For most people, Uber and Lyft (or ridesharing apps) have become integral to modern life. This is especially true if you live in a larger city. People utilize these ridesharing apps for convenient rides, when they do not want to worry about parking, or when they simply do not want to (or cannot) drive themselves. With the emergence of Uber Eats, people now also hire ride-share services simply to get a meal. Ridesharing has revolutionized modern cities and changed the way that many of us travel where we want to go.
The Different Ways that an Uber or Lyft can be Liable in an Accident
Most states require Uber and Lyft to maintain insurance policies to cover damages in the event of an accident. In Texas, both Uber and Lyft maintain $1 million in liability insurance to third parties, and maintain policies to protect their own drivers. Texas law also requires Uber & Lyft drivers, like all other drivers, to maintain an insurance policy for accidents.
If you were injured by an Uber or Lyft, you might question: who do I sue? Does the rideshare driver become liable? Is the ridesharing company liable? This will all depend on how the accident occurred.
You are hit by a vehicle that was driving for Uber or Lyft
This could occur whether your own vehicle was hit by a vehicle that was driving for Uber or Lyft, or if you were a pedestrian that was hit by a vehicle being driven for Uber or Lyft. The same is true if you were a passenger in a vehicle that was hit by another vehicle being driven for Uber or Lyft. If the Uber or Lyft driver was at-fault for the accident, then you may be able to bring claims against Uber or Lyft. The common scenarios that we see include the following:
- You are driving your vehicle when an Uber or Lyft crashes their vehicle into yours;
- You are a passenger in a family or friend’s vehicle when an Uber or Lyft driver crashes into your family or friend’s vehicle;
- An Uber or Lyft driver crashes into another vehicle, and the other vehicle then crashes into the vehicle you are a driver/passenger in;
- You are a pedestrian (walking, riding a bicycle, or other non-motorized vehicle) and an Uber or Lyft driver crashes into you;
In any of these circumstances, you will want to investigate whether Uber or Lyft is liable for your injuries and/or property damage. A few things you must consider when you analyze who to bring claims against:
- Was the Uber or Lyft driver “offline?” This means that even though you see an Uber or Lyft sticker on the vehicle, or you find out that the other vehicle was employed by Uber or Lyft, the driver was not in the process of searching for customers when the accident occurred.
- Was the Uber or Lyft driver “available” or “waiting for a ride/delivery request?” This means that when your accident occurred, the Uber or Lyft driver had their app turned on and was actively seeking work, but had not yet received a notification or request to pick up a passenger or pick up a meal for delivery.
- Was the Uber or Lyft driver in the process of an Uber or Lyft “trip?” This could mean that when you were hit, the driver was en route to picking up a passenger or picking up a meal for delivery. This could also mean the driver had a customer or meal in their vehicle and was transporting the customer or meal to its destination.
- Was the Uber or Lyft driver at fault for the accident? This is likely true if you were not at fault for the accident and were driving safely, or if you were following pedestrian laws and were hit by an Uber or Lyft.
If the Uber or Lyft driver was “offline” at the time of your accident, you will not likely have any potential claim against Uber or Lyft. In this scenario, you will likely only have a claim against the other driver individually. Uber and Lyft carry different levels of insurance policies for accidents that occur when their drivers are “online” and “awaiting trips” versus when their drivers are in the process of a “trip.” Therefore, it is important to understand these facts when you get in an accident.
You are a passenger in an Uber or Lyft vehicle that is involved in an accident
In this scenario, you would have been riding as a passenger in an Uber or Lyft when an accident occurred. Obviously, if this occurs, you would know that the Uber or Lyft driver was in the process of a “trip.” The main consideration in this circumstance is whether the Uber or Lyft driver was at fault for the accident:
- Was the Uber or Lyft driver at fault for the accident? Did the Uber or Lyft driver hit another vehicle? Did the Uber or Lyft driver hit a structure such as a road median, curb, light pole, tree, building, etc.? Was the Uber or Lyft driver operating safely when any of these things occurred? If you believe the Uber or Lyft driver was at fault for the accident, then you need to investigate further.
- Was another driver on the road at fault for your Uber or Lyft accident? If another driver on the road caused the accident when you were a passenger in an Uber or Lyft, your claims will most likely be directed at that other driver.
Things You Should Do when Accidents Occur with Uber or Lyft
There are certain measures you should take both before getting into a Lyft or Uber, and once an accident occurs. Utilizing these measures can make a substantial difference in the outcome of any claims you may file in the event you suffer injuries.
Before Starting a Trip with an Uber or Lyft
- Confirm and Save the Driver/Vehicle’s Identity. Once you have requested a trip in your app, the app will update you and provide the make/model and color of the vehicle. It will also show the license plate number. The apps provide this information for your safety. However, once you get inside the vehicle, this information is sometimes not retrievable. We recommend taking a screenshot or otherwise saving this information when you take a trip. This information can be highly useful if you are unable to get the information after an accident.
- Confirm the Driver is Who They Say They Are. Along with the make/model, color, and license plate of the vehicle, the apps typically provide a first name and photo of the driver. You should always confirm the license plate matches the vehicle and that the photo matches the driver. We recommend asking for the driver’s license of the driver for your safety.
After An Accident Occurs
There are many steps you should take if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, generally. Below is a list of things you should do prior to contacting an attorney if you are involved in an Uber or Lyft related accident.
- Make sure you are safe. If you’ve been involved in an accident, the first thing you should do is ensure that you, your family, or other occupants of your vehicle are ok. You should also make sure the driver/passengers of the other vehicle are ok. Of course, you will not be able to do this if you are incapacitated or have lost consciousness. You should also attempt to move out of any major roadway or busy traffic to avoid secondary collisions. If immediate emergency medical treatment is required, contact emergency services immediately. If you are able to speak with those involved in the accident, proceed to the next steps.
- Get a copy of the driver’s license. Whether you were hit by an Uber or Lyft, or hit by another vehicle, it is important to get a photo or write down the driver’s license information of the other driver.
- Take photographs. You should take photographs of the accident scene. This includes the collision points on each vehicle, the surrounding environment, the other driver, and the license plate of the vehicles involved. You should also take photographs of your injuries if you are able to, including bruising, lacerations, broken bones, etc.
- Speak with witnesses. If witnesses are available, speak to them about the accident. Record them (if they allow you to) and get their contact information.
- Preserve dashcam video. If you have a dashcam – save the video and do not allow it to get recorded over. If the Uber or Lyft driver has a dashcam, request a copy of it immediately.
- File a police report. The best way to get an accurate recording of the events is through a police report. If you are injured or feel pain, it is important to let the police officer know this information for their report. This can be significant evidence in your potential case.
- Seek medical treatment. If you are severely injured, contact emergency services to transport you to a hospital. Often a police officer will summon emergency medical services if the injuries are severe. If you do not use emergency services and are in pain, then get yourself to an emergency room for evaluation. It is important to get evaluated and start treatment quickly when involved in a motor vehicle accident, no matter how severe your injuries are.
Most importantly, if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident involving an Uber or Lyft, you should contact an auto accident lawyer immediately for a free, confidential consultation. Our attorneys at Morrow & Sheppard LLP regularly handle motor vehicle accident cases, commercial vehicle accident cases, and Uber or Lyft accident cases. We are familiar with insurance companies and the law surrounding these types of cases, and have the experience to help you bring claims for your injuries.