Liability and Ridesharing Collisions: When Are Uber and Lyft Responsible?

These days, most of us know what “ridesharing” is: taking an Uber or Lyft car. Some of us even have Uber or Lyft accounts and use them regularly. These services can be a boon when it’s difficult to locate a traditional taxi, or when we want to save a little money.

But what happens when there’s an accident, and the ridesharing driver appears to be guilty of negligent behavior? We hope that the following information, presented in a concise Q & A format, will help guide you should you suffer injuries in a ridesharing  collision that’s not your fault.

Why Do Ridesharing Accidents Occur?

Crashes involving ridesharing drivers are the same as any other accident, with similar causes: speeding, driving under the influence, failing to yield the right of way, distraction, and fatigue. But the last two reasons deserve special focus.

Fatigue among ridesharing drivers has been spotlighted in a number of articles, because sometimes drivers drive long hours—sometimes as many as 19 hours in a row—to make money. Bonus structures, especially with Uber, are often responsible for pushing drivers to keep going.

Distraction is a special problem for ridesharing drivers, because both Uber and Lyft require drivers to pay close attention to their apps in order to snag the next fare, and they use GPS programs to locate passengers and their destinations. The amount of attention that must be paid to GPS generally goes far beyond any that’s generally required by a non-commercial driver.

Was the Driver Logged Into Uber or Lyft?

One critical fact in any accident involving a rideshare driver is whether the person was logged in to their ridesharing app, regardless of whether it was Uber or Lyft. If the driver was logged in, and was either transporting a passenger or was on their way to a passenger pick-up (“engaged in a ride” is the customary terminology), then the ridesharing company will provide certain financial support.

Usually, you do not seek damages directly from Uber or Lyft, but from the negligent driver. But both companies have the policies listed below to back up the driver, who will probably not be able to pay all the damages. These policies consist of:

  • Coverage of $1 million for damages caused by the ridesharing driver
  • Coverage of $1 million for damages caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver who is not the ridesharing driver (if a non-ridesharing driver was at fault and is uninsured/underinsured)
  • Any needed supplemental coverage for comprehensive and collision insurance policies.

Certain additional provisions can apply:

  • If the ridesharing company is Lyft, they take over as primary insurance provider.
  • If the ridesharing company is Uber, they will cover any rider who is in the car with the Uber driver.

It’s important to note that both companies carry liability insurance through James River Insurance.

What Happens if the Driver Was Not Logged in to a Ridesharing App?

If the driver was not logged in to a ridesharing app, generally the driver’s personal insurance would be responsible if the driver’s negligence caused a wreck. Even though the person may drive for Uber or Lyft, if they were not logged in (that is, actively working for) the ridesharing company at the time of the collision, the ridesharing company is not legally responsible.

What Happens if the Driver Was Logged in but Between Rides?

If the driver was logged in to the ridesharing app and was waiting for a ride request, but not on their way to a passenger and not driving a passenger, generally the ridesharing company will not be liable for damages resulting from negligent behavior. Both Uber and Lyft have policies that fill in the coverage gaps if the driver does not have sufficient personal insurance, but these policies have maximum limits known as “50/100/25,” which means $50,000 for bodily injury per person, $100,000 for bodily injury per accident, and $25,000 for property damage.

RELATED:   Do You Know Maryland’s Right-Of-Way Rules?

But Don’t the Drivers Work for Uber/Lyft?

Both Uber and Lyft classify drivers as independent contractors, who operate under different laws than employees do. For this reason, ridesharing companies can deny or dispute claims unless the driver was either on their way to a passenger pick-up or was driving a passenger to their destination.

What Do I Do After a Ridesharing Accident?

Many, but not all, of the things you will need to do after a collision with a ridesharing driver are the same as with any other motor vehicle crash:

  • Call and report the crash to the police. Use 911 if there are injuries. Your safety and health are paramount.
  • Take photos of the wreck and your surroundings.
  • Locate witnesses and take down their contact information.
  • Obtain the driver’s name and vehicular information, including a photo of their insurance information.
  • If the driver works for Uber or Lyft, be sure you find out whether they were logged in to their ridesharing app and whether they were on their way to a ride or transporting someone, if you were not the passenger.
  • If you are a passenger in a ridesharing vehicle involved in a wreck, take screen shots of all ridesharing documentation, including your receipt, on your phone.

Under Maryland law, both Uber and Lyft can operate in our state with fewer restrictions than are placed on traditional taxis. However, Uber and Lyft drivers are required by law to purchase between $50,000 and $100,000 in liability insurance before they are allowed to begin accepting fares. Be sure to obtain information about the driver’s liability insurance if at all possible.

Keep in mind that, if you are involved in a crash with a negligent ridesharing driver who could be considered “on the job,” it doesn’t matter whether you were a passenger inside the ridesharing car, were driving another vehicle, or were a pedestrian, bicyclist, or even a bystander. If you were involved in an injury-causing crash with a ridesharing vehicle, and you believe you were not the at-fault party, we strongly suggest you contact an attorney who is well-versed in motor vehicle collision liability to discuss your options.

Ridesharing Crash? “The Injury Lawyer” Can Help

The aftermath of a motor vehicle crash can be life-changing for both accident victims and their families. Such injuries can take years of patience and dedication to overcome. If you believe another party was responsible for the injuries or losses you have suffered in a Maryland vehicular accident, we at the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler can help you get your life back on track successfully. Steve has the deep level of experience needed to know the psychological trauma a serious car accident can create, especially when you are not the one at fault. Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims, so you should not delay. Call Steve today for a free initial consultation, or use our confidential online form.