Technology makes life so much easier. You can order food from your favorite restaurant, have groceries delivered, book flights, and even find a date. And one of the most popular and convenient applications is those that offer ridesharing services, such as Uber and Lyft. They are more cost-effective than taxis and can be at your doorstep within minutes.
But as with anything else that’s convenient, the experience comes with some risks. If you get into a car accident in the same jurisdiction where you live, you would probably speak with a local attorney. But what happens if the unfortunate event takes place while you’re traveling? Are there any specific laws that can still hold these companies liable? If so, what’s the procedure?
What Should I Do If I’m Involved in an Uber Accident While Traveling Abroad?
First, do the same things you would do after an accident at home:
- Seek medical help
- Take pictures (of injuries, of damages to vehicles, of location)
- Get information from everyone involved, as well as witnesses (full names, driver’s license, license plates, and insurance information)
- File a police report
- If you purchased travel insurance, call them ASAP and let them know.
Now, this can become extremely complicated if you’re traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language and can’t communicate with the parties involved.
If you’re traveling to Europe, it’s good practice to first download a copy of a European Accident Statement (EAS) in your own language. This form is available for drivers within the European Union, so even if you don’t understand what’s going on, each of you can look at your forms, respectively, so that you know which information to collect. (For example, you can look at, say, question 5, and so can a driver who only speaks Polish on their own form, and both understand what’s being asked).
Both parties need to fill out the form. This is not an acknowledgment of liability, but a way to verify certain facts, such as whether the accident occurred by changing lanes, turning right or left, reversing, entering or exiting a parking garage or a roundabout, etc…
Once the form is filled out, verify for accuracy and send the completed form to your car insurance provider. Its purpose is to have as many agreed-upon facts as possible to process the insurance claims.
If you’re anywhere else in the world, get a copy of the police report. If you receive medical attention, ask for a copy of a medical certificate. And no matter where you are, always report the accident to the ridesharing company as soon as possible, as explained below.
What Should I Do If I’m Involved in a Rideshare Accident While Traveling in the United States?
If the accident occurred while traveling within the United States, follow the same procedures regarding preserving evidence: photos, videos, witness information, and police reports.
When taking photos, do so of every visible injury, as well as from the vehicles involved from all angles. Also take pictures of surrounding businesses in case one of them has surveillance video that can, later on, be used as evidence of the accident. And remember to take pictures of license plates to avoid confusion from typos or writing it down nervously or in a hurry.
Seek medical attention whether you feel well or not, since some injuries aren’t obvious at the beginning, and some jurisdictions require that you receive the attention within a short time frame in order to qualify for certain liability coverages.
Then speak with a local attorney. If you were on your way to the airport or don’t have time to see a lawyer before you return home, do an online search for local car accident legal counsel and reach out to them when you get home. This is because in order to file a case anywhere, the local courthouses must have jurisdiction over the parties. In the case of a car accident, this means where the defendant resides or where the accident occurred.
Within the context of large corporations — such as Uber or Lyft — this can also include where they are incorporated and/or regularly conduct business. However, filing where the accident occurred means having much easier access to evidence such as witnesses, doctors, and police officers who showed up at the scene.
Can Uber, Lyft of Other Rideshare Apps be Held Responsible for an Accident?
Uber keeps uninsured and underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage for their drivers. This can be used when the other driver is at fault and they don’t have enough insurance coverage, or if the accident was a hit and run.
If your driver was at fault, how much will be covered will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, Uber offers insurance for liabilities to third parties (passengers, pedestrians, bystanders, etc…)
By the same token, Lyft offers liability coverage for accidents that occur during the time the Lyft Driver app is on and offers rides to customers. This extends to bodily injuries and other losses related to the accident.
Do keep in mind that each jurisdiction has its own local requirements. For example, in the Sunshine State, Florida Statutes section 627.748 requires all ridesharing drivers to have car insurance with a minimum coverage of $50,000 for death and bodily injury, per person, and $100,000 per accident. They are also required to have a minimum of $25,000 in coverage for property damage.
