Despite those safety expectations, Uber and Lyft drivers still cause many injuries in and around Las Vegas. If you were hit by an Uber or Lyft vehicle or injured as an Uber or Lyft passenger, here’s what you need to know.
Why do Uber and Lyft accidents happen?
Rideshare drivers are, broadly speaking, no different from any other motorists. They are as prone to distracted driving, falling asleep at the wheel, or even driving under the influence as anyone else. However, there are specific characteristics of rideshare drivers that can be particularly dangerous.
It's important to remember that many rideshare drivers work long hours to make ends meet. For some, it’s a second income stream after their day job, meaning they’re transporting passengers when they are already fatigued from a day of work. If driving for Uber or Lyft is their primary source of income, drivers may have to stay on the road for many more than 40 hours a week to earn a living wage. Moreover, there is pressure on drivers to work hours when they can earn the highest fares, and in Las Vegas, because of our vibrant nightlife, that can mean keeping very odd hours indeed and losing sleep. The law allows drivers to stay in driver mode for up to 12 hours in a 24-hour period, which is a long time even if that’s the driver’s only job.
Unlike traditional taxi services, which background-check their drivers’ entire driving histories, Uber and Lyft only look back seven years. That means any given rideshare driver could have had a DUI or other serious violation eight years ago and still be out driving passengers. Moreover, while drivers are expected to use designated pickup and drop-off zones when transporting passengers, some ignore the law in their pursuit of more fares or higher ratings from passengers.
Who pays for your injuries in an Uber or Lyft crash?
The key factor in determining which insurance policy applies to a rideshare accident is the ride-share driver’s status at the time of the accident. Uber and Lyft consider their drivers to be independent contractors, not employees, and require them to have their own personal car insurance in order to drive. (Whether rideshare drivers actually count as independent contractors is legally contentious.) However, most personal insurance policies do not cover motorists while they are “driving for profit.” As such, the rideshare companies carry liability insurance that kicks in to cover those gaps.
There are basically three possible scenarios:
- If the Uber or Lyft driver was driving to pick up a passenger or had a passenger in their vehicle when the accident happened, the ride-share companies’ $1 million liability insurance policy should apply.
- If the driver was signed in to the Uber or Lyft app and waiting for a ride request, the driver’s personal insurance may apply. If it does not, the ride-share companies have supplemental liability insurance with a lower limit: $50,000 for injury to a single person per accident, $100,000 total for bodily injury per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident.
- If the driver was logged out of the Uber or Lyft app and was not picking up or transporting a rideshare passenger, the driver’s personal insurance applies, as with any other car accident.
Note that some insurance companies offer “gap” insurance, also known as “rideshare policies,” for Uber and Lyft drivers in Nevada to make sure they’re covered while offline. However, this coverage is optional.
Also, as with any other car accident, there could be other vehicles involved, each with their own insurance policy. The accident may have even been caused by a mechanical defect or poor maintenance of a vehicle (note that the rideshare companies leave the responsibility for vehicle maintenance to the driver).
This is a potential minefield for victims: when multiple insurance companies are involved, even though they’re ostensibly competitors, they have a shared interest in reducing your payout as much as possible to protect their bottom lines. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to hire an attorney with the experience to navigate and resolve complex cases.
What should I do if I’m involved in an Uber or Lyft accident?
First, as with any other accident, make sure the scene is safe. Call 911 and, unless you must leave to get emergency medical attention, stay until the police arrive. Get the names and contact information of the investigating officer and any witnesses and take pictures of the scene and any visible injuries.
You need to exchange insurance information with the other driver(s) involved, including the relevant Uber or Lyft insurance policy. Be sure to ask the driver if they were logged in to the Uber or Lyft app at the time of the crash, since that affects whether the rideshare company might be liable.
Make sure you get checked out by a doctor right away, whether that’s at the emergency room, an urgent care clinic, or your primary care provider. This is important for your health, and it helps to protect your legal rights. If Uber or Lyft ends up being liable for your injury, they may try to argue that it wasn’t sustained in the accident. Seeing a doctor creates documentation of your injuries that will strengthen your case later. You can report the accident in the Uber or Lyft app, and you should do so (don’t count on the driver to do it), but that shouldn’t be your only report. If you have your own car insurance, notify your insurance company promptly that you were involved in an accident, but keep your comments brief, sticking to the facts of what happened. Direct any further inquiries from any insurance company to your attorney.
Can I sue Uber or Lyft after an accident?
The short answer is “it depends.”
Again, rideshare companies have worked very hard to classify their drivers as independent contractors, not employees, which would mean the legal doctrine of respondeat superior (literally, “let the master answer”) doesn’t apply. If you’re hit by a traditional taxi driver, the taxi company is liable, but if you’re hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, the company will reject the idea that they’re vicariously liable because the driver isn’t an employee. That said, whether Uber or Lyft drivers really should be classified as independent contractors for liability purposes is an ongoing legal battle. If we can prove that the rideshare company’s own negligence led to your accident (for instance, if they failed to conduct a background check that would have alerted them to a known safety concern), then we may be able to hold them directly liable. In other cases, the most we may be able to get is the supplemental insurance coverage the rideshare companies carry. The only way to know your legal options is to explain the facts of your case to your attorney.
What if I was hurt in an Uber or Lyft accident while visiting from out of state?
It’s common for out-of-state visitors to leave their cars at home and rely upon Uber or Lyft to get around Las Vegas. Statistically, nearly one in five visitors use those services when they come here. Even if you aren’t a Nevada resident, you still have rights under Nevada law, and a licensed Nevada attorney can pursue a claim for damages on your behalf.
If you’re an out-of-state client, we can take care of the legal matters here in Nevada while you focus on recuperating back at home. We’ll keep you informed about the progress of your claim, negotiate with insurers on your behalf, and provide electronic and overnight delivery of documents when it’s necessary for you to sign something or keep it for your own records. In many cases, we’re able to resolve cases without the client ever needing to physically return to the state.
How can an attorney help if I’m in a rideshare accident?
The insurance situation in a rideshare accident case can quickly get complicated, and no matter what they say, Uber, Lyft and their insurance carriers aren’t on your side. Their goal is to protect their bottom line, not to compensate victims. You need your own advocate to protect your legal rights and advance your interests.
When you contact us, we’ll listen to your story and seek to understand how the accident has affected your life. Our firm will launch a full investigation to get to the bottom of what happened and establish the rideshare driver’s status at the time of the crash. We’ll build your case for the full and fair compensation you need, and we’ll handle the calls from the insurance companies while you just focus on getting better.
You may be in for a rough ride after a car accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver, but we’re here for you every step of the way. Don’t leave anything to chance; bet on experience. Contact Lasso Injury Law LLC today for your free consultation.