Can I Still File a Claim if the Ridesharing Driver Was Not at Fault for the Accident?
The popularity of ridesharing platforms like Uber and Lyft has surged, so accidents involving these services, unfortunately, are not uncommon these days. After an Uber or Lyft accident, however, a gray area appears when determining who pays for damages, especially when the rideshare driver is not at fault and liability lies with the other vehicle involved in the accident.
Who’s Covered by What? The Basics of Insurance in Ridesharing
The Rideshare Company’s Insurance
Both Uber and Lyft provide their drivers with a commercial insurance policy. This insurance coverage kicks in under specific conditions. If a rideshare driver is involved in an accident while waiting for a ride request or while transporting passengers, the rideshare company’s insurance typically comes into play.
However, there are distinctions in coverage based on the driver’s status. If an Uber or Lyft driver has not accepted a request and gets into an accident, the rideshare company will not offer limited liability coverage. Once a ride request is accepted, and until the passenger exits the vehicle, the rideshare company’s insurance offers more comprehensive coverage, which includes liability, bodily injury, and property damage.
Personal Car Insurance and Its Limitations
Many believe that their personal insurance will cover them no matter what. This belief can be misleading. For an Uber driver, for instance, personal car insurance might not provide coverage, especially if the policy doesn’t include ridesharing or commercial activities. A driver can find themselves in a tricky situation if they solely depend on their personal insurance.
Rideshare drivers operate in a hybrid space. They’re not entirely personal drivers, nor are they traditional commercial drivers. They use their personal vehicles for both personal reasons and for transporting passengers. Due to this, many personal car insurance policies consider driving for Uber or Lyft as a commercial activity and may not cover accidents during this time.
Determining Fault in a Rideshare Car Accident
In Texas, we operate under a “fault” car insurance system. This means the driver who caused the car accident is responsible for any resulting harm, and, traditionally, their liability coverage pays the damages for anyone injured in an accident for which the covered driver is at fault.
However, in an accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver, things can become more intricate. Even if Uber or Lyft drivers aren’t at fault, passengers, other drivers, or pedestrians might look to the rideshare company for compensation due to their larger insurance policy limits, especially if the insurance provider for the at-fault driver doesn’t cover the damages.
Let’s consider an example. If a driver hits an Uber driver who has a passenger inside, the at-fault driver’s insurance company should cover the damages. If the other driver doesn’t have enough insurance – or any at all – the rideshare company’s insurance can step in, but only if the rideshare driver’s app was on and they were in “driver mode.”
The distinction here is vital: if rideshare drivers aren’t logged into the driver app or are using their vehicle for personal reasons, then the rideshare company’s insurance won’t usually apply. Uber and Lyft classify their drivers as independent contractors and one of the key things that makes someone an independent contractor is the freedom to choose when and where to work.
Interactions Between Insurance Providers
When a rideshare accident occurs, multiple insurance companies may become involved. Understanding how these interactions play out is crucial for anyone seeking compensation.
Primary vs. Contingency Insurance
In situations where the rideshare driver is not at fault for the accident, the at-fault party’s insurance is expected to be the primary source of compensation. However, if this insurance falls short or is non-existent, Uber and Lyft have contingency insurance that can help cover the damages.
This means that while the other party’s insurance is the primary go-to, the rideshare company’s insurance acts as a backup, covering accident-related losses, medical bills, and property damage.
Communicating with Multiple Insurance Companies
Should you find yourself in an accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver, be prepared to communicate with multiple insurance companies. Even better? Have them communicate with your lawyer.
While the other driver’s insurance provider should be the first point of contact, it’s also wise to report the accident to the rideshare company and your own insurance provider.
Always consult with an experienced car accident attorney before providing any recorded statements or signing documents. They can guide you on the best course of action.
When and Why to Sue Uber or Lyft
Suing Uber or Lyft directly can be challenging due to the classification of their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. This distinction normally shields these rideshare companies from direct liability in accidents.
Because Uber and Lyft classify their drivers as independent contractors, the rideshare companies can argue they are not directly responsible for their driver’s actions, especially if the driver followed all company policies and was not at fault for the accident.
There are only a few scenarios where you might be able to sue Uber and Lyft. If the Uber or Lyft app was causing a distraction, for example, if you have reason to believe they did not properly vet the driver involved, or if you find a driver was not following their policies, and they were negligent in enforcement, you might have a reason to go after the rideshare services. However, it’s imperative to get a lawyer involved immediately to protect your rights, give you the right advice, and help you in proving liability.
