If you've suffered a rideshare-related injury and you're planning to file an insurance claim or a lawsuit against Uber or Lyft, you're probably wondering how long your case will take. The course of a rideshare case hinges on so many factors that it's impossible to predict the timeline of an individual case, but most rideshare injury claims proceed through the same distinct stages that other personal injury claims go through. Here's what you need to know:
Uber and Lyft are alternatives to taxis and other private and public transportation services. The rideshare companies have connected billions of riders and drivers since Uber launched in 2010. But the explosive growth of the companies has come with a similarly explosive rise in the number of lawsuits filed against Uber and Lyft.
Uber and Lyft have faced class-action lawsuits over some of their controversial business practices. For example, rideshare drivers all over the country have sued Uber and Lyft for classifying them as independent contractors instead of employees. Critics say Uber and Lyft avoid having to pay for standard protections of employment like minimum wage, overtime pay, unemployment benefits, and workers' compensation when they classify drivers as independent contractors. Uber and Lyft say allowing drivers to remain independent contractors is necessary to preserve flexibility for drivers and enough rides for users. In 2020, California voters passed Prop 22, a ballot initiative that allows Uber and Lyft to continue to classify drivers as independent contractors. But efforts by the U.S. Labor Department and state lawmakers to regulate the rideshare industry could lead to big changes in the coming years.
Uber and Lyft have also faced lawsuits over the actions—intentional and negligent—of their drivers. For example, Uber faced a wrongful death lawsuit in 2013 after an Uber driver struck and killed a child. The lawsuit (and negative publicity) eventually caused Uber and Lyft to require rideshare drivers to have car insurance and to provide some insurance coverage of their own when drivers are waiting for ride requests and picking up passengers and carrying passengers.
After safety reports released in 2019 (Uber) and 2021 (Lyft) revealed that the companies have received thousands of reports of sexual during rides from 2017 to 2018, hundreds of people across the country have filed sexual assault lawsuits against Uber and Lyft.
The person suing Uber or Lyft in a rideshare injury lawsuit (the "plaintiff") might be one or more of the following:
Just because you've suffered a rideshare-related injury, doesn't mean Uber and Lyft are responsible for your injuries. In rideshare and other personal injury lawsuits, liability (the legal obligation to pay) depends on fault or wrongdoing. To get Uber and Lyft on the financial hook, you'll typically have to show that a rideshare driver (or, more rarely, passenger) intentionally or carelessly (negligently) caused your injuries.
For example, if you're a passenger in an Uber and you break your jaw when your Uber driver rear-ends a truck, you can file a claim with the Uber driver's personal insurance company and with Uber's insurance company. Your driver's negligence likely caused the accident and the Uber driver and Uber are liable for your accident-related losses (called "damages').
But if you break your jaw when a truck rear-ends your Uber, you'll probably have to file a claim against the truck driver's insurance company first. The truck driver is likely at fault for the accident, not your Uber driver or Uber. (But if the truck driver is uninsured or if you are the victim of a hit-and-run, Uber's uninsured motorist coverage (UMI) might pay for some or all of your losses in some states.)
In addition to having to prove liability (who was at fault), you'll have to prove your damages (losses).
If you're thinking about filing a rideshare insurance claim or lawsuit, don't delay. Each state sets a limit on how much time a person has to file an injury-related lawsuit in court. Different limits (called "statutes of limitation") apply to different kinds of cases. If you miss the deadline to file, you typically lose your right to sue and get compensation for your losses. Most states give plaintiffs one to three years to file a civil lawsuit.
A statute of limitations deadline applies only to the filing of a lawsuit in court. Most rideshare injury cases start with an insurance claim. Be aware of the statute of limitations during insurance settlement negotiations. You might lose your right to sue if negotiations drag out beyond the statute of limitations deadline.
Figuring out the statute of limitations can be tricky. Talk to a lawyer soon after your injury to keep all your options, including a potential lawsuit, open.
