If you've been assaulted by an Uber or Lyft driver or injured in a rideshare car accident, you're probably wondering if you can file a personal injury lawsuit and how much your claim might be worth. How do you put a dollar figure on a spinal fracture caused by a careless rideshare driver? Or the mental anguish of being assaulted by a driver you thought you could trust?
In this article, we'll provide you with some background on rideshare lawsuits and explain what compensation you might get in a rideshare injury settlement or court award.
Uber and Lyft disrupted the transportation industry in less than a decade. The use of an app or website to connect riders with drivers for on-demand car rides was unheard of prior to Uber's launch in 2010 and now billions of passengers around the world routinely use rideshare services. But with the rise in popularity of rideshare apps, has come a rise in the number of lawsuits filed against Uber and Lyft.
Both Uber and Lyft have faced lawsuits over their business practices, including classifying drivers as independent contractors, workplace discrimination, and misleading fees. (To learn more about these types of lawsuits, check out: Is There an Uber or Lyft Class Action Lawsuit?)
Uber and Lyft also face lawsuits over the actions—careless or intentional—of their drivers. For many years, Uber and Lyft didn't provide any car insurance coverage for drivers because they classify drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. Then an Uber driver hit and killed a six-year-old child in San Francisco in 2013. The child's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Uber and successfully advocated for lawmakers in California to require rideshare services to provide some insurance coverage for drivers. Now Uber and Lyft require all drivers to have their own insurance and offer coverage of their own when drivers are logged on to the apps. (Learn more about Uber and Lyft insurance coverage.)
In addition to car accident claims, Uber and Lyft are facing hundreds of lawsuits filed by rideshare passengers who were sexually assaulted by their drivers. Safety reports issued by Uber in 2018 and Lyft in 2021, reveal that thousands of passengers have reported being sexually assaulted during rides. (Learn more about the rise of sexual-assault related lawsuits against Uber and Lyft.)
Just because you were injured by an Uber or Lyft driver, doesn't mean that you can automatically file a lawsuit against Uber and Lyft.
Rideshare injury claims, like all personal injury claims, hinge on your ability to show fault or wrongdoing. For Uber or Lyft to be liable for your injuries, you'll typically have to show that a rideshare driver intentionally or negligently (carelessly) caused you harm.
For example, if you're a passenger in an Uber, and you fracture your spine when your driver runs a red light and crashes into a truck, you can file a claim with your driver's insurance company and with Uber's insurance company. Your driver's negligence (running a red light) caused the accident and your driver and Uber have a legal obligation to pay for your accident-related losses. See below for a breakdown of the types of losses typically covered.
But, if you're a passenger in a Lyft, and you break your leg when a truck driver rear-ends your Lyft, you'll probably have to file a claim with the truck driver's insurance company first. The truck driver is likely at fault for the accident, not your Lyft driver or Lyft. (But if the truck driver is uninsured or underinsured, Lyft's uninsured motorist coverage (UMI) coverage might kick in to pay for some or all of your losses.)
Learn more about fault and liability for car accidents.
Cases involving assaults by Uber and Lyft drivers are more clear-cut. If you've been physically or sexually assaulted by a rideshare driver, you can typically sue the driver and Uber and Lyft. You can also report the assault to the police and the driver can be criminally prosecuted and sentenced to jail or prison.
When riders download and use the Uber and Lyft apps, they agree to the companies' terms of service. The terms of service are a contract between Uber or Lyft and their riders.
But most riders don't read the fine print and are surprised to learn that Uber and Lyft's terms of service require riders to resolve most legal disagreements with Uber or Lyft through binding arbitration. Injury-related exceptions to the arbitration requirement include:
Riders also agree not to bring a class action against Uber or Lyft when they accept the terms of service. The companies typically have to show that you knew about the arbitration requirement before they can enforce it. Learn more about the pros and cons of arbitration.
If you're thinking about filing an injury claim against Uber or Lyft, don't delay. Each state and the federal government have laws called "statutes of limitation." Statutes of limitation set strict limits on how much time a person has to file an injury-related lawsuit in court, including small claims.
