Who is Liable for UBER, LYFT and Rideshare Accidents?


Rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft are almost ubiquitous these days, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. Uber alone has a global market value of $72 billion and accounts for 40 million rides in the United States every month. With statistics like these, many car accidents are bound to involve rideshare drivers.

Like accidents that don’t involve hired drivers, rideshare accidents can range in severity from barely-noticeable fender benders to life-shattering wrecks. When people are injured or sustain property damage from car accidents, they have to prove two things in order to get compensation: damages and liability.

In many cases, proving damages is relatively straightforward. If your car is damaged in an accident, for example, it’s clear that you will have expenses from the wreck. Similarly, some injuries are easy to detect and medical expenses can be documented. Personal injury lawyers can also ensure that victims obtain compensation for their non-economic losses, like physical and emotional pain and suffering.

However, proving liability can be more difficult, especially when an accident involves a rideshare driver. Whether you were a rideshare passenger, in another car, or were a pedestrian hit by a rideshare driver, it’s important to determine who is legally liable for your accident. Though this is a complex matter, answering these five questions can help you determine responsibility in rideshare accidents.

What Was the Driver’s Status at the Time of the Accident?

Both Uber and Lyft provide insurance for drivers. However, whether that insurance is in effect and the amount it provides depends on the status of the driver at the time of the accident. Determining the mode of the driver’s app at the time of the accident is one of the most critical pieces of building a case in a rideshare claim or lawsuit.

If a driver is on the way to pick up a passenger or is actively transporting a passenger at the time of the accident, the rideshare company’s full coverage applies. Both companies provide coverage of up to $1 million per accident in these cases.

Sometimes Lyft and Uber drivers are logged into their respective apps and waiting on someone to hail their services. If a driver causes an accident in this mode, the rideshare companies still provide liability coverage, but the maximum coverage is much lower.

The moment a driver logs out of his or her respective rideshare app, all insurance coverage from Lyft or Uber ends. Rideshare drivers who are in accidents on their own time must use their personal insurance policies instead.

How Do the State’s Car Insurance Laws Effect Liability?

Legal liability for an accident is different from determining who physically caused the accident to happen. Each state and territory in the United States sets its own laws regarding car insurance and who is legally liable for accidents.

In general, you can categorize states and territories into two types: fault-based and no-fault. In fault-based systems, the driver who caused the accident must use his or her insurance to cover everyone who was hurt as a result of his or her actions. Most states use some version of a fault-based system.

However, Puerto Rico and the following 12 states use some form of no-fault system:

  • Florida
  • Utah
  • Hawaii
  • Pennsylvania
  • Kansas
  • North Dakota
  • Kentucky
  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota

If the accident occurs in one of these states, each driver uses his or her own insurance to cover property damages and non-serious injuries up to a certain limit. If you’re a passenger in a rideshare car in one of these states, your claim will likely be with the rideshare insurance if your injuries are relatively minor.

Each jurisdiction with no-fault rules has a threshold at which fault comes into play. For example, a drunk driver may be fully at fault, even in one of these states. Furthermore, accidents that lead to serious injury or fatality could allow victims to sue for fault in these areas. It’s important to consult a knowledgeable attorney in your area to learn what laws apply.

Who Caused the Accident?

If the accident occurred in a state with a fault-based system or it meets the threshold in a no-fault state, you must then determine who caused the wreck. For example, if another driver ran a red light and hit your Uber driver, the other driver could be liable.

However, many states have proportional liability. So, if the same scenario happened, but your Uber driver was also speeding at the time, both drivers may be liable at different percentages. If you live in a jurisdiction with these rules, you may need to make claims against both insurance policies.

Is Uber or Lyft at Fault?

People who are involved in rideshare accidents often wonder if they can sue Uber or Lyft. After all, if an employee at another company caused an accident, the business insurance may cover the damages. However, the important word here is “employee.”

At the time of writing, both Uber and Lyft classify their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. This relieves the companies of much of the liability for accidents. However, there is a push for drivers to be classified as employees.

There are some cases in which Uber or Lyft may be held responsible for accidents that their drivers cause. For example, if either company fails to fully vet a driver, and then that driver causes an accident, you could successfully sue the company.

Could Any Other Parties Be Liable?

Drivers and rideshare companies are not the only parties who may bear responsibility for your physical and financial pain. If a company or other organization created the conditions that led to your accident, they could be liable. Some examples include:

  • A car manufacturer produces a faulty vehicle and is negligent
  • A bar or restaurant overserves a patron, who then drives drunk and causes and accident
  • A trucking company overworks a driver, who causes an accident from exhaustion
  • A city, county, or state fails to provide signage that warns drivers of road hazards

Call a Car Accident Lawyer Today to Discuss Your Case

An experienced car accident lawyer can help you determine if any of these circumstances or others apply to your case. If you need someone to help you navigate the complex world of rideshare accident liability, find a car accident attorney near you today.

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