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What happens if your car crash involves an Uber, Lyft or taxi driver?
In most U.S. cities, rideshare vehicles such as Uber and Lyft have become more popular than taxis. In Chicago, for example, the number of licensed taxis is limited to 7,000, while the number of vehicles registered with the city as “rideshare vehicles” currently sits at roughly 120,000.
Ridesharing isn’t as popular in rural areas, but a recent Pew Research Center report found that 19 percent of Americans living in rural America use rideshare services — and that number is growing.
So whether you live in Chicago or Carbondale, or any one of many towns spread across Illinois, chances are you’re sharing the road with rideshare vehicles. As such, you should know that there are some important differences between rideshare accidents and traditional car accidents.
Rideshare companies provide driver-for-hire services to consumers through the use of freelance drivers who use their personal vehicles to transport customers. Most rideshare services operate through a smartphone app. Uber and Lyft are the most popular rideshare services.
For example, if you want to get from your Chicago flat in the Fulton River District to Millennium Park, you only need to open up the app, request a ride, and wait for your driver to show up. Once your driver drops you off at your destination, the credit card you stored on the app will automatically be charged.
Rideshare vehicles are not the same as taxis. There are 3 crucial differences:
- Operation. To use a taxi, you generally hail it down. A meter inside the taxi calculates the cost of your ride and displays the fare. Once you arrive at your destination, you pay for your ride using cash or a credit card. Rideshare vehicles, on the other hand, are “hailed” using an app. You know the cost of your ride ahead of time and the app stores your payment information and automatically charges your card at the end of your trip.
- Ownership. Most of the time, a taxi is owned by a taxi company and leased by a driver. Rideshare drivers use their personal vehicles to transport customers.
- Regulation. Taxi companies are heavily regulated. These regulations cover things like vehicle maintenance standards, background checks, accessibility requirements, specific licensing requirements, the use of taxi medallions to control the number of taxi drivers, and various price controls. Rideshare companies, on the other hand, aren’t regulated nearly as heavily. The regulation disparities have caused friction between taxi companies and rideshare companies, as well as confusion among consumers.
Though rideshares operate in rural Illinois, the vast majority of rideshares operate in urban areas. Here are the 3 most popular areas for rideshare vehicles in Illinois in 2018 (all located in Chicago):
- The Near North Side, which includes neighborhoods like the Gold Coast, Streeterville, Old Town, and River North (roughly 3 million pick-ups and 3 million drop-offs)
- The Chicago Loop (roughly 1.6 million pick-ups and 1.6 million drop-offs)
- The Near West Side, which includes the Fulton Market, Illinois Medical District, and the United Center area (roughly 1.5 million pick-ups and 1.5 million drop-offs)
There are 3 main categories of rideshare accidents:
- A passenger was injured in a rideshare vehicle during a ride
- A passenger was injured by a rideshare driver (for example, the passenger was assaulted by the rideshare driver)
- A driver or passenger of another vehicle was injured in an accident with a rideshare vehicle
The common causes of rideshare accidents are the same as the common causes of other types of car accidents. These include:
- Distracted driving
- Drunk driving
- Following too closely
- Poor road conditions
- Bad weather conditions
- Manufacturing defects
Rideshare drivers are independent contractors. As a consequence, rideshare companies are NOT responsible for the actions of rideshare drivers. This means that if you’re injured in an accident caused by a rideshare driver, you’ll have to file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit against the driver.
This distinction might not seem important, but keep in mind that just because you sue a person and are awarded damages doesn’t mean you’ll actually receive any of those damages. If your rideshare driver doesn’t have any money, you’ll be stuck trying to collect your share of their future earnings. This can be an expensive and time-consuming process. What’s more, there’s no guarantee that the driver will ever make enough for you to actually see any money.
Most drivers are covered by their personal auto insurance policies. This means that when you’re involved in a car accident, you can make a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance policy and be reimbursed for your medical expenses and other damages.
However, the vast majority of personal auto insurance policies contain a business-use exclusion, which means that coverage doesn’t apply when the driver is using their vehicle for business purposes. This means that as soon as a rideshare driver picks up a customer, the rideshare driver has no liability insurance and also no collision insurance under their personal auto insurance policy.
So how do you get reimbursed if the rideshare driver is responsible for your injuries?
Both Uber and Lyft claim to provide $1 million in liability coverage for their drivers.
This sounds like a lot, but the amount of coverage depends on which “period” the driver is in:
- Period 0: When the driver isn’t logged into the Uber/Lyft app, no coverage is provided (the driver’s personal auto insurance might apply).
- Period 1: When the driver is logged into the app but hasn’t accepted a ride request, Uber/Lyft provides liability coverage for any accident that’s the fault of the driver up to $50,000 per person and $100,000 total liability per accident.
- Period 2: When the driver has accepted a trip and is on the way to the pick-up location, liability coverage increases to $1 million.
- Period 3: When the customer is in the car, liability coverage of up to $1 million applies, plus limited coverage for damage to the driver’s car and uninsured motorist coverage.
If you’re injured in a rideshare accident as a passenger or as an occupant of a separate vehicle, you’ll handle it the same way you would handle any other car accident.
Step 1: Call an ambulance. Your health (and the health of those around you) should be your first priority. What’s more, Illinois law requires you to call emergency services if you’re involved in an accident and someone is injured. If you don’t think you’re injured, you should still schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Some injuries, including serious whiplash and internal injuries, may not show symptoms until hours or even days after an accident.
Step 2: Call the police. In most cases, Illinois law requires you to call the police after an accident. Even if you’re not required by law, it’s a good idea. The responding officer will draft a police report and that report will be invaluable should you choose to file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit.
Step 3: Gather the rideshare driver’s information. Be sure to gather the following information from the rideshare driver (and any other drivers involved in the accident), including:
- The driver’s first and last name
- The driver’s contact information (address, email, phone)
- Their license plate number
- Their vehicle registration and insurance information
Step 4: Collect witness information and other evidence. If there are witnesses, write down their contact information. In addition, you should gather any other evidence available at the scene (photographs of the vehicles involved, road and weather conditions, etc.).
Step 5: Report your accident. Illinois law requires you to file a written report for any accident that resulted in:
- Death or injury, or
- Property damage of more than $1,500.
The report form is generally provided at the scene by the responding officer. However, the form can also be obtained at any police station or sheriff’s office. The form should be filed online or by mail as indicated on the form within 10 days of the accident. The failure to file a report within 10 days of the accident could result in the suspension of your license.
Step 6: Contact your insurance company. 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.
Step 7: Meet with an attorney. It never hurts to meet with an attorney, especially since the vast majority of attorneys offer free initial consultations. An attorney can help you determine who’s liable, what damages you might be able to recover, and how you can collect those damages. If the insurance company has already made you an offer, an attorney can help you decide whether you should accept the offer or whether there are more damages available.
Rideshare services (and the laws that govern them) are constantly evolving. If you’re involved in a car accident with a rideshare driver in Illinois, use our free online directory to connect with an attorney near you so that you can be sure to take all the necessary steps to receive compensation.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.