Ridesharing mobile applications such as Uber and Lyft have changed the manner in which individuals travel. These companies have revolutionized the public transportation industry, with many people in urban areas using their own vehicles less and less or even getting rid of their vehicles entirely in favor of ridesharing. However, even though Lyft employees drive professionally, they are still human and can still cause accidents. Even when the driver is careful and cautious, a Lyft ride can still become involved in an accident as a result of another driver’s negligence. These inherent risks make it important to understand exactly how you should respond if you are involved in an auto accident while using Lyft.
People driving for Lyft are not technically Lyft employees. Rather, they’re independent contractors who are paid by the job rather than being paid by the hour and receiving regular employee protections and benefits. Even so, they must conform to certain requirements. The basic requirements are simple:
- They must be over the age of 21
- They must have had a valid United States driver’s license for at least one year
- They must carry their own personal auto insurance policy that complies with state law
- They must not have had more than three moving violations in the prior three years and no major traffic violations at all during that period
- They must not have had any DUIs or drug-related driving offenses, or extreme infractions in the last seven years
These requirements are intended to make sure drivers understand basic traffic laws and can drive safely. For example, even though drivers may operate across state lines, often picking up a passenger in one city, driving the passenger to an adjacent state, and then picking up another passenger for a return trip, their driver’s license must be issued by the state in which they intend to primarily operate. The restrictions on past drug, alcohol and traffic violations are intended to protect Lyft. If Lyft knows that someone has a bad record with drugs or alcohol and lets them drive anyway, it could be considered gross negligence.
When a user first downloads the Lyft app, they’re met with a terms and conditions page. Most people simply click through the page without thinking — after all, if they don’t agree, they can’t use the service. This is referred to in law as a contract of adhesion since the terms are set in stone by the larger entity, and the customer has no opportunity to alter or dispute them. However, that doesn’t mean the contract isn’t binding. The Lyft contract contains many provisions which can limit a customer’s ability to dispute charges or bring lawsuits for negligence after an accident.
Along with its biggest competitor, Uber, Lyft maintains its own overarching insurance policy for drivers and passengers, using a contract with York Risk Services. After an accident, an injured party must reach out to York Risk in order to open a claim and receive payment for damages. Much is made of the fact that the York Risk policy has a million-dollar limit for each person in each accident. However, just because there’s a million dollars at stake doesn’t mean it’s easy to get that money, and it doesn’t mean all that money is accessible in every situation. The contract that a user signs when they download and begin using the Lyft app places certain requirements that they must comply with in order to access the coverage maintained by Lyft.
If you received injuries in a Lyft accident, you should be aware of the three kinds of coverage available under Lyft’s policy. They are, in order of importance: liability insurance, uninsured motorist coverage, and no-fault benefits.
Liability insurance allows passengers or people in other vehicles to recover damages if an accident is caused by a careless Lyft driver. If your driver is reckless, runs a red light, blows through a stop sign, or speeds excessively, the chance of an accident can be severe. Rather than having to sue the driver personally, Lyft’s liability coverage with York Risk offers up to a million dollars per person to cover personal injuries, property damage, pain and suffering, loss of income, and other types of damages. This is the most important and most readily available type of coverage, since it applies even to people who never signed a contract with Lyft.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, however, only protects Lyft drivers and Lyft passengers who have been injured by another driver’s negligence. If your Lyft is struck by a drunk driver with no insurance, Lyft’s uninsured motorist coverage from York Risk will step in, but only if you comply with their contractual requirements. For example, you may be required to give a recorded statement or provide your own personal insurance information, if you have it. Failure to comply with these requirements can mean you lose out on the coverage you would otherwise receive. Just like every other insurance company, York Risk Services will always try to avoid paying for damages whenever it can.
The York Risk policy often also includes no-fault coverage that can pay for medical bills and lost wages immediately. However, because Rhode Island has no mandatory PIP coverage, the contract between Lyft and York Risk will not include it either. However, if the accident took place outside of Rhode Island, a competent, experienced Lyft accident attorney will be able to determine whether no-fault coverage applies. Whether it is to your advantage to use this option is up to the advice of an expert attorney. For example, if you have your own no-fault policy because you own a personal vehicle, it can be applied even if Lyft does not maintain no-fault coverage.
Industry standards for ride-sharing companies are relatively similar across the board. There is a link on Lyft’s website urging individuals to report accidents. In addition to that aforementioned link, passengers can call 911 on the application’s safety center page. Their homepage on accidents defines them as vehicle collisions, vehicles striking objects, and vehicles damaging a third party’s personal property. All of these occurrences can lead to personal injuries for both the drivers and the passengers of the Lyft vehicles. The passengers should file a police report to ensure that Lyft drivers are held responsible. If the accident was caused by the Lyft driver, Lyft and its representatives would likely attempt to minimize the severity of the accident in order to hinder the passenger’s likeliness to take legal action. Passengers should take a step back and analyze the situation presented before them.
What should you do if you are a passenger with a ride-share application such as Lyft and you are involved in an accident that causes notable injuries? First, you should seek medical attention for any type of injury, no matter how insignificant it may be. Even bumps and bruises can be reported, and the defendants are liable in a suit. Next, you should avoid the insurance company’s request to settle. Ride-share applications such as Lyft are enormous entities with a very detailed insurance policy. The insurance companies do not want you to litigate to seek the full amount in damages because they want to keep the financial remedies as low as possible. The final and most important thing you should do if you are an injured passenger in a ride-share-related accident is to seek legal representation. The Law Office of Louis W. Grande offers free consultations and never charges an up-front retainer fee. We are only paid if we recover for you.