Most states don't have specific statutes of limitation for rideshare cases. But all states have deadlines for bringing personal injury lawsuits. Talk to a lawyer about the statute of limitations in your state. If you miss the deadline, you'll lose your right to sue and get compensation for your losses.
The value of a rideshare injury case is driven by two main factors: liability (who was at fault for your injuries) and damages. Damages is a legal term for the amount of money paid to a plaintiff (the person suing) in a lawsuit.
Let's look at some common categories of damages, and how each might affect the value of your rideshare injury lawsuit.
As a plaintiff, if you win or settle your Uber or Lyft injury case, your damages include compensation for:
If the full extent of your injuries isn't clear, it might not be in your best interest to accept an early settlement offer. You'll want a clear picture of your injuries and prognosis before you settle your claim (lawyers sometimes refer to this as reaching your maximum medical improvement or MMI). Once you accept an injury settlement, you can't go back and reopen your claim, even if you learn that your injuries are worse than you first thought.
If your rideshare injuries have forced you to take time off from your job, or have otherwise affected your ability to earn a living, that kind of economic harm will also factor into your damages. You are entitled to compensation for lost income (past and future) stemming from your injuries. Lost future income is sometimes called "diminished earning capacity."
While economic losses like medical bills and lost income are fairly easy to calculate, "pain and suffering" aren't as easy to quantify. But this category of damages plays a big part in determining how much your rideshare injury case is worth. Pain and suffering in rideshare injury case might include:
Damages are paid by the people and businesses that cause plaintiffs' harm (the "defendants"). The defendants' insurance companies foot the bill for most claims.
In rideshare injury cases, it's not always clear where ultimate financial responsibility rests. Options for car accident-related injuries might include:
When you file a rideshare injury insurance claim or lawsuit, you're asking the defendant (or the defendant's insurance company) to compensate you for your damages. You have a legal obligation to keep your damages to a reasonable minimum (called the duty to "mitigate damages").
For example, say you were injured while riding in an Uber. You make a claim against Uber's insurance policy. If Uber's insurer can show that you failed to get necessary medical treatment within a reasonable time after the car accident, and the delay in treatment caused your injuries to get worse, your damages award might be significantly reduced. This is one of many reasons why it's important to have an experienced lawyer on your side in a rideshare injury case.
Each rideshare injury case is different. Some cases involve assaults by rideshare drivers. Other cases involve injured passengers or even injured rideshare drivers and it isn't clear who was at fault for the accident.
It's impossible to predict whether an individual rideshare case will settle, but most personal injury claims do settle at some point before arbitration or trial. A settlement is a legally binding agreement. The plaintiff agrees to accept money in exchange for dropping the case against the defendant. Rideshare plaintiffs and defendants settle cases to save time and money and minimize risk and stress.
If your Uber or Lyft injury lawsuit settles, the defendant pays you an agreed-upon amount, but typically won't admit liability in the settlement agreement. In other words, Uber or Lyft won't admit to having done anything wrong. And chances are your settlement agreement will require you to keep the terms of the settlement (including how much money you received from the defendant) confidential.
Learn more about how personal injury settlement works.
Uber and Lyft are huge companies with teams of expensive lawyers. You can represent yourself in an insurance claim or lawsuit against them, but you'll probably be at a disadvantage. An experienced lawyer can help you file an insurance claim, figure out who is liable for your injury, negotiate with insurance adjusters, and advocate for you in arbitration or court.
Chances are a lawyer will handle your case on a "contingency fee" basis. This means if you reach an out-of-court settlement, or your lawsuit goes all the way to trial and you receive a judgment in your favor, your lawyer will get a percentage of what you receive—usually around one-third of the total. If you don't receive anything from the other side, your lawyer doesn't get paid. Win or lose, you might be on the hook for expenses like court filing and copying fees. Read your attorneys' fee agreement carefully.
If you have a rideshare-related injury, you might feel overwhelmed. Rideshare injury cases have an additional layer of complexity, but also an additional opportunity for full compensation. Talk to a lawyer about how to hold Uber and Lyft accountable for your injuries.
Learn more about how to find the right personal injury lawyer. You can also fill out the form at the top or bottom of this page to connect with a lawyer for free.