Lyft, Uber, and many other companies offer app-based ride-sharing services that let you order a ride from your smartphone. Certainly, in major metropolitan areas, these services have radically transformed the personal transportation industry. Previously people seeking a ride had to call a traditional taxi service and wait for the cab to show up, or wave down a cab at a street corner, depending upon local laws. Once in the cab, the passengers were subject to whatever fare rates were mandated by the city they were in. Their options were buses, subway rail, or other, more expensive options including limousines – assuming any of those options even existed in the passenger’s area. Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages with respect to price and convenience.
Now, would-be passengers pull out their smartphone, log into an app provided by Lyft or another ride-share service, and order a car that usually arrives in just a few minutes. Such services have arisen from non-existent just a few years ago to seemingly everywhere, at least in urban areas. Many smaller metropolitan areas, including small towns, now have ride-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber, providing transportation options unthought of not that long ago. Surveys indicate that approximately 20 percent of all Americans have used a ride-sharing service such as Lyft.
For the most part, such services give quick, courteous service at an affordable price, usually below the cost of a similar trip in a conventional taxi. What’s not to like? Lyft drivers involve automobiles, though, and the use of automobiles always poses the risk of a traffic accident. What happens to Lyft riders if the Lyft car in which they are riding is involved in a traffic accident and the riders are injured?Taking a Ride with Lyft Does not Mean Sacrificing Your Rights
No one really knows whether traffic accidents and injuries are more common, less common, or at the same rate as any other traffic accident. An investigation by a major newspaper found that statistics on ride-share accidents, including information on injuries and deaths arising from traffic accidents involving ride-share services such as Lyft, simply don’t exist. Lyft doesn’t release such statistics, and few, if any, governments – state, local, or federal – collect such statistics. The statistics on how many passengers are injured or killed while using a ride-share service are lumped in with all other traffic accidents.
Whatever the numbers are, it is clear that it is possible to be involved in – and injured by – a traffic accident while taking a ride with Lyft. Lyft and other ride-share services do not have some sort of magic talisman that prevents accidents and injuries. They happen. The question then is, are you protected?Lyft Insures its Drivers While They Have a Passenger
Lyft covers its drivers with liability insurance if they are involved in an accident while they have a passenger. Lyft provides its drivers with liability coverage in the amount of $1 million while the driver has a passenger. This liability coverage is valid in all 50 states, covering injuries or death of passengers due to Lyft driver fault or accidents with uninsured motorists who are at fault. In New York City, the coverage actually is greater because of local insurance laws and regulations.
While a liability policy of $1 million might seem generous, if you suffer major injuries in an accident during a Lyft ride, even that seemingly generous coverage might not be sufficient. The kinds of injuries you can suffer in a ride with Lyft are no different than those possible in any other traffic accident. These can include:
- Brain and head injuries, which are among the most common injuries suffered in traffic accidents. They also tend to be the most severe and, while traumatic brain injuries can be relatively minor, they also include severe brain injuries resulting in lifelong injuries requiring continued care.
- Also extremely common in traffic accidents are neck injuries, which can be severe, requiring specialized treatment that can be lifelong in extreme circumstances.
- Likewise, spinal cord and back injuries – both common in traffic accidents – can be severely debilitating, including potentially lifelong, requiring extensive and potentially long-lasting treatment.
Lyft contends that its drivers are independent contractors, and recent court decisions have backed that up. Because the drivers are independent contractors, Lyft contends it is not liable for its drivers’ actions that go beyond the scope of their contracted service, including negligent driving. Therefore, Lyft offers its liability coverage for its drivers as the only remedy available from Lyft for passengers injured during a Lyft ride. This attempt to limit riders’ ability to sue Lyft for any damages suffered in a Lyft ride that exceed Lyft’s liability policy limits might not hold up in court.
Lyft advises its riders and drivers to take certain actions in the event of an accident. Those are:
- Notify police and any other necessary emergency services if necessary.
- Contact Lyft.
That’s great, but it’s not all you should do if you are involved in a traffic accident while using Lyft. You also should document the circumstances of your accident as best you can, including through photos and gathering witness contact information. These extra steps can help protect your rights later.
Just as in any auto accident, an accident during a Lyft ride can result in a passenger suffering severe, debilitating, life-long injuries, the cost of which can easily far exceed Lyft’s liability coverage for its drivers. These injuries are no fault of the passenger. If you suffer injuries during a Lyft ride that potentially exceed Lyft’s driver liability coverage, you should seek legal counsel to explore your options.Contact an Atlanta Accident Attorney
If you have been involved in an accident while using a ride-share service such as Lyft, you should consult with an attorney to see what your options for recovering damages are. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling (404) 255-6677. Our attorneys serve the entire state of Georgia, including Smyrna, Decatur, and Marietta. You also can reach us through our online contact form.