Likewise, New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law, Title 8, Article 44-B requires both ridesharing companies and all their drivers to have insurance that covers any accidents that occur while the driver is logged into the ridesharing digital network.
It’s important to note, however, that many state laws specifically establish that ridesharing companies do not own, control, operate, manage, or direct any of the vehicles in their networks. Because of this reasoning, these companies may try to limit or deny coverage in certain circumstances and claim that your only recourse is to sue the driver.
According to Miami Uber and Lyft accident attorneys Panter, Panter & Sampedro:
Usually, the driver is held liable for an accident. This makes intuitive sense because the driver is operating the vehicle. Sometimes, the driver’s insurance policy is not adequate to compensate you for the injuries you suffered. In those instances, it is possible to sue Lyft or Uber. This is the reason that Uber and Lyft provide a $1 million liability policy.
So always seek legal advice before proceeding, so that you can have someone who’s experienced with these types of claims watching out for your interests.
What Should I Do If I’m Involved in a Rideshare Accident While Traveling for Work?
Since Uber and Lyft require their drivers to carry insurance to cover accidents while driving passengers, you could file a claim to recover damages through those policies. If the claim is denied or dismissed as to one of the companies under the defense that the driver is an independent contractor, you may still be able to get relief by filing a worker’s compensation claim with your employer.
A workers comp claim could be viable if the accident occurred while you were conducting your job duties, or to and from an activity within the scope of employment (such as stopping for gas or driving back home or to work at the end of your shift).
Your employer may be able to get off the hook if you detoured to do something unrelated to your job duties (such as running a personal errand), or if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
To know your options, instead of speaking with a personal injury attorney, call a workers compensation one.
How is Liability Determined in a Rideshare Accident?
Liability in a ridesharing accident is determined the same way as in any traffic accident: Presenting evidence to figure out who was at fault. This can be reconstructed through what’s called a discovery process, where the parties are required to exchange relevant information — such as photographs, surveillance videos, dash cam footage, and police reports.
Based on this information, the attorneys can determine the parties to depose (take sworn testimony). These may include the parties involved in the accident, witnesses, medical providers, experts, and the police officers who prepared the report.
Liability can be placed on one person, or it can be attributed in part to all drivers involved. If the latter is the case, the percentage of liability has to be apportioned in jurisdictions that apply a comparative negligence standard: If a party is deemed to be 60% at fault, they are responsible for 60% of the costs of the damages.
There are also jurisdictions that apply a contributory negligence approach. Under this method, if both parties are at fault, coverage may be denied, depending on the circumstances.
What is the Uber and Lyft Accident Claims Process?
Each ridesharing company has its own steps to complete to file an accident claim. While this information is up-to-date as of the time of this writing, always check for information within the app’s Frequently Asked Questions section. If you can’t find it, do an online search of the company’s accident claims procedures.
If you were using Uber services, follow these steps:
- Open the app and click on Settings on the right-hand corner of the screen.
- From there, click on the Help section.
- Click on Report an Issue With This Trip
- Select that you were in a crash.
If you were using Lyft, open the app and click on Claims Customer Care. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will guide you through the next steps in the reporting process.
How Long Do I Have to File My Uber or Lyft Accident Claim?
The statute of limitations for a negligence claim can vary from one jurisdiction to the next. In many places within the United States, you have four years from the date of the accident. This will vary even more greatly from one country to the next.
But even if you got into an accident in a place with ample time to file a claim, seek legal advice as soon as possible. Remember that your ability to prevail will depend on how convincing your evidence is.
Certain elements like photos and medical records can be used regardless of how much time has gone by; but witnesses — as well as their recollections of events — will be harder to come by the longer you wait. And if a nearby business has surveillance cameras that caught the accident, they may have been deleted by the time you need them.