- Companies such as Uber and Lyft can be held liable when their drivers caused an accident while logged into the app.
- The amount of coverage rideshare companies are required to provide in Georgia depends on the circumstances—when a driver is logged in and waiting for ride requests, Uber/Lyft provides $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident in bodily injury and $50,000 in property damage; when a driver is logged in and picking up or transporting riders, Uber/Lyft must provide $1 million in liability coverage and $1 million in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
- If the driver is not logged in at the time they caused an accident, victims can file a claim against the driver’s personal automobile insurance policy.
- When the rideshare driver is not at fault for the accident, victims have a claim against the party who was responsible, just as they would in a typical injury case.
Home to the world’s busiest international airport, Metro Atlanta has seen the number of rideshare vehicles—mostly Uber and Lyft— on its highways and roads multiply dramatically in recent years. Because of this trend, more and more passengers are riding in commercial vehicles and have no personal relationship to the person driving them, which can make liability insurance claims more complicated.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident involving a rideshare vehicle, you may have a negligence claim against the at-fault driver and/or the rideshare company. To recover maximum compensation for your accident, it’s important to understand your legal rights and your insurance coverage options.
When the Rideshare Driver is At Fault in a Car Accident
Uber and Lyft have connected billions of riders with drivers through a convenient app over the last decade. Though ridesharing offers benefits for both passengers and drivers, however, the service has blurred the line between commercial and personal liability for accidents. That can make filing a negligence claim more complicated.
Here’s why: generally, it’s easy to tell when commercial drivers are “on the clock,” meaning they’re working whenever they’re driving their employer’s vehicle. For example, a big-rig trucker is performing work for their employer when they’re transporting goods from one place to another.
Rideshare drivers, on the other hand, are not employees of Uber or Lyft—they’re independent contractors who use their own cars and don’t have a set schedule. That means they’re not always working on behalf of the company when they’re driving. Whether the driver was working—i.e., picking up or transporting riders while logged into the app—at the time of the crash can determine which insurance liability policy covers damages.
In a typical car accident claim, the at-fault driver’s personal insurance policy provides coverage for the injured victim’s costs whether the victim is a passenger, pedestrian, or driver of another vehicle. If the rideshare driver is not working when an accident occurs, this rule applies. If they are working, Uber and Lyft provide liability coverage through the company’s insurance policy.
Passengers who have been injured in a car accident are protected under Georgia law, which means they have the legal right to recover compensation for their losses. If you were riding with a noncommercial driver who was at fault for the crash, you would usually file an insurance claim against the driver’s personal auto liability policy.
However, most personal auto insurance policies don’t cover accidents that occur when a vehicle is being used for commercial purposes (unless the driver has purchased their own commercial policy). If a driver is transporting a paying passenger through an Uber or Lyft app, they are using their vehicle for a commercial purpose.
Fortunately, Uber and Lyft provide liability insurance to their drivers that covers them as soon as they log into their apps and are available for ride requests. That means a passenger can file a claim against Uber/Lyft if they’re injured as a result of the driver’s negligence.
In Georgia, Uber and Lyft have insurance policy limits that provide coverage based on certain factors. Specifically, when a driver’s app is turned off, Uber and Lyft provide no coverage, which means the driver’s personal insurance policy applies to any claims. Both Uber and Lyft require all drivers to have personal auto insurance liability coverage.
When the driver is logged into the app and is available for ride requests, Uber and Lyft have insurance policies that cover accidents if the driver’s personal policy doesn’t apply. (As discussed, most insurance companies won’t provide coverage under a personal auto policy if they determine the driver was using the vehicle for a commercial purpose at the time of the accident.) Uber/Lyft’s insurance coverage is limited to $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident in bodily injury and $50,000 for property damage.
When the driver has accepted a trip and they are either picking up riders or transporting them, Uber and Lyft must provide up to $1 million in liability coverage and $1 million in uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. O.C.G.A. § 33-1-24.
Will Uber or Lyft Dispute the Legal Claim?
It depends. Rideshare companies may try to use their driver’s status as an independent contractor as a defense to a legal claim, or they may argue that their driver was not at fault for the accident based on the facts of the case. To recover compensation for your claim, you or your attorney should gather evidence proving the driver was at fault, or at least partially to blame.
You’ll also need to establish whether the driver was logged into the app, had accepted a trip, or was transporting riders to determine which insurance policy applies—the rideshare company’s or the driver’s.
If you were riding on a trip via the app when the crash occurred, it’s more difficult for Uber or Lyft to deny responsibility. If you were hit by an Uber/Lyft driver while driving your own car, however, you or your attorney may need to investigate more to prove the rideshare company is liable. Your lawyer may need to subpoena electronic records to show that the driver had the app turned on at the time of the crash.
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If You Need to File a Lawsuit, Who Do You Sue?
Generally, the first step to recovering compensation after an accident is to file an insurance claim against the responsible party’s policy. If your insurance claim is denied or doesn’t fully cover your losses, however, you may need to file a lawsuit to recover the remaining amount. Depending on the circumstances, your attorney would either sue the at-fault driver or the rideshare company.
If you were hit by an Uber or Lyft driver while they were “off the clock” (i.e., not logged on to the app), your legal claim is against the driver. That means you could file a claim against the driver’s insurance policy and sue the driver personally if the carrier doesn’t cover all your costs.
If the accident happened while the driver was using the app, you could file an insurance claim against the driver and the rideshare company. If one or both of these claims are denied or don’t fully cover your losses, your attorney could file a lawsuit against Uber or Lyft.
Be aware, however, that the companies might argue that you gave up the right to file a lawsuit when you accepted the terms and conditions of the rideshare service. These terms require drivers and riders to resolve most legal disputes with the company through arbitration. In an arbitration, both sides present evidence and make arguments, but an appointed arbitrator makes a binding settlement decision outside of court.
Will the Uber or Lyft Driver Lose Their Job?
It depends on the situation. To protect their bottom line, rideshare companies want responsible drivers and will consider the driver’s safety record when deciding whether to hire or retain them (as independent contractors, not employees). If a driver’s reckless or intentional behavior causes an accident, or if they have been involved in multiple crashes, the company is less likely to use them.
When the Rideshare Driver is Not At Fault
In negligence claims, the driver who causes the accident—and/or the company they’re working for—is liable for injuries and costs. But what if you’re riding in an Uber or Lyft, and another car’s driver negligently hits you?
If your rideshare driver was not responsible for the accident, your legal claim is against the other driver, just as it would be if you had been driving your own car or riding with a friend. That means you would seek insurance coverage under the other driver’s auto policy. If your rideshare driver was partially responsible, you may have a claim against Uber/Lyft and the other driver.
If the other driver is uninsured or their policy doesn’t fully cover your costs, you may need to find additional coverage through other policies. Georgia law requires rideshare companies to provide $1 million in UIM liability coverage, so you can file a claim against Uber or Lyft’s policy to get your costs covered. You can also file a claim against your own UIM policy, though seeking coverage through the rideshare company’s policy may be a better option.
If you’re a rideshare driver who was injured by another driver’s negligence, your options work much the same way as a rider. You can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. If the driver is uninsured or underinsured, you may be able to get coverage under the rideshare company’s UIM policy if you were logged into the app. If you were not logged in and working, you could file a claim against your own UIM policy or file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.