Before Uber and Lyft launched, the two main types of drivers on the road were commercial and personal. Commercial drivers operate everything from dump trucks to delivery vans to taxis. Personal drivers are people who drive, not to earn a living, but to do things like get to work, run errands, and go on vacation. Personal car insurance policies typically don't cover drivers who are transporting goods or passengers for a fee. Commercial drivers need commercial car insurance.
Rideshare drivers blur the lines between personal and commercial driving. For example, a rideshare driver might use her personal car to drop kids off at school, pick up a paying customer at the airport, and then get groceries on her way home.
In response to the dilemma of rideshare drivers needing both commercial and personal insurance protection—and in response to state and local laws regulating the rideshare industry—Uber and Lyft now provide some insurance coverage for rideshare drivers when drivers are using their apps.
When the rideshare app is off, the driver's personal insurance coverage applies. When the driver is available for ride requests, Uber and Lyft provide some liability coverage if the driver's personal insurance doesn't apply. If the driver is picking up or carrying passengers, Uber and Lyft provide more coverage, including up to $1,000,000 in liability protection, UMI coverage for injuries, and some collision and comprehensive protection if the rideshare driver has collision and comprehensive personal car insurance coverage. (Learn more about Uber and Lyft insurance coverage. Coverage limits may vary by state.)
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. Exceptions to the arbitration agreement include:
Riders also agree not to bring a class action against Uber or Lyft when they accept the terms of service.
The companies might have to prove that you knew about the arbitration requirement before they can enforce it. Learn more about the pros and cons of arbitration.
If yours is one of the rare rideshare cases that doesn't settle and isn't diverted to arbitration or small claims court, here's a snapshot of the key phases of a lawsuit:
If you and your lawyer decide to pursue a case directly against Uber or Lyft (in addition to or instead of one against the rideshare driver), legal issues can get pretty thorny. You might need a judge to decide if Uber and Lyft can compel you to arbitrate your case. If your injuries are significant, you and your lawyer will have stacks of medical records to sift through, and perhaps expert witnesses to hear from.
Rideshare lawsuits are more complicated than an average personal injury case. Some of the phases outlined above will undoubtedly take longer, especially discovery and pre-trial motions.
The court's calendar might also affect the timeline of a rideshare injury case. If the calendar is clogged or disrupted, trial dates might get pushed back by weeks or months.
The overwhelming majority of personal injury cases, including rideshare injury claims, settle long before trial. Settlement of personal injury claims can take place at any time.
For example, soon after filing the complaint, the plaintiff's attorney can send a demand letter to the other side, detailing the plaintiff's harm and asking for a certain dollar amount as compensation. Demand letters often spur serious settlement talks. If a settlement agreement is reached before trial, the plaintiff dismisses the lawsuit in exchange for the settlement amount.
As the trial date approaches and the parties get a better sense of the case (and their respective chances of prevailing), there's a good chance they'll at least test the settlement waters. And even if the two sides don't come together on their own to try to resolve the case out of court, depending on the jurisdiction in which the lawsuit is filed, the court is almost certain to require that the plaintiff and defendant attend at least one mandatory settlement conference before trial takes place.
One of the biggest variables in determining how long your Uber/Lyft injury claim will take is you. If the defendant offers you a settlement early on, you'll end up with some fast cash, but you might not be getting full and fair compensation for your losses.
Early settlement usually isn't a good idea until you have:
The value of a rideshare injury case typically depends on who was at fault for your injuries (liability) and how badly you were injured (damages).
Common categories of rideshare injury damages include:
Learn more about how much an Uber or Lyft injury case might be worth.
Rideshare injury cases are complex. If you think Uber and Lyft might be responsible for your injuries, talk to a lawyer. A knowledgeable attorney can help you file an insurance claim, negotiate with insurance adjusters, and present the pros and cons of settlement. A lawyer can also help you figure out if you can file a civil lawsuit against Uber or Lyft, or if you are limited to binding arbitration or small claims because of the companies' terms of service.
Learn more about how to find the right personal injury lawyer for your case. You can also connect with a lawyer directly from this page for free.