certainly not all, drivers for rideshare companies may have purchased “gap insurance” also called “Rideshare Insurance,” to cover themselves and their vehicle when they’re actively open to passenger requests or are on their way to pick up a passenger. In this way, the driver’s insurance is extended to their rideshare driving activities and may cover an injury to you while you are a passenger, or if you were accidentally injured by an Uber/Lyft driver before your ride officially started.
Insurance Provided by Uber and Lyft
Both Uber and Lyft provide insurance coverage to their drivers and their passengers in the event of an accident, including:
$1,250,000.00 for bodily injuries to the driver, passengers, pedestrians, people in other vehicles, and property, and
$1,250,000.00 bodily injury coverage for the driver and passengers against uninsured/underinsured motorists.
Note that in an accident where the Uber/Lyft driver is at fault, the company-provided insurance only kicks in after the driver’s coverage is exhausted. This will depend greatly on the amount and type of coverage the driver has at the time of the accident, so you may need to file a claim with both the driver’s insurance and Uber or Lyft’s insurance company.
But what if you’re in an accident as a passenger in an Uber or Lyft and it wasn’t your driver’s fault, but another driver was at fault? In that case, you would be required to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to recover damages for any injuries you’ve sustained. Failing that, you would need to file a lawsuit for personal injuries. This also applies if the accident was caused in some way by a municipality, such as by a city’s failure to maintain a safe roadway.
What about uninsured or underinsured motorists? Although most states require drivers to have an insurance policy in place on their vehicles, as many as one in eight drivers are uninsured. While it is certainly possible to be injured as an Uber or Lyft passenger by another driver who is uninsured or underinsured, Uber and Lyft do provide coverage for this eventuality, as noted above. This coverage would also apply to you, as a passenger, if the driver of the other vehicle is unknown, such as in a hit-and-run collision.
 Note that this figure applies to Uber and Lyft drivers in New York State. Your state may require less coverage.
What Can I Recover if I’m Injured During an Uber or Lyft Ride?
New York State has a No-Fault insurance program for motor vehicle accidents, also known as “Personal Injury Protection.” No-fault covers up to $50,000 in medical expenses, a percentage of any lost wages, and certain other out-of-pocket expenses resulting from an accident, if you were involved in a motor vehicle accident as a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or bicyclist, regardless of who was at fault in the collision. Uber and Lyft provide no-fault insurance coverage both when a driver is active on the app and when that person is transporting passengers.
If you have suffered a “serious injury,” (as defined by law), during an Uber or Lyft ride and someone was at fault, you can also bring a lawsuit to seek compensation for:
- Past and future physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and physical impairment;
- Past and future medical, hospital, rehabilitation, disability, and other healthcare-related expenses;
- Past economic losses including lost wages, salary or income, and property damage;
- Loss of future income due to any long-term disability and permanent diminished earning capacity;
- Punitive damages (for outrageous wrongful conduct); and
- Wrongful death when the lawsuit is brought by the family of the loved one who died.
 Note that this does not apply to motorcyclists.
What if the Coverage Provided by Uber or Lyft isn’t Enough to Compensate Me?
The coverage amounts by Uber and Lyft noted above are on a per accident basis. This means that liability coverage must be shared by all injured parties, including other drivers, passengers, and/or pedestrians. The final amount you receive therefore may not be sufficient to fully compensate you for your injuries.
Uber and Lyft drivers are, in most states, still considered independent contractors, rather than employees. Both companies have gone to great lengths to maintain this distinction, as employers can be held responsible for the negligent acts of their employees, but not for the acts of independent contractors who perform work for them.
If the driver of the Uber or Lyft that you were a passenger in was responsible for an accident that caused your injuries, and the coverage provided by the company was insufficient to cover your losses, it’s possible to sue Uber or Lyft directly, claiming that the company bears some responsibility for its driver’s actions. Case law and state law continue to evolve on this topic, so while it’s an option, it should be considered a last resort and one that you discuss thoroughly with a qualified, experienced personal injury attorney.
Contact the Rideshare Accident Lawyers at Martin, 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 rideshare accident attorneys at Martin, 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.