By Logan Quirk
Every time you ride as a Lyft passenger, you’re at risk of getting hurt in an accident. There are a lot of similarities between a Lyft accident and any other one where you’re a passenger. The at-fault party is responsible for paying for your injuries. The question is whether the responsible party is the driver or the rideshare company.
How Ride-Sharing Has Impacted Auto Insurance
People in more than 600 cities across the United States now have the option to use Lyft for their transportation. The popularity of the rideshare platform has led to an impressive increase in the company’s growth and expansion. For passengers, it’s a fast and convenient way to get a ride that costs less a taxi. It’s also a way to get the type of ride a person needs, from low-costi shared rides to luxury rides for special events.
Lyft drivers also enjoy several benefits. They have the option to supplement their income by driving during their spare time. Flexible scheduling allows them to drive a few hours each day or make a full-time career out of working for Lyft.
Rideshare giants like Lyft and Uber have been around for less than a decade. In many ways, their services mirror those provided by taxi services. Even when taxis flooded city streets, passengers often found themselves asking who was at fault whenever they were in a taxi accident. It’s still a question that taxi passengers ask today. But the complexity of the system has made things even more confusing when it’s a Lyft passenger who gets injured.
When You Get Injured in a Lyft Accident
If an accident happens while you’re riding in a Lyft vehicle, don’t sit back and let the driver take control of the situation. It’s important to take the right steps just like you would with any other car accident.
– If you or anyone involved in the accident needs immediate medical attention, call 911.
– Call law enforcement to the scene and request a police report.
– Use your cell phone to take photos of the scene, the damage to the vehicles, and any factors that might have contributed to the accident.
– Speak with the other driver, passengers, and any witnesses. Write down their names and contact information and gather insurance information from your driver and any other driver involved in the wreck.
– Contact Lyft and inform them that you were a Lyft passenger during an accident.
The question of who will pay compensation for your injuries and other damages depends on who is at-fault for the accident. Even if it seems obvious that one driver caused the accident, it’s impossible to know for certain at the scene. This is especially true in states like California which observe a “comparative negligence” law. That means that both drivers might be found partially at-fault for the accident. If that happens, you will have to file a claim with both insurance companies.
In any other car accident, the insurance company of the at-fault driver pays. But insurance isn’t the same with Lyft vehicles as it is with normal passenger cars. Depending on the situation, the Lyft driver, another driver, or Lyft’s insurance company might be responsible for paying you compensation.
Getting Compensation to Pay for Your Injuries and Damages
The debate over whether rideshare drivers are employees or independent contractors has been ongoing since the time that the rideshare platform first emerged. Different states and their courts have come to a range of decisions about the companies’ argument that their drivers aren’t employees. According to this argument, the company would not be liable for any injuries or damages that occurred to their passengers.
The debate over liability also extends to the area of insurance coverage. Drivers’ personal auto insurance doesn’t cover their vehicles while they use it commercially, meaning that their insurance doesn’t protect passengers in case of an accident. As independent contractors, the drivers are responsible for accidents caused by their own negligence.
The insurance companies base their coverage and premiums on the individual driver’s risk. Someone who drives commercially has a much higher risk of having an accident than someone driving only for their personal use. When an accident does occur, there is more likely to be a claim by one or more passengers. The increased risk of high payouts is why insurance companies will cancel a driver’s personal insurance policy when they find out they are driving commercially.
Early on, the problem for drivers who were working for Lyft to make some extra needed cash was that commercial insurance costs a lot more than personal insurance. They ended up with the choice to get more insurance than they really needed at a price they couldn’t afford or hoped their insurance company didn’t find out they were driving for Lyft. But having a personal auto insurance policy is a requirement for driving for Lyft. Once the company contacted the driver’s insurance company, they would cancel their policy.
How Insurance Works with Ride Share Drivers Today
Personal insurance companies that don’t offer special rideshare policies or riders will still drop their clients if they begin driving commercially. But many offer special policies or endorsements that cover certain phases of their work. The problem has always been one of Lyft drivers not always being “at work” and not always using their vehicle for their own personal use. Today, insurance companies look at the different phases of the driver’s job differently with regards to coverage.
Adding an endorsement to an existing insurance policy is always going to cost more. The added premiums are a drop in the bucket compared to the potential cost of an uncovered accident. For the driver, the liability for an injured passenger or other drivers or passengers is excessive. They also don’t have coverage to pay for their own vehicle and injuries.
As a Lyft passenger, you are less likely to get the compensation you need for your damages and injuries. Most Lyft drivers don’t have the kind of cash needed to pay these kinds of expenditures.
