Rideshare services are on the rise, both in the Chicago area and across the world. While Uber is the most popular provider at the moment, Lyft, its closest competitor, is rapidly gaining traction, with control of approximately 28 percent of the American market and a $14 billion valuation. According to recent estimates, Lyft has about 1.4 million drivers operating in 656 cities in the United States and Canada.
But with so many drivers working for the company, it is not surprising that an increasing number of car accidents and other serious incidents involve drivers for Lyft and other rideshare services. In fact, a 2018 study from the University of Chicago and Rice University found that widespread adoption of ridesharing had increased American traffic deaths by 2 to 3 percent since 2011, equivalent to as many as 1,100 fatalities per year.
Notable Lyft Lawsuits
Lyft itself has been subject to a number of lawsuits relating to driver negligence in recent years. Among the more notable high-profile lawsuits against the company and/or its drivers are the following:
- July 2015 – The first wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Lyft over a 2014 incident in Sacramento, CA, in which one Lyft passenger was killed and another seriously injured when their driver swerved off the road and crashed into two trees. (The surviving passenger also filed a personal injury lawsuit against Lyft.)
- August 2018 – Lyft settled a lawsuit with the City of Chicago for $4 million over the company’s failure to properly vet its drivers, including a convicted terrorist.
- December 2019 – Nineteen women filed suit against Lyft, alleging that the company failed to prevent drivers from sexually assaulting them, then ignored their complaints. These plaintiffs join the more than 200 women across the country who have reported incidents of rape, sexual assault, stalking, kidnapping, and harassment by rideshare drivers.
How Lyft Can Put You in Harm’s Way
The high concentration of Lyft drivers on the road and the risks inherent in the job suggest that future incidents, and future personal injury lawsuits, are likely inevitable.
Accidental injuries resulting from a Lyft accident will typically fall into three categories:
- Lyft passengers injured while in the Lyft vehicle.
- Other motorists and pedestrians injured where Lyft drivers are at fault.
- Lyft drivers injured when other drivers are at fault.
Additionally, certain characteristics specific to the industry may increase the likelihood of Lyft accidents. For example, Lyft drivers use their personal vehicles to transport passengers, with Lyft sharing its revenues with them. Since total payment is largely determined by the number of rides completed each shift, Lyft drivers may be incentivized to exceed the speed limit, which can result in serious accidents. Lyft drivers may also be more likely to be distracted by their phones since that is how they find paying fares.
Furthermore, in addition to the lawsuit that Lyft already settled with the City of Chicago, other legal actions suggest that the industry as a whole has widespread problems with vetting potential drivers. In 2017, for instance, more than 8,000 rideshare drivers in Massachusetts were pulled off the road after the state government introduced more stringent screenings of Uber and Lyft drivers. Critics also note that Lyft drivers may not have the safety training that professional taxi and limousine drivers do, putting its passengers and other motorists in harm’s way.
How Can Chicago Lyft Passengers Protect Themselves?
Given the potential dangers to which Lyft passengers may be exposed, it is only reasonable to ask “How can I protect myself when stepping into a Lyft?”
It is important to note that there are some common-sense precautions that any Lyft passenger can take. For example, no matter where you are, if a Lyft driver’s smartphone usage makes you feel uncomfortable, you have the right as a passenger to ask him or her to stop. Additionally, if you are riding in the Chicago area, the city has certain safety and licensing requirements in place about which you should be aware.
Chicago requires all rideshare drivers to acquire a Transportation Network Providers (TNP) Chauffeur’s License and to follow a number of city regulations. Drivers for Lyft and other companies in the Chicago area have to display:
- The company’s emblem on the front passenger windshield;
- A special emblem for picking up fares at airports, Navy Pier, or McCormick Place on the rear windshield;
- The TNP Chauffeur’s License on the front passenger dashboard; and
- A posted number for complaints on the back seat.
Chicago rideshare drivers are also required to carry relevant paperwork at all times. This paperwork includes a valid Illinois driver’s license, a company ID, the TNP Chauffeur’s License, the TNP terms of service agreement, a copy of the auto insurance policy, and the most recent vehicle inspection report. Passengers can ask to see any of these documents. If your driver will not show them to you, or if he or she does not have the required emblems or documents, strongly consider canceling the ride. Remember: your safety is always more important than your star rating.
Insurance Coverage for Lyft Accidents
But regardless of how many precautions you may take, Lyft accidents can still happen, exposing passengers, pedestrians, and other motorists to possible injury. When they do, the injured parties are likely to seek financial compensation – but pursuing a personal injury claim against Lyft and other rideshare companies can present certain challenges.
