What Should You Do If You Are Injured in an Uber or Lyft Accident?
By Zachary Mushkatel on July 8, 2016
In November 2012, AZ Tech Beat announced Uber officially arrived in Phoenix. Uber is not the only ridesharing service in the region, however. Lyft also is used in the Phoenix area as well as other, lesser known services, such as Total Transit.
Ridesharing services are similar to taxis. Drivers answer calls, pick up riders and take them to their location of choice. While most cab drivers are employees of a cab company and use company vehicles, rideshare drivers typically are classified as independent contractors and use their own vehicles. The ridesharing service company provides an app for both users and drivers. All the user need do is simply press a button on his or her phone to get a ride.
Many people hail ridesharing services for revolutionizing the way that people get around. Rideshare services, in particular, can often be cheaper than taxis. Others are critical of ridesharing services, citing safety concerns as the reason. These people contend that qualification standards for ridesharing drivers are not as high as they are for taxi drivers. They similarly argue that drivers of privately owned vehicles are not held to the same inspection standards as taxi drivers. Another concern regards the question of liability for ridesharing drivers involved in car accidents. Many people are unsure about where to turn for recovery of their losses.
How Safe Are Uber and Lyft?
A few years ago, the CATO Institute issued a report that looked closely at the safety of ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft. The report concluded that “there is little evidence that share economy services are more dangerous than traditional taxis” and that “concerns about the safety risks of ridesharing are overblown.”
The report delved into two major issues that many have with ridesharing services: Driver backgrounds and vehicle inspections.
As far as driver qualifications, CATO noted that Uber uses professional drivers with chauffeur’s licenses for its black car service, while it uses “any car owner who passes Uber’s background checks” to use the UberX app to pick up passengers. Lyft does not require a chauffeur’s license. Like UberX, Lyft drivers must pass a background check as well.
Both background checks generally go back seven years and look at whether a prospective driver has any prior convictions for DUI and other major traffic violations such as reckless driving or hit-and-run. The companies also check for prior violent or sexual offenses. Uber and Lyft use outside firms to conduct these checks, according to CATO.
Although neither Uber nor Lyft screens drivers by using FBI fingerprint checks, the CATO report notes that such checks have been criticized for being “incomplete or inaccurate.”
“It cannot be reasonably claimed that an UberX or Lyft driver who has been cleared through a thorough background check is more of a danger to passengers than a taxi driver in most of America’s most populous cities,” the CATO report concludes.
In terms of vehicle inspections, CATO reports that Uber does not require vehicle inspections. Instead, the company reviews photos of a vehicle before a driver is approved. Uber also requires that all drivers use a 2004 model year vehicle or a newer one. Lyft requires an in-person vehicle inspection before drivers are approved.
It is important to note that Arizona passed ridesharing regulations in 2015. As summarized at AZCentral, the regulations require the companies to conduct background checks and perform vehicle inspections. The companies must also maintain a zero-tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use by drivers and drivers must carry $250,000 in liability insurance.
Does Insurance Cover Injuries Caused by Uber and Lyft Drivers?
While the new regulations in Arizona are aimed at preventing ridesharing accidents from happening in the first place, the question remains: What can you do if you are injured by a negligent Uber or Lyft driver?
Consider the following situations and the potential coverage that would be available to a victim:
- You are a passenger injured in a crash where the Uber or Lyft driver is at fault. Uber and Lyft both maintain policies where they provide $1 million in liability insurance to their driver per So, if you are a passenger, you can file a claim under this insurance policy, which is designed to pay for any injuries caused by the driver. You are a third party – another motorist, pedestrian, or bicyclist, who is hit by an Uber driver who is clearly on duty (transporting a passenger). Again, if the rideshare driver was at fault for the accident and was on duty at the time, then the liability insurance provided by the ridesharing service would be responsible for paying the claim. If you contributed to the accident in any way, your portion of recoverable damages would be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault.
- You are a third party who is hit by a driver whose Uber or Lyft app is turned OFF at the time, so the driver is clearly not on duty. In the event that the ridesharing driver is not on duty, fault laws would apply for determining who would pay for the claim. If the ridesharing service driver was at fault, then his or her personal car insurance would pay for your injuries. As stated above, in Arizona, the driver would need to have a minimum of $250,000 in liability coverage.
- You are a third party who is hit by a driver whose Uber or Lyft app is turned on at the time, but the driver has not yet accepted a ride or is transporting a passenger. This is the most confusing scenario of them all in terms of liability. However, if you were not at fault, liability would fall on either the ridesharing company’s insurance or the driver’s personal insurance. Which insurance company would bear the burden of responsibility would likely depend on whether it could be proven that the driver was performing a work-related task at the time of the crash. For example, if the driver was in transit to pick up a passenger but had not yet done so, then the company’s insurance would likely be responsible.
Have You Been Involved in an Uber or Lyft Accident?
As you can see, legal issues involving ridesharing service accidents can be complex. If you are injured in a crash caused by an Uber or Lyft driver, you should get help from an experienced Phoenix car accident lawyer. To discuss your case, contact the team at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC.
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.