Filing a Lawsuit After an Uber or Lyft Car Accident?

As services like Uber and Lyft have exploded around the country, so has the likelihood of a rideshare-related accident, whether as a rider, the occupant of another vehicle, or a pedestrian.

These incidents can have the same heartbreaking consequences as any other kind of crash, including severe injuries and an overwhelming financial burden. They can also present unique challenges for victims seeking compensation.

The rideshare business model operates under a lot of ambiguities around liability that are still being resolved, which places anyone affected by these accidents in a potentially complicated position when trying to get their damages covered.

However, Uber and Lyft both have a $1 million insurance policy available to cover payouts for rideshare-related accidents that meet specific conditions.

After a collision that involves these services, protect your best interests. A skilled car accident lawyer can explain your legal options and ensure you’re not left dealing with these physical and financial challenges alone.

Understanding the Insurance Coverage For Rideshare Accidents

The process of seeking compensation after a rideshare accident differs from typical collisions due to specific characteristics of the rideshare business model. The companies behind these services structure their policies to limit liability and make it easier to potentially dodge responsibility, such as by classifying their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. However, you still have a range of legal options available, depending on the specific details of your case.

One of the main complications to navigate after these kinds of accidents is understanding the insurance policies surrounding rideshares, which will significantly affect the victim’s ability to cover their damages.

While drivers must carry personal car insurance, these policies typically don’t cover accidents that happen while they’re providing rideshare services.

Uber and Lyft cover their drivers with separate insurance policies, but they only come into effect under certain conditions. Rideshare insurance policies are typically split into four different periods that relate to the driver’s status on the service’s app, and they each come with specific coverage limits.

Period 0: The Rideshare App is Off

The driver’s personal car insurance policy is the only coverage that applies for these types of accidents, so this process follows a more traditional route. The compensation you can recover will depend on the driver’s personal insurance policy details.

Period 1: When The App Is on but the Driver Hasn’t Matched With a Passenger Yet

Once the driver is logged in and available to accept ride requests, they’re considered on the job, and their own insurer would no longer cover any damages resulting from an accident. In these cases, Uber and Lyft would provide limited liability coverage that only comes into effect if the driver’s personal insurance denies the claim or cannot fully cover the victim’s damages.

The standard limits rideshare insurers have for these types of accidents is around $50,000 in bodily injury per person or $100,000 in bodily injury for more than one person in an accident and $25,000 for property damage. Car accident victims in this scenario can have a more complicated claims process because they must deal with two separate insurance companies to get compensation.

Period 2: Ride Accepted, Headed to Pick up Passenger

Experience Lawyer for Car Accident Attorney near NYOnce the driver is en route to picking someone up, they’re actively engaged in providing services for Uber or Lyft. That means they enter a crucial period when the rideshare company’s own liability insurance becomes the primary coverage for damages from any accident, typically up to $1 million. These policies cover any third parties involved with the accident, including pedestrians, cyclists, and the rideshare driver in certain circumstances.

Period 3: Passenger in the Car

The rideshare company’s $1 million liability insurance remains active from the moment a passenger enters the vehicle until they exit at their destination. It also continues to cover any third-party victims from an accident involving their service.

The Types of Compensation You Can Pursue After a Rideshare Accident

After a serious rideshare-related car accident, the biggest priorities for victims and their families are pursuing compensation for their medical bills, lost income, emotional distress, and other difficult consequences from this ordeal.

In the legal context, damages are the losses someone suffers in an accident that another party caused due to negligence.

While personal injury laws can have some essential differences from state to state, most jurisdictions will allow you to pursue compensation for both the tangible and intangible hardships that resulted from a collision involving rideshare services. Examples of the damages you may recover may include:

Economic Damages

Economic damages compensate for measurable financial losses incurred in the accident, to make the victim whole again by reimbursing these expenses, such as:

  • Medical bills for hospital stays, surgeries, medications, physical therapy, and other necessary treatments required by your injuries, including future expenses for ongoing care.
  • Any lost income due to needing to recover from your injuries, including compensation for having a permanently-reduced earning capacity if the accident caused a disability.
  • Property damage that resulted from the crash, such as to your vehicle, smartphone, or laptop.

Non-economic Damages

Non-economic or intangible damages refer to the physical, emotional, and psychological burden of being in a traumatic car accident, which will often be significant.

The main challenge when pursuing compensation for these subjective damages is that they’re much more challenging to prove or demonstrate. However, experienced lawyers use various strategies to substantiate intangible losses effectively, including having the victim keep a personal daily journal detailing how life’s been affected by the accident.

