There are lots of reasons why you might need a lift. Perhaps you don’t own a car, or you’ve been drinking (or plan to) and don’t want to risk a DUI. Or, it could just be that you want to relax and don’t want the hassle of having to drive somewhere and find parking.
New York State made ridesharing legal statewide in 2017.
Ridesharing is subject to laws that apply to a Transportation Network Company (TNC). A TNC is a company that is licensed by the DMV to use a digital network (smartphone app) that connects passengers with drivers for prearranged trips. In New York State, there are two TNCs: Uber and Lyft.
A taxi operator isn’t a TNC, so the laws and regulations around their use are a little different. If you’re looking for a TNC ride, you use the smartphone app to match your location with an available driver. If you’re in New York City and need a taxi, you’ll hail one on the street with no previous arrangement. In smaller cities and towns in New York state, you can call a taxi company ahead of time, but it’s still not considered a rideshare.
The New York TNC Act applies across the state, except for New York City. In the city, Uber and Lyft operate under requirements set forth by the Taxi & Limousine Commission.
There are 4 categories of personal injury claims involving rideshare vehicles:
- Passenger was injured in a ridesharing vehicle during a ride.
- Rideshare driver was injured while picking up, driving, or dropping off passengers.
- Driver of another vehicle was injured in an accident with a vehicle performing ridesharing services.
- Passengers in a vehicle were injured in a crash with a rideshare vehicle on its way to pick up a fare.
A rideshare driver is an independent contractor. 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 considered employees.
New York car accident insurance
If you’re going to use a rideshare service, either as a driver or a passenger, it’s important to know how insurance works and who’s liable in a rideshare accident.
If you’re in a “regular” car accident, your first step is to file a claim against your own New York no-fault Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance policy.
The intent of the law requiring no-fault insurance in New York is to provide for any person injured in a car accident to receive coverage for immediate medical treatment without waiting for a determination of fault.
Regardless of whether you caused the accident or not, your own PIP insurance would cover the costs associated with your physical injuries.
PIP also covers injuries to your passengers and pedestrians or bicyclists. If the injuries are very severe and not covered under PIP, your insurance company can file a third-party claim against the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy. PIP doesn’t cover property damage, certain very severe injuries, or non-economic damages like emotional distress or pain and suffering.
If there are costs that aren’t covered under your PIP and the at-fault driver’s insurance won’t settle for an amount that fully covers those expenses, you would need to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages.
The coverage listed below is provided to drivers by a rideshare company. The coverage is in effect from the time they accept a ride request until the ride is completed in the app. When “driver mode” is off, the driver must be covered by their own insurance.
Insurance applies based on “periods” of coverage.
|TNC app off||Personal insurance policy coverage|
|Period 1||App is on (in driver mode), driver is waiting to be notified of a rider|
|Periods 2 & 3||Driver is notified of a matched rider. Coverage lasts until the passenger has been dropped off and the ride is completed in the app.|
Lyft and Uber each offer insurance policies for their drivers. It is not a substitute for personal automotive insurance coverage. Your rideshare insurance only becomes effective when you’re in driver mode.
- Contingent liability (only applies while in driver mode waiting for a ride request): This coverage would protect the driver if their own insurance doesn’t.
- Primary auto liability: Primary coverage from the time a ride request is accepted until the ride concludes in the app. Primary coverage is $1,000,000 per accident. It can also be an excess policy if you already have commercial insurance or personal insurance that includes coverage specific to ridesharing.
- Contingent collision: Covers property damage to your vehicle from an accident in addition to your personal insurance coverage. It applies up to the value of the vehicle or cost of repair with a $2,500 deductible.
- Contingent comprehensive coverage: Covers physical damage to the vehicle from a non-collision (like vandalism, fire, etc.) with your comprehensive coverage on your personal policy. This coverage has a $2,500 deductible and applies whether or not you’re at fault.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist: If an accident happens once you’ve accepted a ride or are transporting a rider and the other driver is uninsured or underinsured and at fault, Lyft UM/UIM coverage will apply with no deductible.
- Third-party liability: If you’re in a covered accident (i.e. available or waiting for a ride request), Uber covers:
- $50,000 per person for bodily injury
- $100,000 per accident for bodily injury
- $25,000 per accident for property damage
- Auto insurance: If you’re on the way to pick up a rider or during a trip, Uber provides:
- $1,000,000 third-party liability
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury
- Contingent comprehensive and collision up to cash value of car with $1,000 deductible
Put simply, New York requires a TNC driver to have this insurance coverage:
|Driver is logged into digital network but waiting for trip request||
|Driver is en route to pick up rider or has passenger in the car||
The first priority after any accident is to check on the condition of anyone involved and call for emergency assistance (911).
