Uber and Lyft are relatively new car services that compete with taxis and other car services in several major cities. Uber and Lyft are similar to many taxi services in that they do not own, operate, or control their cars, and do not hire their drivers. Rather, their drivers contract with them to pick up passengers on behalf of the companies. The major differences between Uber and Lyft, on the one hand, and taxis and traditional car services, on the other hand, is their pricing structure and how customers get an Uber or Lyft driver.
Unlike taxis, customers cannot hail an Uber or Lyft driver on the street. Rather, customers download the Uber or Lyft app to their smartphone and arrange for a driver through the app. Pricing for a ride can vary. Some rides can be cheaper than a standard taxi, and other rides can be more expensive than a standard taxi. One unusual aspect to Lyft’s operation is that passengers do not technically pay for their ride. Instead, the drivers are supposed to receive “donations” from their passengers.
Who is Liable If You are Hit by an Uber or Lyft Driver?
As in any car accident case, the person bringing the claim must be able to prove two things in order to win the case: liability (who was at fault for the accident) and damages (how badly the plaintiff was injured). If you were hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, you must be able to prove that someone was negligent in order to have a claim.
The primary defendant will of course be the Uber or Lyft driver. Your most straightforward legal case will be against that person, and it would proceed just like any car accident claim. You would find out who the driver’s insurer is, and then make a claim with the insurer.
The other potential defendant, if you were hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, would be Uber or Lyft themselves. However, one problem in suing these companies is that they are so new that their legal liability for their drivers’ actions is still being sorted out in the courts.
Another problem is that Uber and Lyft expressly disclaim any liability for their drivers’ behavior, contending that their drivers are independent contractors, and that the companies do not control the drivers in any way.
That may well be true, but one potential claim against Uber and Lyft is their selection process for their drivers. To the extent that their selection and vetting process of potential drivers is at all inadequate, a person hit by an Uber or Lyft driver may be able to maintain a claim against the company for negligently permitting a driver to operate a car on its behalf.
Is There Insurance to Cover My Claim?
Insurance coverage is another potential problem in a claim against an Uber or Lyft driver. Although Uber and Lyft require their drivers to have car insurance (which is not necessarily meaningful because almost every state requires drivers to have car insurance) and the companies themselves provide some additional coverage for their drivers, there still may be some significant gaps in the drivers’ coverage.
This is because not all private car insurance provides coverage for accidents that occurred while the car was being operated for hire. So, an Uber or Lyft driver’s car insurer may disclaim coverage for any accidents that occurred while the driver was on call.
Again, Uber and Lyft are so new that the legal aspects of their service are still being worked out in the courts. If you are hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, you should certainly contact a lawyer in your state as soon as possible for sound advice on the driver’s potential liability under your state’s laws.
Learn more about car accidents and car insurance coverage.
What to Do After the Accident — Gathering Evidence
The first thing that you should do after any car accident is get the names and contact information of all of the witnesses to the accident. The second thing that you should do is take pictures immediately. If you have a camera or a camera phone, take as many pictures of the accident scene and the cars involved in the accident as you can, from as many angles as you can, before you leave the scene. If you do not have a camera or are not physically able to take any pictures after your injury, ask if anyone else has a camera and is willing to email you the pictures. Otherwise, have a friend or relative take pictures as soon as possible.
You should also call the police from the accident scene. Many states have a law requiring the police to be informed if a car accident causes bodily injury or more than minor property damage, but, in an accident with a taxicab or Uber/Lyft driver, you will generally want the accident to be officially recorded as soon as possible. Insist that all drivers stay around until the police arrive.
If you’ve been injured by an Uber or Lyft, contact Robert Armstrong as soon as possible.