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How Liability Is Determined in a Rideshare Accident

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Posted on February 14, 2023

Determining liability in an at-fault state where it matters who caused an accident is always challenging, but it’s never more complex than when an accident involves a rideshare vehicle like an Uber or Lyft car. Because the large rideshare companies maintain their status as only app companies whose product connects passengers with independent contractors, they can distance themselves from liability in accidents involving their contracted drivers.

To address the need for accident coverage for rideshare vehicles, both Uber and Lyft require drivers to carry a multi-tiered insurance policy in place for different stages of the rideshare experience. Determining liability becomes even more complicated when an injured accident victim has to untangle the layers of coverage to prove which policy was in place at the time of the accident. 

Understanding Rideshare Insurance Coverage

Both major rideshare services—Uber and Lyft—require their contracted drivers to carry a specific type of third-party insurance policy that provides different coverage depending on the stage of the rideshare experience at the time of the accident. The coverage provided works as follows:

  • When a rideshare driver uses their vehicle for personal reasons, their own private auto insurance is in effect
  • When the Uber or Lyft driver turns on their app and is actively waiting for a passenger to engage them, the first tier of insurance is in place providing up to $25,000 in property damage coverage, $50,000 in personal injury compensation per person, or up to $100,000 per accident
  • When the rideshare driver has an assigned passenger and is on the way to meet them and throughout the time of actively transporting a passenger to their destination, the top tier of insurance is in place providing up to $1 million in personal injury coverage and up to the car’s cash value for property damage
  • Uber and Lyft vehicles also carry underinsured motorist coverage for protection in the event of an accident with an at-fault driver without adequate insurance coverage

After an accident involving a rideshare vehicle, whether it’s a collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian accident, it often requires an attorney to investigate the details of the accident to determine the coverage in place at the time the accident occurred.

What if the Uber or Lyft Driver Wasn’t at Fault?

Just as in any accident in California and other at-fault states, it matters who causes an accident to occur. It’s the responsibility of the at-fault person’s insurance to cover damages. Sadly, insurance companies are rarely in a hurry to pay out on damage claims since their business model makes profits by taking in more money in premiums than they pay out in claims. For this reason, accident attorneys often need to investigate accidents and craft a compelling case to prove liability.

The rideshare driver isn’t always at fault in an accident. An accident may be the fault of another driver or the city or county may bear liability if a poorly maintained road or traffic signal caused the accident.

Just as in all accidents, an investigation after a rideshare accident should determine the at-fault party and then prove liability through the following points:

  • Showing that the party at fault owed a duty of care to keep others safe in traffic by following the laws and driving carefully
  • Showing that the at-fault person breached that duty by negligence or recklessness
  • Showing that the negligence caused the accident and resulted in injuries
  • Proving that the injuries caused real economic and non-economic damages

Once the evidence shows that the at-fault party in the accident meets the above standards of liability, that person’s insurance must cover the damages according to the terms of their policy.

How a Rideshare Accident Attorney Can Help

Because rideshare coverage is multi-tiered and complex, choosing a San Diego rideshare accident attorney with a strong history of successful rideshare accident claims can significantly increase your chances of gaining full compensation for your injuries and property damage.