A rideshare endorsement is a better alternative that protects everyone during certain phases of the ride. If the Lyft driver has a rideshare endorsement on their personal insurance premium and they are at fault for the accident that caused your injury, they might provide some or all of the compensation you deserve.
Lyft’s Liability Insurance Coverage
After realizing that the rideshare endorsements offered to drivers weren’t always adequate, the company stepped in and offered insurance protection of their own. Lyft has third-party liability coverage that pays up to $1 million for personal injuries and property damage per accident.
Lyft insurance is contingent on the driver’s phase of service when the accident occurred. While it doesn’t protect the at-fault driver during any phase of the accident directly, it does give a Lyft passenger a more dependable resource for getting compensation. Lyft insurance doesn’t cover the driver’s injuries or property damage. But it does provide coverage for a Lyft passenger who sustains injuries during a rideshare accident.
Even though Lyft offers liability insurance to passengers, the process for filing a claim isn’t straightforward. Lyft’s insurance coverage is “contingent” on the driver having personal coverage. If the Lyft driver is at-fault, a claim must be filed with their personal auto insurance first. Lyft requires drivers to have personal insurance to drive for them. Any claims will go to the driver’s insurance company first. The driver’s personal insurance is always considered the primary insurance coverage. If the insurance company denies the claim or the coverage isn’t enough to pay all the damages, then the claim goes to Lyft’s insurance.
The driver’s insurance company will deny the claim unless they have a ride-sharing endorsement or the appropriate commercial insurance coverage. Most personal auto insurance policies contain a “business use exception” that doesn’t cover damages and injuries caused by the driver when they were driving for profit.
Another potential avenue of recovery is the company’s $1 million uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage also pays up to $1 million per accident, but only when the driver is unknown, doesn’t have car insurance, or they don’t have adequate coverage to pay for your injuries.
Both the liability and UIM coverage apply any time you are riding as a passenger in a Lyft vehicle.
What if the Lyft Driver Isn’t At-Fault?
In any at-fault state like California, the driver who caused the accident is liable for damages. In a comparative negligence state, also like California, two or more persons might share the liability. The Lyft driver might not be liable at all, or they might share some of the liability. If another driver caused the wreck, their insurance company is responsible for paying for your losses. If the other driver and the Lyft driver share liability 50:50, then each is responsible for half of the total compensation you receive. If the Lyft driver isn’t at fault, then they or the rideshare company don’t have any liability. You must file your claim with the other driver’s insurance company.
When the Insurance Coverage Isn’t Enough
No matter which direction you must go to get the full amount of your compensation, you will have to deal with at least one insurance company. One thing that all insurance companies have in common is that they want to pay out as little as possible. When an accident involves multiple parties, it’s not uncommon for them to try and put the blame on someone else.
If the Lyft driver is at-fault and their insurance doesn’t cover your losses, your claim will go back to Lyft’s insurance company. But what do you do when their coverage isn’t adequate or they won’t pay? You might have to go after Lyft directly. Proving the company’s liability in a lawsuit is difficult due to the company’s insistence that their drivers are independent contractors and not employees.
Before filing a lawsuit against the rideshare company, make sure you pursue every other avenue. It’s still a good idea to talk with a personal injury lawyer early in the process. They can explain your rights and help you determine a fair value for your case. There are also important time limits that you don’t want to miss. Insurance companies often drag their responses out so that claimants will exceed the time allowed to file a claim. Missing this statute of limitations will result in your forfeiting your rights to pursue compensation.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
A personal injury lawyer knows the tactics used by insurance companies to prevent paying claims. They also know your rights and how much compensation you deserve. Having a personal injury attorney on your side can help you get the compensation you need. If you have mounting medical bills and lost income from missed work, you don’t have time to wait. The injuries from any car accident can impact every area of your life. The person or company at-fault for those injuries is responsible for the cost of your medical bills.
An experienced personal injury attorney will negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf. They won’t settle for a payment that isn’t sufficient for your injuries. They also know where to look for hidden assets so that you can collect compensation from the at-fault driver.
The majority of personal injury cases get settled without going to court. Once the insurance company realizes that you have a personal injury attorney representing you, they are willing to come to a reasonable agreement. If they don’t, your attorney is familiar with the evidence in your case. They will represent you aggressively in court to ensure the most favorable outcome possible.
If you have been injured as a Lyft passenger, contact Quirk Law Group to a consultation. The sooner you get legal representation, the more solid your claim will be. Lyft and other rideshare companies have changed the options offered to commercial drivers today. One constant that remains is their practice of avoiding payouts whenever possible. Let us help you get the justice you deserve.