Ridesharing has become an essential part of life in Los Angeles, although the COVID-19 emergency has reduced the market somewhat. Nonetheless, when the restrictions ease and cities reopen again, ridesharing will undoubtedly rebound with new drivers. The same issues remain: questions of safety and liability in cases of accident.

Liability Insurance Then and Now

When Lyft first began offering ridesharing services, drivers supplied their own liability insurance, and most drivers carried no more than the minimum required for their state. Basic uninsured motorist insurance turned out to be inadequate for serious accidents, and there were questions as to Lyft's liability for their drivers.

Initially, Lyft disclaimed responsibility, but today, they offer third-party liability coverage up to $1 million dollars, which provides a resource for the passenger in cases of an accident. By doing so, Lyft bypasses questions of vicarious liability, as they technically have not "hired" their drivers, who remain independent contractors with the service.

Convoluted Claims and Restricted Requirements

Lyft's insurance does not make it easy for a passenger to file a claim in the case of an accident. Certain "contingencies" must be met, and the passenger will need to prove them as the claimant. This is when a knowledgeable attorney is essential.

  • The driver must have personal coverage and a rideshare endorsement. The coverage must be proper commercial coverage or a waiver of the "business use exception" that allows the insurer to deny coverage if the vehicle is being used for profit.
  • If the Lyft driver is at-fault in the accident, a claim must be filed with the driver's insurer first. If the claim is denied, or lacks sufficient coverage, then Lyft's third-party coverage will kick in.
  • Lyft also carries a $1 million uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which only applies if the Lyft driver is at fault and the other motorist is uninsured or unknown.

Some states, such as California, are comparative fault states. This means that drivers can share the fault and the liability for an accident. If the other driver is at fault in the accident, the Lyft driver can still bear some of the responsibility. If the Lyft driver is not at fault, then any claim would have to be filed with the other driver's insurance company.

When Insurance is Not Enough

Even if the Lyft driver is fully at fault, has the proper insurance, and the claim is properly filed, there may not be enough money in the insurance pot to cover all the claim. The driver will have his or her own claim, and any other passenger or drivers involved in the accident will have filed claims as well. Insurance amounts are split among claimants; sometimes there is not enough to go around.

In that case, a claim may need to be laid against Lyft itself. Proving Lyft's liability is extremely difficult, because Lyft does not hire their drivers, but insists they are independent contractors. As such, Lyft may not be responsible for their drivers' actions or other liabilities.

Still, some cases have been successfully brought against Lyft and sister company Uber, based on the companies' knowledge of certain drivers' poor driving records or criminal backgrounds. If a claimant can show that Lyft reasonably should have known the driver involved in the accident was at risk, had excessive tickets or previous accidents, or other habitually poor driving behavior.

Filing a Personal Injury Case

Bringing a personal injury case against a ridesharing company like Lyft is difficult, because of the restrictions Lyft places on filing. A claimant must exhaust all other potential claims before attempting to file against Lyft's third-party insurance. Because of this, a skilled attorney is highly recommended. Contact our firm today to see if you have a good claim against Lyft or their driver.