With Lyft accidents, it may be unclear which insurance policy applies. In the United States, employers are typically financially responsible for injuries and other damages caused by their on-duty employees. Lyft, however, does not consider itself a traditional employer, nor does it consider its drivers “employees.” Instead, Lyft argues that its drivers are independent contractors, who can work as little or as often as they want to, have no direct supervisors to whom they report, do not receive benefits, and are not eligible for workers’ compensation.
Because they are independent contractors, Lyft drivers’ personal liability insurance policies on their vehicles remain the first layer of financial recovery for injuries sustained in Lyft accidents. Nevertheless, Lyft may also provide additional insurance to supplement the liability insurance of its drivers. Whether or not this supplemental insurance comes into play depends on whether a driver has Lyft’s app engaged at the time of the accident, and whether that driver is in the process of picking up or carrying passengers when the incident occurs.
Consider the following scenarios:
- Driver Not Logged On to the Lyft App – Drivers typically use their own vehicles when “working” for rideshare companies, so they presumably either own or make payments on these vehicles. For this reason, Illinois and other states require them to carry minimum auto liability insurance. If a driver does not have the company’s app turned on, Lyft does not consider that driver to be on duty, since he or she cannot receive potential fares. In this scenario, only the Lyft driver’s personal auto insurance would apply in the case of an accident, which could be limited to as little as $25,000.00 for a single injured person in Illinois.
- Driver Is Logged On But Has Not Accepted a Fare – Under Lyft company policy, this is classified as Period 1 for a driver. In Period 1, the driver’s own liability insurance is the primary means of recovery for crash-related injuries or damages. However, even in Period 1, Lyft offers contingent insurance coverage of up to $50,000.00 per person for injuries and $100,000.00 per incident, with $25,000.00 for property damage – but only after the driver’s own insurance is exhausted. Once that contingent insurance is exhausted, whatever underinsured motorist coverage the injured parties have (assuming they have any) would then come into play.
- Driver Is About to Pick Up a Fare or Has Passengers – When a driver is either headed to pick up a fare (also known as Period 2) or already transporting passengers (classified as Period 3) at the time of an accident, Lyft has maximum insurance coverage of up to $1 million per incident, though it only comes into play when the driver’s personal liability insurance has been maxed out.
As you can see, the amount of additional coverage available from Lyft can range from nothing at all to upwards of $1 million, depending on what the driver was doing at the time of the incident. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for injured parties and/or their attorneys to obtain accurate information about when exactly a Lyft accident occurred, since it can significantly impact the amount of available compensation.
Was the Lyft Driver Insured at All?
Please note that, in all of the above Lyft accident scenarios, the driver’s own liability insurance coverage is the first layer of recovery. But there are circumstances in which Lyft drivers do not actually have insurance – sometimes even when they believe they do. This unfortunate situation occurs when a driver’s insurance company explicitly excludes using a policy for business purposes, such as delivering food or transporting Lyft passengers for payment.
To be sure, certain insurance companies do offer rideshare-specific policies to pick up gaps in coverage. However, because the rideshare industry is still very new, far too many Lyft drivers are either not aware of these policies or not willing to take on the additional expense, which can have a negative effect on a Lyft accident victim’s financial recovery.
How a Chicago Lyft Accident Lawyer Can Help
As you can see, along with the ease and convenience they promise, Lyft and other rideshare companies also offer potential dangers – and potential challenges to accident victims. The amount of compensation available to an injured person could hinge upon the type and level of personal liability insurance available, a driver’s “employment” status, and what he or she was doing at the time of the incident.
To help overcome the obstacles you may face, get in touch with the Chicago Lyft accident attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
At GWC, we have recovered over $2 billion in verdicts and settlements in more than four decades in practice, more than earning our status as one of the leading Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firms in Illinois. With their experience, determination, and fearsome record of success, both inside and outside of the courtroom, GWC’s dedicated injury attorneys can help you obtain full and fair compensation for all of your relevant damages, including:
- Past and Future Medical Expenses
- Lost Wages
- Pain and Suffering
- Diminished Enjoyment of Life
- Mental and Emotional Distress
- Scarring and Disfigurement
- Permanent Disability or Impairment
- Loss of Consortium
So if you have been wrongfully injured in a Lyft accident, contact GWC today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our Chicago Lyft accident lawyers. You may call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative at any time.