CHICAGO — The popularity of rideshare services like Uber and Lyft has skyrocketed in recent years, with billions of rides across the globe.
In the Chicago area alone, more than 60,000 people work as rideshare drivers, according to the Chicago Tribune.
With so many vehicles on the road, it begs the question: Who is responsible when crashes, injuries or criminal attacks occur during rideshare trips? What does insurance cover? And how can passengers, pedestrians and cyclists protect themselves?
“Uber and Lyft put millions of rideshare drivers on American roadways each year,” Cavanagh Law Group partner Tim Cavanagh said. “Those companies have an obligation to thoroughly vet their drivers and protect the public at large. When misconduct and negligence happen at the hands of drivers, rideshare services need to be held accountable.”
Before stepping into a rideshare vehicle, it’s important to know your rights.
Because rideshare services are still relatively new, rideshare law is constantly evolving. Multibillion-dollar companies like Uber and Lyft work to avoid liability at every turn, and navigating complex insurance policies can be confusing for victims of crashes or negligence.
That’s why it’s essential to have an experienced attorney on your side. Cavanagh Law Group has represented numerous clients in rideshare cases in Chicago and across Illinois, obtaining a number of sizable settlements for people injured in rideshare-related crashes.
What Should I Do if I’m Injured by a Rideshare Driver?
Whether you’re a passenger, pedestrian, bicyclist or motorist, it’s important to follow several basic steps if you’re involved in a crash with a rideshare driver. Seek medical attention and document your injuries. Contact an attorney, and do not provide a statement to the rideshare driver’s insurance company.
If you were behind the wheel of a vehicle, your insurance policy likely requires you to report the collision to your insurer. But you are under no obligation to speak to another driver’s insurance company. In fact, any statements you make could be used against you.
“The insurance company is not looking out for your best interest,” Cavanagh Law Group partner Mike Sorich said. “Let’s say you’re rear-ended by a Lyft driver. His insurance company calls you two hours later, and you say, ‘I’m a little sore, but I’m fine.’ Then you go to the doctor and find out you have a herniated disc. Lyft is going to use your recorded statement down the road. The company’s attorneys can say, ‘Oh, you weren’t that hurt in the crash. You must have fallen down your stairs that night or did something else. We’re not liable for it.’”
It’s important to contact an attorney immediately to ensure your rights are protected. To get started with a free evaluation, click here.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Rideshare Drivers Are Considered Independent Contractors. What Does That Mean for You?
If you request a ride using the Uber app, you might assume your driver is an employee of Uber. But rideshare companies classify their drivers as independent contractors.
Why does that matter?
It’s one of the ways services like Uber and Lyft try to shield themselves from liability when something goes wrong. Companies don’t have the same legal responsibility for contractors that they do for employees.
“Rideshare drivers should absolutely be considered employees,” Cavanagh said. “When passengers step into a rideshare vehicle, it’s because they see the trusted pink Lyft logo or an Uber sticker in the window. People request rides from brands they trust, but when injuries or negligence occur, those same companies try to distance themselves from drivers by labeling them independent contractors.”
Background Checks Are Outsourced. How Does That Impact Your Safety?
Another way rideshare companies seek to avoid liability is by hiring third-party companies to perform background checks on drivers.
Passengers expect to receive safe rides from qualified drivers who have been thoroughly vetted. While that is often the case, the sad reality is that numerous drivers with criminal histories and reckless driving records have passed the screening process.
Since rideshare services debuted in the U.S., thousands of criminal complaints have been filed in relation to rideshare drivers or passengers. In 2018 alone, more than 3,000 people reported sexual assaults related to Uber rides. And in 2019, authorities in Portland, Oregon, revealed they had suspended or revoked permits for nearly 200 rideshare drivers since 2015 for both traffic and criminal offenses. Among the drivers were two convicted felons.
“By hiring an outside security company to run background checks,” Sorich said, “Uber can argue it’s not liable for those security checks when something goes wrong — all while claiming Uber drivers are independent contractors.”
Will a Rideshare Driver’s Insurance Policy Pay for Your Medical Bills or Cover Lost Wages?
Though Uber and Lyft classify their drivers as independent contractors, the rideshare giants still provide auto insurance. Policies are only active while drivers are using the rideshare app; coverage varies.
Let’s say a Lyft driver strikes a pedestrian in a crosswalk or hits a bicyclist while making a left turn. The victim is seriously injured, needs to be hospitalized and is facing mounting medical bills and lost income. Will the driver’s insurance policy cover the victim’s care?
It depends. Was the driver still waiting for a ride request? Was he on his way to pick up a passenger? Or did he already have a passenger in the vehicle? The maximum insurance payout varies widely as the scenario shifts, with less coverage available when the driver isn’t engaged in a ride.
“Most people who get into a Lyft or Uber don’t think twice about the legal ramifications,” Cavanagh said. “Rideshare law is evolving, and these massive companies often do everything in their power to avoid taking responsibility or admitting liability. At Cavanagh Law Group, our attorneys continue to push every day for more coverage and more rights for people injured by rideshare drivers.”
It can be overwhelming to navigate complicated insurance policies following an injury. An attorney who is well versed in rideshare cases can advocate for you and your family to ensure you receive fair compensation.
Cavanagh Law Group has represented numerous clients in rideshare collisions, including Jaclyn McKee, a Lyft passenger who suffered a serious spinal injury in a downtown Chicago crash involving a recycling truck.
McKee was in the back seat of a Lyft vehicle on Dec. 13, 2018, when the car’s driver attempted to make a left turn from Michigan Avenue onto Lower Wacker. An oncoming Mack Truck being driven for a recycling company slammed into the Lyft.
McKee was hospitalized for a week with a serious fusion and disc injury.
The case is pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County.