What Are the Risks of Ridesharing Apps Like Lyft and Uber?

close up of hands holding cell or mobile phone with rideshare app open

Uber and Lyft are the dominant ridesharing apps in the United States, with 68% and 30% of the market share in 2020, respectively. They are multinational giants who offer their services in all types of regions, from urban to rural. However, large metropolitan cities such as Chicago account for the vast majority of ridesharing trips. In fact, in 2020, nearly a quarter of Uber’s trips occurred in just five cities—Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, São Paulo, and London. This generated $5.65 billion in bookings alone.

Ridesharing in Chicago

What makes ridesharing the mode of transportation of choice for so many Chicagoans?

Public transportation has become less popular since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. People find ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft to be more user-friendly and affordable than taxis. For many Chicago residents, ridesharing is the best or only way to commute to work.

The preference for ridesharing over conventional taxis has led to the decline of Chicago cabs over the years. From 2014 to 2021, 78% of the fleet has disappeared. In fact, there are only 1,480 licensed cabs still operating in the city today.

This decline could mean that there are fewer perceived professional drivers in operation than before. However, under the Chicago Municipal Code, Lyft and Uber drivers are held to specific regulations designed to ensure rider, driver, and pedestrian safety. As part of these regulations, rideshare drivers must obtain a background check and a chauffeur’s license. They must also display a phone number for complaints in their vehicle and transport passengers only in a new or frequently inspected vehicle. In addition, all drivers must carry personal insurance that includes liability coverage.

Unfortunately, there are still many risks to ridesharing.

The Risks of Using Uber and Lyft

The dangers of using Uber and Lyft can include theft, assault, sexual assault, and auto accidents. Theft, assault, and sexual assaults could be perpetuated by the driver or by another passenger during a pool ride. In each case, Uber or Lyft are responsible for keeping you safe and may be liable if they failed to do so.

Unfortunately, the frequency of these incidents is hard to pin down, usually due to loopholes in strict confidentiality clauses put into place by the companies. In fact, Uber’s recent safety report failed to tally non-fatal collisions or auto accidents for which its drivers were found at fault, which raises questions of transparency. Without professional legal advice, it’s difficult to recognize what justice you may be entitled to if a ridesharing driver compromises your safety.

Ridesharing Auto Accidents

Ridesharing drivers can cause accidents that injure their own passengers, passengers in other vehicles, or pedestrians in the street. Whether you're in a vehicle or not, the first step is to determine who was at fault if a rideshare driver collides with you. Due to the nature of ridesharing, there are more variables to consider than in average accidents and it's important to have the facts straight.

One of the main cited causes for Uber or Lyft accidents is fatigue. Due to the long or late hours that drivers work, exhaustion plays a heavy role in slow reaction times and situational awareness. Drivers have also been found more apt to speed in order to maximize their business. Cell phones or even the ridesharing app itself can also provide dangerous distractions for the driver.

Intoxicated ridesharing drivers are by definition negligent. It is important to have the driver tested as soon after the accident as possible to verify if alcohol or drugs played a part in the event. This could prevent future accidents at the hands of someone likely to act with negligence again.

Who Is Liable in an Uber or Lyft Auto Accident?

If you have been involved in an accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver you may be entitled to file a claim against either the driver’s personal insurance or against the ridesharing company directly. While both Uber and Lyft provide liability insurance coverage for bodily injury of up to $1 million, they only do so under specified circumstances.

What are these circumstances? Who is liable for the risks of ridesharing in your particular situation?

Here are the general guidelines for determining liability, based on the status of the driver at the time of the accident:

1.) The driver was not logged into the app. He or she may have been displaying a sign for the ridesharing company or just leaving after a passenger drop-off. Uber and Lyft require their drivers to carry personal auto insurance, but the liability coverage can vary widely. While some drivers carry special ridesharing insurance coverage, most policies do not cover accidents that occur in the course of commercial activity–as they define it, of course. It’s therefore critical to retain an experienced attorney if a ridesharing driver hits you in “off” mode because insurance companies often try to avoid paying these claims.

2.) The driver was logged into the app, waiting for a request. In this scenario, either the driver’s or the ridesharing company’s insurance may be liable. Typically, the ridesharing company would only consider paying for your losses if the driver’s insurance does not respond to the claim, but it’s best to work with an experienced attorney in case both insurance companies attempt to exploit the gray area in this situation.

3.) The driver was picking up or transporting a passenger. From the moment the driver accepts a ride to the moment that the passenger exits at their destination, the driver should be covered by Uber or Lyft’s primary liability insurance. These companies are skilled at minimizing recovery and fighting claims against them, so you will need a veteran attorney on your side to ensure that your rights are protected.

Ridesharing Auto Accidents from a Legal Perspective

Using Uber or Lyft is usually a safe, affordable, and convenient option for Chicago residents. However, there are risks to ridesharing, and there are important aspects to understand from a legal standpoint.

If you’re injured in an auto accident involving a Lyft or Uber driver, file a police report and see a doctor as soon as possible. Don’t admit fault and hire a law firm with experience and a strong track record representing victims of rideshare auto accidents, such as Cooney & Conway.

At Cooney & Conway, we untangle the intricacies of liability to hold the appropriate entity responsible. In settlement negotiations and trial, if necessary, you can count on us to represent you zealously and capably. We’ll ensure that you receive the maximum in damages that you’re entitled to due to medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering. We handle ridesharing cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that we only receive a fee if we’re successful for you. Contact us today for a free consultation.