For many Americans, ridesharing services have now become a part of life. Companies like Uber and Lyft provide a mobile app where individuals can offer driving services using their own personal vehicles, and people in need of transportation can hail them. It’s considered a more convenient alternative to traditional taxis and buses, as customers can get rides on demand.
But what happens if you are injured in an Uber or Lyft accident? Who is responsible for paying compensation? The rules of insurance coverage get muddled because of the involvement of a company, its non-employee drivers, and their personal vehicles. Let’s take a look at the complexities of rideshare accidents, and how you may be protected under Ohio law.
Ridesharing Safety: Lyft and Uber Accident Statistics
The rise of ridesharing has led to some safety questions. Is ridesharing safer than regular taxi cabs? How common are rideshare accidents? Several studies have examined these over the years. Some suggest that Uber and Lyft may help reduce drunk-driving, while others say ridesharing vehicles add to traffic congestion.
One 2020 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research had these findings:
- Ridesharing is linked to a 3 percent increase in the number of fatal accidents and fatalities, involving not just vehicle occupants but also pedestrians.
- The 3 percent increase means an additional 987 lives are lost each year.
- In particular, weekend and nighttime accidents rose by about 3 to 4 percent.
Another analysis, published in the Southern Economic Journal, found that:
- Increased rideshare vehicles are associated with nearly 1,000 car crash fatalities daily.
- From 2017 to 2018, there were 97 fatal accidents involving Uber vehicles.
- Those crashes resulted in 107 deaths, of whom:
- 58 percent were drivers or passengers of other vehicles
- 21 percent were Uber riders
- 21 percent were Uber drivers
Researchers note that the effects of ridesharing vary by locality. When we look at Ohio’s figures, the number of OVI (Operating a Vehicle Impaired) arrests decreased to 24,128 in 2018 from 27,347 in 2014, the year ridesharing was introduced in the state.
However, distracted driving became a concern, with 80,000 distracted-driving crashes statewide between 2013 and 2018. Experts say that distraction on the road could be an unintended consequence of ridesharing, as drivers have to look at their phone while searching for passengers or traffic routes.
Regardless of what the statistics say, ridesharing remains a popular mode of transportation. As of 2020, there are about 1 million Uber drivers plus another million Lyft drivers in the US. Yet both companies reported that this year’s ridesharing demand outstrips the supply, especially as cities reopen from pandemic lockdowns and passengers are once again hailing rides.
Ohio Rideshare Law: What is the Accident Coverage of Uber/Lyft?
In December 2015, Ohio passed House Bill 237, a law that regulates rideshare companies statewide. (In legislation, rideshare companies are referred to as Transportation Network Companies or TNCs.)
One of the law’s main provisions was establishing uniform insurance coverage so that people involved in rideshare crashes now have clear coverage guidelines. Under this law, these are the minimum insurance requirements for rideshare services:
- Period 1 coverage (driver is logged on to app but has not found a passenger):
- Bodily injury liability of $50,000 per person, $100,000 per accident
- Property damage coverage of $25,000.
- Period 2 and 3 coverage (driver has “matched” with a passenger or is already carrying a passenger):
- Liability and property damage coverage of $1 million.
Uber and Lyft are among the TNCs whose insurance coverage satisfies Ohio law. Uber’s insurance coverage is as follows:
- Period 1: Bodily injury liability of $50,000 and $100,000 per accident; Property damage of $25,000 per accident
- Period 2 and 3: $1,000,000 third-party liability.
Lyft’s insurance coverage is:
- Period 1: Bodily injury liability of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident; property damage of $25,000 per accident
- Period 2 and 3: $1,000,000 third-party liability.
Despite the law and the coverage structure, injured individuals may still discover that claiming their rightful compensation is not easy. Often, they are faced with well-resourced insurance companies that are experienced in undermining injury claims. At times, claimants also encounter complications with the rideshare driver’s personal and commercial policies. Note that rideshare companies require their drivers to also carry their own auto insurance.
To help you navigate the complex legal area of rideshare injury claims, you’ll want to talk to a Lyft or Uber accident attorney who has experience in rideshare cases.
What Happens If You are in an Accident as a Lyft or Uber Passenger?
If you were injured while riding an Uber or Lyft — or if you were hurt as another motorist or pedestrian — you’re likely wondering: Who is liable to pay for my injuries? Whose insurance applies?
First, you have to determine who was at fault in the crash, because Ohio is a fault-based state when it comes to personal injury. The party who caused the accident is responsible for paying for your losses.
If the rideshare driver was at fault, normally, you would first make your claim against that driver’s own auto insurance. When that is exhausted, Uber’s or Lyft’s insurance coverage would then kick in.
However, getting properly compensated is rarely as straightforward as this. You can expect to encounter challenges in your claim that could delay or minimize your compensation. Take a look at the following scenarios.
An insurance “coverage gap” may exist.
A “coverage gap” is a situation where neither the driver’s own auto insurance nor the rideshare company’s insurance is applicable.
Some ride-hail companies only cover drivers during the time they’ve accepted a ride request on the app or are already carrying a passenger. Their insurance does not include the period when the driver is logged on to the rideshare app but has not yet “matched” with a passenger.
