Can a Passenger Sue an Uber Driver?
Sometimes it may be necessary for a passenger to sue an Uber driver.
There has been some controversy over the years pertaining to how Uber compensates individuals hurt in crashes, or the surviving family members of victims killed in Uber accidents. Indeed, public outcry and legal action have taken their toll on the rideshare company and forced the growing franchise to refine its own insurance policy and compensation procedures.
Now, Uber offers individual victims compensation of up to $1 million for injuries and other losses associated with an Uber accident. However, sometimes that insurance policy isn't enough. Sometimes it may be necessary for a passenger to sue an Uber driver.
But keep in mind, the circumstances in which an injured passenger will need to sue an Uber driver are extremely few and far between.
Uber Insurance Pays for Almost Everything
Can a passenger sue an Uber driver if they caused an accident in which the passenger was hurt? Yes, but typically passengers won't need to. The same goes for suing a Lyft driver. In fact, a simple insurance claim is often all it takes to get the compensation a victim needs, to cover:
These claims are easily filed against Uber's own insurance company (if the driver was "on the clock" when the crash happened) or the driver's own personal auto insurance policy (if the Uber app was not open at the time of the crash.
While there may be some hard negotiation necessary to get adequate compensation, victims can often get the money they need from Uber or Lyft without filing papers in a California court or taking a personal injury case to trial.
Indeed, insurance settlements are often better (for all parties involved) than lawsuits, for a number of reasons:
Insurance Settlements are Quicker
Insurance settlements with Uber or Lyft can take as little as a few days to process. You can literally have a check in-hand within days of filing a claim. Sure, more complicated claims or those requesting a substantial amount of money will take more time to process, and may require an extended negotiation period, but it's rare for an Uber or Lyft insurance claim to go unresolved for more than a year.
Personal injury trials, on the other hand, can stew in legal limbo for a year or more before anybody ever sets foot in a courtroom.
Insurance Settlements Offer Guaranteed Compensation
Getting an adequate insurance settlement may seem like a hassle, but a settlement is a guaranteed payout.
In a small number of cases, if an Uber accident passenger and their attorney determine that an acceptable settlement amount cannot be negotiated with the insurance company, it may be possible to get a larger sum in compensation for the injuries suffered, by suing the Uber driver (or Lyft driver) instead, which would generally mean facing the insurance company in court.
But it is important to understand that it's always possible the passenger may actually lose the case if it goes to trial, in which case, unfortunately, the injured person may walk away with nothing but legal expenses for their effort.
Sometimes You Need to Sue
On the other hand, sometimes suing an Uber driver is the right decision for an injured driver to get the compensation they deserve. Below are a few scenarios in which it might make sense to sue an Uber driver rather than accept an insurance settlement.
Scenario 1: The Victim's Injuries are Extensive
Hospital expenses from an injury accident can quickly mount into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's not inconceivable that the monetary expenses associated with an Uber accident could in certain cases surpass the $1 million maximum that Uber's insurance policy will cover. If that's the case, the passenger could sue the Uber driver in order to attempt to obtain a judgement that is beyond the policy coverage limits.
This situation is, however, unlikely to come to pass in the vast majority of cases, even when the case is clearly worth more than $1 million, simply because in most cases the driver as an individual will not have substantial assets with which to pay. Most Lyft and Uber drivers are just making ends meet. They are not rich individuals driving around for their own pleasure. Typically suing a Lyft driver or Uber driver won't get you any more money than if you just sued Uber or Lyft alone.
Scenario 2: The Accident Occurred while the Uber Driver was Off The Clock
Uber's insurance policy will not cover the financial cost associated with accidents incurred during crashes when the driver's Uber app is not open and active. In such cases the victims can seek compensation from the driver's personal auto insurance. However, California only mandates a $15,000 per person minimum liability coverage. That could be spent in one day at a hospital if a victim's injuries are severe enough.
Again, if the driver is underinsured, filing a personal injury case could be the best way to seek compensation above and beyond insurance limits, but only in the minority of cases where the driver has substantial assets. Again, you likely won't have much success getting much money from an Uber or Lyft driver. However, you owe it to yourself to make sure you consult with an Uber or Lyft accident lawyer to be sure all possible avenues of insurance coverage have been investigated.
Scenario 3: The Insurance Company Fights Your Claim
If an insurance company (including Uber or Lyft's) simply won't acknowledge the validity of your claim and continues to lowball you, it may be necessary for a passenger to sue an Uber driver in order to get adequate compensation for their losses from the insurer. Our firm will usually be sure to name the Uber driver in the lawsuit, as it adds more weight to the claim and will get Uber or Lyft to take the case more seriously.
In most cases, an insurance company will come to a reasonable settlement, especially when faced with a strong demand letter and hard evidence (although usually not at first - an appropriate settlement will almost always require some level of negotiation.)
However, sometimes, for various reasons, even though the victim's case is strong, the insurer simply won't offer a high enough settlement before trial, and you need to go to court. Often the case will still come to a settlement before the trial is over, as the facts of the case and the probable outcome are clarified, but in any event, it is essential to have the representation of a personal injury lawyer experienced in Uber accidents in such a situation.
What to Expect from an Uber Lawsuit
If a passenger does sue an Uber driver after an accident, they can expect certain things. Coming in as the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit means that the burden to prove a case falls on your shoulders (or those of your attorney). You will need adequate proof to cement your claim, such as:
It's the job of your rideshare injury attorney to gather all that evidence and present it in the most impactful manner to sway the opinion of the court in your favor. This evidence is so important because California is a "comparative negligence" state, which means that every party involved in an accident can be assigned a portion of the liability.
So, for example, if an Uber driver causes a crash by running a red light, they may bear the entirety of the fault associated with the accident. However, if the driver fails to signal a turn, and is then struck by another driver who is speeding, both drivers could be assigned a portion of the fault.
Determining (and proving) liability will be a key component in any Uber accident lawsuit.
Additionally, victims should be prepared to lose in court. While an experienced personal injury attorney should do everything they can to win a case against an at fault Uber driver, the outcome will be largely based on the opinions of a jury or judge, and these judgements (and instructions given by the judge to the jury) will be heavily influenced by previous decisions by other judges.
If you take your Uber accident case to court, you may win the award you deserve, but it is also always possible that you may either not get the compensation you expected, or not get compensated at all.
Understanding When to Sue an Uber Driver
If you think you may potentially have the basis for a successful lawsuit against an Uber driver or a Lyft driver, you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney right away. A lawyer who is well-versed in car accident law can help you decide whether a lawsuit is the right way to get the compensation you deserve or if your interests would be better served by one or more insurance claims.
Motorcyclist hit by an Uber driver
Last year I was in a serious Motorcycle accident that was not my fault. Beyond the initial emergency room visit, I required surgery and months of rehab. All in all, my left leg will probably never reach 100%. It has been a stressful and scary year. But one of the comforts through it all has been the services that Sally Morin provided.
While I was focused on my health, she was taking care of everything else. And in the end she got the other drivers' insurance company to settle at an amount that was substantial enough to cover the pain and suffering I had incurred as well ease my worries about paying for any future care related to the accident.
She even got the medical collections to decrease my balance due by thousands. I was skeptical to hire a lawyer off of YELP, but in the end it was the best thing I could have done.
Experience a serious Uber or Lyft accident?
Visit our Uber Accidents Help Page to learn more about how the rideshare injury process works.