Consider Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer in Bryan, TX
If an accident victim believes they aren’t receiving fair compensation from insurance policies, they might consider filing a personal injury lawsuit. This approach is particularly relevant if the at-fault driver lacks sufficient insurance coverage and the victim’s losses exceed what’s covered. However, instead of suing Uber or Lyft, the suit would typically target the at-fault driver directly.
Bodily Injury and Property Damage in Rideshare Accidents
Accidents can result in a range of consequences, and you should be properly compensated for all your losses. Each of these factors plays a role in determining how much compensation might be available.
If you sustain injuries in a rideshare crash, the injury liability coverage from the at-fault party’s insurance should help cover medical expenses. In situations where the Uber or Lyft driver isn’t at fault and the other driver’s insurance isn’t sufficient, the rideshare company’s insurance may cover the rest.
Coverage for this type of loss will help repair or replace damaged vehicles or other properties. In a scenario where a Lyft driver isn’t at fault for an accident, the other driver’s insurance should cover these costs. If that insurance isn’t sufficient or non-existent, once again, the rideshare company’s insurance can play a role.
These damages are for pain and suffering and other non-quantifiable losses you may sustain after an accident.
Navigating the Aftermath of an Accident with a Rideshare Driver
When an accident includes a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft, unique complexities arise that require special attention. Following these steps will help you get the best result:
- Safety First: As with any car accident, ensure everyone involved is safe. If needed, seek medical attention immediately. Don’t underestimate your injuries; some might not manifest symptoms right away. If you’ve been badly injured, don’t attempt to do any of the other things on this list. Get medical help right away. Be sure to offer help to anyone else who has been seriously injured before following the rest of the steps on this list.
- Document the Accident Scene: Capture photos of the accident scene, including vehicle damage, license plates, and any other relevant information. This documentation can be pivotal when proving liability later.
- Exchange Information: Gather insurance information from all parties involved, not just the rideshare driver. Remember to get the rideshare driver’s personal insurance details, and check if they were logged into the Uber or Lyft app during the accident.
- Witness Statements: If there are any witnesses, collect their contact information and statements. They can provide a neutral perspective on how the accident unfolded.
How Rideshare Companies Respond to Accidents
Both Uber and Lyft have specific protocols when one of their drivers gets involved in an accident. Typically, once the driver reports the accident via the driver’s app, the rideshare company will reach out to gather more details.
As someone affected by the accident, you might also be contacted by the rideshare company or their insurance provider to give your account and provide evidence.
Insurance policies, whether they’re from personal providers or rideshare companies, have set limits on how much they’ll pay out for specific claims. An Uber driver might have a personal car insurance policy with a bodily injury liability limit of $50,000, but when driving for Uber, the company’s commercial insurance policy might offer a limit of $1 million.
These variances in coverage limits can significantly impact the amount you might receive if you’re a victim in a rideshare accident. It’s essential to know the limits of all insurance policies involved.
The Role of Underinsured or Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Sometimes, the at-fault driver may not have insurance or might have insufficient coverage. In these instances, if the victim has underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage in their personal insurance, it can fill in the gaps.
This type of insurance is especially beneficial when the damages surpass the at-fault driver’s insurance limits.
Pursuing Compensation: Legal Pathways and Challenges
The pursuit of fair compensation can be a challenging journey, especially when multiple insurance providers, policies, and parties are involved. Having an experienced lawyer by your side can make all the difference.
Your lawyer can guide you through the legal complexities, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve, even when the other driver was at fault and when coverage limits vary.
If you’ve been involved in an Uber or Lyft Accident, get in touch with the law office of Brian C. Gutierrez in Bryan, TX, at 979-271-5338 right away. We’re dedicated to helping you navigate Texas law and the complexities of rideshare situations as you seek compensation for your injuries and losses.
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If you have been injured in a car accident in College Station, Bryan, Madisonville, Huntsville, Buffalo, Caldwell, Navasota, Buffalo, Rockdale, Hempstead, or Brenham, it is important to speak with a lawyer who can help you understand your rights and guide you through the claims process. At the Law Office of Brian C. Gutierrez, Attorney Brian Gutierrez is committed to providing personalized legal services for victims of car accidents. When you work with our firm, you are working directly with Attorney Gutierrez. Our clients are like family—contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about the services we offer.
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