In industry lingo, this no-passenger period is called Period 1, and this is where the coverage gap may happen.
Rideshare drivers are required to carry their own auto insurance. The problem is that many personal auto insurance policies prohibit commercial driving. When a driver logs on to their rideshare app, this may already be construed as driving for hire, thus invalidating their personal auto coverage. And during Period 1 driving, the driver may not be covered by the rideshare insurance either.
In other words, from the time the driver logs on until the time they confirm a passenger, they may not have valid coverage at all. In the event that you are injured by this driver during this period, you’ll find it extremely difficult to get paid for your injuries. The personal auto insurance company might deny your claim because the driver was driving for hire, and the rideshare company may also reject it because your injury occurred during Period 1.
Some companies like Uber and Lyft have since started providing insurance for Period 1 drivers. However, this has not guaranteed fair compensation for people injured in rideshare crashes. Many of them still find it challenging to deal with rideshare insurance carriers, which are known for their methods to minimize or deny injury claims.
Rideshare drivers are not employees of Uber/Lyft.
Traditionally, drivers of public transportation such as taxis and buses are employed by the company they work for. When they get in an accident while on duty, the company’s liability insurance is likely to kick in to pay for injuries.
The ridesharing business model disrupted this. Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare companies do not employ their drivers, but consider them independent contractors. This arrangement allows the companies to distance themselves from accidents, sometimes outright denying their liability.
This is particularly important if you want to pursue a lawsuit for serious injuries. While it is possible to sue Uber or Lyft and potentially get a settlement from them, you’ll need an attorney to help establish their responsibility.
One notable example was a California crash involving an Uber X driver, in which a six-year-old girl tragically died. Uber’s initial reaction was to excuse itself from responsibility, saying the collision “did not involve a vehicle or provider doing a trip on the Uber system.” But the victim’s family pushed on with their lawsuit, alleging that the driver was looking for passengers on the app at the time of the crash. Finally, two years after the tragedy, Uber settled the case.
What Happens If You Get in an Accident While Driving for Uber or Lyft?
The insurance coverage discussed above covers third parties — people who are injured by rideshare drivers. But what if you were injured as an Uber driver? Does Uber or Lyft also cover the injuries of their drivers?
If the collision was caused by someone else, that party will be responsible for paying for the rideshare driver’s injuries. If the at-fault party does not have adequate insurance (or no insurance at all), Uber and Lyft each have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage to pay for the rideshare driver’s medical expenses (up to $1 million per accident).
However, UM/UIM only applies if the accident occurred while the driver is on duty, meaning they have accepted a passenger. A coverage gap may exist if the driver has their rideshare app turned on but has not confirmed a passenger yet.
How to Handle Accidents with a Lyft or Uber Driver
If you are hurt in an accident involving a rideshare vehicle, here’s what to do and what to avoid:
- DO seek medical attention immediately, even if you don’t have visible injuries. Many car accident injuries don’t manifest right away.
- DO report the accident to authorities. Your police report could help your claim later on.
- DO call a lawyer as soon as you can to ensure your rights are protected from the get-go.
- DO document the scene by taking pictures and making notes.
- DO notify Uber or Lyft of the accident.
- DON’T give opinions or guesses when interviewed by authorities. Stick to the facts, and have your lawyer guide you.
- DON’T dismiss your injuries or admit any sort of fault. Even statements like “I’m fine” or “I’m sorry” can damage your claim.
- DON’T make statements to insurance representatives before consulting your attorney.
- DON’T accept any offer or sign any insurance document without your accident attorney’s guidance.
How Much is the Average Uber or Lyft Accident Settlement?
Ideally, the law should enable injured individuals to maximize their insurance settlement in a rideshare claim. But in reality, this is an uphill climb for claimants who are faced with powerful companies.
What is the average settlement amount in an Uber or Lyft accident? Some estimates say that the average rideshare settlement amount is under $15,000 because most injuries are not severe. But there is no official ‘average’ when it comes to Lyft or Uber settlements. Compensation varies widely because they depend on the unique factors of each case and how you negotiate with the insurance company.
One example was a $70,000 settlement in Florida for a Lyft passenger who suffered injuries to the neck, spine, wrist, and ankles after a crash. Meanwhile, an Uber hit-and-run crash in California led to a $750,000 settlement.
You may be entitled to be paid for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include medical bills, rehabilitation expenses, long-term care, and lost earnings. Non-economic damages are pain and suffering, mental/emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, and the like.
To determine what your case is really worth, it is best to discuss it with a reliable personal injury attorney. Look for a lawyer who is knowledgeable on state laws regarding rideshare accidents, and has experience handling claims against major companies.
Contact an Uber or Lyft Injury Attorney in Ohio
Whether you were injured as an ordinary motorist, a rideshare driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian, you can turn to The Fitch Law Firm for legal help for a personal injury. Our firm has won high-value claims against companies and negligent parties in Ohio. We are among the most experienced injury lawyers in central Ohio, with more than 30 years of legal service. Contact us 24/7 by calling (614) 545-3930 or use our online contact form.