The most common intangible damages are:

  • The physical pain and suffering you’ve endured due to these injuries, both in the immediate aftermath of getting hurt and throughout your recovery.
  • The psychological and emotional effects of the accident and its aftermath, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • The quality of life costs that result from having injuries that prevent you from participating in activities you once enjoyed.

Wrongful Death

The most tragic rideshare-related accidents will result in the death of a passenger, pedestrian, or another person affected by the collision. In these tragic cases, the victim’s surviving family members could pursue compensation by filing a wrongful death claim.

In most states, the relatives eligible for taking this form of legal action would include the deceased person’s spouse, parents, and adult children.

The damages for wrongful death typically cover: 

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Any medical expenses incurred from the accident before the victim’s death
  • Loss of financial support the deceased would have been able to contribute to the household
  • Loss of companionship, love, care, and guidance due to the preventable death of a loved one

Should I File a Lawsuit After a Rideshare-Related Car Accident?

While filing a lawsuit against Uber or Lyft may potentially be an option, it’s actually not an expected outcome. Most rideshare car accidents are resolved outside of court, with the victim accepting a settlement offer, usually after an extended negotiation process. The main exception are cases where the victim sustained severe, catastrophic injuries resulting in overwhelming costs over the rest of their lifetime.

If the settlement offer doesn’t even begin to cover the victim’s extensive losses, an experienced rideshare car accident attorney might recommend a formal lawsuit as the best course of action for securing fair compensation.

The typical steps when taking legal action after a rideshare-related car accident include:

1. Initiating a Claim

The first legal step is having your attorney notify all the parties held liable for your injuries and their respective insurance companies that you intend to seek compensation for your damages.

You may need to file with Uber or Lyft’s insurance, the driver’s personal insurance, the insurance of a third party involved with the accident, or some combination of these options.

Having a lawyer during these early stages is vital because each rideshare company has its own set of protocols for reporting an accident and initiating a claim.

The process may differ depending on the specific circumstances of your accident. For example, in a scenario where the passenger who ordered the services gets injured, report the accident on the app soon after the crash to begin creating a paper trail for your case. Your lawyer will guide you through filing the right type of claim and help you avoid mistakes that can potentially weaken your case further down the line.

2. Gathering and Presenting Evidence

While Uber and Lyft have substantial insurance policies available to compensate victims of rideshare-related accidents, the insurers responsible for making these payouts are known for aggressively contesting claims.

That means the outcome of these types of cases is primarily determined by the strength of the victim’s evidence, from establishing the facts of the accident to substantiating their resulting economic and non-economic damages.

A rideshare car accident attorney can help you gather and present persuasive evidence, such as witness statements, data showing the driver’s status on the app during the accident, and medical records documenting all your treatments.

Evidence in these cases can also take the form of testimony from expert witnesses, such as medical specialists who can provide context for the nature of your injuries and their likely future impact on your health.

3. Negotiating a Settlement

Once your attorney has presented your evidence, the negotiation process can begin. This is the most critical step when pursuing compensation after a rideshare car accident because the case will probably resolve here.

Litigating a court trial is not only very time-consuming but would also cost each side a lot of money in legal fees, which is why there’s a mutual incentive to reach a settlement agreement rather than having a drawn-out courtroom battle.

However, rideshare insurers will typically begin with a meager initial offer by using a range of strategies to undervalue the victim’s claim, such as arguing that the severity of their injuries is being exaggerated. A lawyer with strong negotiation skills can leverage all the evidence prepared for your case, justify higher amounts and respond with counteroffers. The goal is to show that you have a compelling case that could potentially win a substantial award if the claim advances to the point where the parties argue it in court.

4. Preparing for Trial (If Necessary)

Going to trial is generally considered a last resort, but your lawyer may advise you that it’s the best way to achieve a fair outcome if negotiations have stalled and the settlement offer falls significantly short of the victim’s losses.

Again, this is a scenario that’s much more likely to happen when the victim suffers very serious injuries, such as the case of accidents that cause a limb amputation, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, and other injuries where it’s not possible ever to make a full recovery.

Your lawyer will prepare your case for trial by gathering additional evidence, consulting with expert witnesses, and preparing a detailed strategy for presenting your case in the most compelling way possible.

How a Rideshare Accident Lawyer Can Help You?

Andrew Finkelstein Attorney for Car Accident

Andrew Finkelstein  Car Accident Lawyer in New York

After a serious car accident that involved an Uber or Lyft vehicle, you’re likely facing an overwhelming range of challenges, from trying to recover from your injuries to the overall disruption to your life. While navigating the legal aftermath of these accidents will present unique challenges, you absolutely have options for reimbursing your damages.

A personal injury attorney in New York who understands these cases can make all the difference in helping you recover the resources you need to move on with your life.