Even if no one has a serious injury, a police report should be filed. The rideshare company already has some of the crucial information — the app tracks your driver’s name, the car’s license plate, and the location where the accident occurred.
If your accident was in an Uber, open the app, click on “Trip and Fare Review” and select “I was involved in an accident.” Uber will review the information and send you an Incident Report Form.
For a Lyft accident, use the “Report an Accident” button for an immediate response from the company.
Rideshare companies are notoriously difficult for getting customer service representatives on the phone, so the more you can deal directly with the insurance company, the easier the process might be.
A taxi driver is usually an employee of the taxi operator. That means if the taxi driver’s negligence causes an accident, the employer can be liable. If you’re a passenger in a taxi accident that’s the fault of the other driver, you can file a third-party claim against that driver’s insurance.
In New York City, a taxi service must be covered by these minimums:
- $100,000 in liability insurance for one person
- $300,000 for all people in one accident
If the taxi is unlicensed, it might have as little coverage as $25,000 per person or $50,000 per accident. If you were injured in a taxi accident, you can file a claim against the taxi service’s no-fault policy. If your injuries are severe or amount to more than the limits of the no-fault policy, a claim is made to the taxi service’s liability policy.
As a passenger, you’d handle a rideshare or taxi accident similarly to how you’d manage any other collision between your car and another vehicle.
There are a couple of important differences:
- You need to report the accident to both your own insurance company and the rideshare or taxi service.
- If you don’t have a car, you might not have your own insurance. The driver’s no-fault (and then liability) should cover you as a passenger.
Regardless of fault or insurance, here are the steps to take after an accident if you’re in a physical condition to do so:
- Call the police. In New York, a crash must be reported to the DMV if it results in injury, death, or property damage more than $1,000. If a police report is filed, it is automatically reported to the DMV. Even if you think the crash is so minor that it doesn’t meet those requirements, a police report can be an important piece of evidence for your claim (or the other driver’s claim), so having a police officer on the scene can be beneficial.
- Document the scene. The more information you can gather, the better. At the very least, write down the name, address, phone number, and driver’s license number of every involved driver. Also, write down each vehicle’s license plate number, registration, and insurance information. It’s sometimes easier to take photos of these documents and items so you’re certain you don’t make any mistakes. The police report should also contain all of this information, but it’s important for you to have a copy as well, just in case.
- Take photos. Weather and road conditions, visibility, traffic signals, and other factors can all contribute to an accident. Take as many photos as you can to show the scene and conditions leading up to the accident. Take photos from a variety of angles, and capture the points of view of all involved drivers. Lastly, don’t forget to photograph any damage to your vehicle and any other vehicles involved in the accident.
- Obtain witness information. Eyewitnesses can be a crucial part of your car accident claim. If there are witnesses, write down their names and contact information. You might want to look outside the immediate area. If your accident was in a parking lot, for example, there could be a shopper in a store who saw the accident and who could be a valuable witness, but that person might not come forward right away.
- Ask about surveillance video. Depending on the location of the accident, if the road or parking lot was visible to any business, it’s possible that there’s video footage showing how the crash happened. Ask surrounding businesses or property owners if there’s any video that captured the crash. Make these inquiries as soon as possible after the crash because many businesses don’t maintain surveillance footage for more than a few days.
- Get a complete medical examination. You might think you’re uninjured after a crash. But some conditions might not appear instantly — you might not experience symptoms until days or weeks later. If you do have effects that appear later, it will be harder to prove that they were caused by the accident. It’s important to visit a hospital or doctor immediately following a crash so that your medical condition is fully documented.
- Notify your insurance company (and the rideshare or taxi service). A “report” is different from a “claim.” Whether or not you think you were at fault for the crash, you still should report it to your insurance company. With certain insurance companies, if you fail to report an accident within a certain period of time, you can lose your right to a claim or settlement. Most insurance companies require that you report any collision, even if you’re not intending to file a claim or if you’re planning to pay out of pocket for repairs.
If you’re involved in an accident involving a rideshare or taxi, another step you should take is contacting a personal injury lawyer near you who can help you receive compensation for your damages. The insurance process can be more complicated than a regular car accident, and if you don’t have an insurance policy of your own, it might make things more difficult. Your lawyer will know how to make the correct insurance claims and what to do to file a lawsuit if insurance doesn’t cover the full extent of your injury-related costs.