It sounds like a trendy buzzword to some, but it’s becoming a significant part of the mainstream transportation network. A rideshare is when a passenger travels in a driver’s personal vehicle for a one-time ride that’s purchased through an app. The most widely-known rideshare companies are Uber and Lyft.
Many people use rideshares for convenient rides to and from airports, or other situations when they might not have a car available. There are also plenty of times when people will summon a rideshare because they’re not able to drive safely (for example, if they’ve been drinking), which is always the responsible option, rather than driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
California was the first state to legalize transportation network companies (TNCs) and is where some of the major rideshare providers originated.
Rideshare companies require background checks on drivers, but the drivers aren’t required to have a taxi driver's license.
A ride in an Uber or Lyft vehicle carries the same risks as you’d have in any other car, which means they have accidents, too. Most rideshare company will not keep drivers who routinely get into accidents or engage in unsafe behavior, but even safe and cautious drivers have accidents sometimes.
Let’s take a look at what to do if you’re in a car accident involving a rideshare vehicle, whether you’re a passenger, a driver, or the driver of the other car.
First, you should know that there are 4 main categories of personal injury claims in the involving rideshare vehicles:
There have been many lawsuits against rideshare drivers who have been accused of unsafe driving because they were using their app while driving to prepare for the next pickup.
Rideshare drivers are classified as independent contractors. They work under a contract with the ridesharing company, are required to meet certain criteria and must maintain their vehicles with certain standards, but they’re not employees.
Most independent contractors in California aren’t covered under an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Often, whether or not an independent contractor is required to be covered depends on the nature of the contract. There’s a set of factors that a court would use to determine whether an employer is required to carry coverage on a contractor.
Under California law, the additional rideshare insurance requirements become active when a driver turns on the app. In other words, a driver would rely on their own auto insurance and any additional collision or personal liability coverage when they’re not acting as a rideshare driver.
But as soon as they turn on the app and are available to give rides, they’re covered under the company’s insurance policy.
California sets insurance minimums according to specific periods of time.
This is when a rideshare driver’s app is off (inactive). They are acting as a private person, and their driving is unrelated to their status as a contractor for the rideshare company.
California law requires every driver to carry the following minimum auto insurance:
Ultimately, the driver is responsible for carrying this insurance.
This is when the rideshare app is on and they’re available to riders, but the driver isn’t paired with a passenger yet. In other words, the driver is on standby.
Again, the driver is responsible for carrying the minimum insurance. However, both Uber and Lyft provide insurance to drivers in Period 1 if their personal insurance doesn’t fully cover the amount of the claim.
Uber and Lyft provide the $50,000 and $100,000 coverages, and $25,000 in property damage.
This is when the driver is paired with a passenger and when the passenger is in the vehicle. These periods triggers a $1 million insurance policy carried by the rideshare company in California to cover both the driver and the passenger.
Uber maintains a $1 million third-party liability policy on the driver’s behalf, along with uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage and contingent comprehensive and collision coverage up to the actual cash value of the driver’s car (with a $1,000 deductible).
Lyft maintains a $1 million liability policy. It also offers contingent collision and comprehensive coverage, which means the driver must claim against their personal insurance first. If that claim is denied or not enough, Lyft insurance will cover the remainder. There is a $2,500 deductible. Lyft also carries a $1 million uninsured/underinsured motorist policy.
If you were injured in a rideshare accident as a passenger, you’d handle it the same way you would any other personal injury from a California car accident.
The same rules apply for the driver of another vehicle involved in an accident with a rideshare car. If you were in a collision with someone driving a rideshare vehicle, you proceed with the claim the same way you would for any other crash.
When an accident happens, call for emergency services. Even if no one has serious injuries, it’s essential that a police report is filed.
The rideshare company will have a record of who your driver is, the car’s license plate, and even the location where the accident happened — it tracks all of its rides by GPS in real-time.
But, your driver’s first line of defense will be their own insurance company. That’s why you need to gather all the same information you would in any other collision:
If there are witnesses, write down their contact information as well. Gather any other evidence at the scene, which includes taking photos of all the vehicles involved, road and weather conditions, street signs, or other relevant images.
As soon as possible, report the accident to your insurance company. Your insurer will follow up with the driver’s insurance company and get the claims process started. This is often an “easy lift” for your insurance company because as a passenger, you’re highly unlikely to have any liability (unless your behavior was distracting or illegal).
Read more: What to do following a car accident.
Once you’ve reported the claim to your insurance company, it will begin to establish liability. If the accident involved two or more vehicles (the rideshare vehicle and another vehicle), the claims adjusters will need to determine who was at fault. The driver who was at fault will be responsible for covering your claim.
How your accident claim is handled by insurance will hinge upon whether the driver was participating in rideshare services at the time of the accident. If they were simply driving for personal reasons unrelated to being a rideshare contractor (Period 0), then it’s handled the same way as any other car accident. But if they were on the way to pick up a passenger, or if they had a passenger in the car, they have additional liability coverage.
If you’ve been involved in a California car accident of any kind, start with the Enjuris Personal Injury Law Firm Directory to find a lawyer who will take your case. It’s the best way to ensure that you’ll receive the damages you need to cover your medical expenses, property replacement, lost wages, and other non-economic damages like pain and suffering.