Well, the day finally came. You’ve been driving for rideshare free and clear for weeks, months, maybe years. Now, you’ve gotten yourself into a Lyft or an Uber accident.
Most of us have been there, either during rideshare hours or on our own time. We all know how stressful it can be. Look, accidents happen; it is just a matter of time. No matter how good you are at driving, you will find yourself in an accident.
I still get flashbacks to my last encounter with another vehicle back in 2017. It was a killer Friday morning with tons of fares to be had when a careless Nissan Rogue slammed into my front driver side wheel well.
Had I known then what I know now, I might have responded differently.
That is one of the reasons I have taken the time to craft this guide for you. As a rideshare driver, it is imperative that we all know how to handle an Uber accident properly. So, we’ve taken the time to research the best protocol for you in case you find yourself in a pinch. Of course, we do not claim to be lawyers and do not make any claims that you shouldn’t first, also research yourself.
Why driving for rideshare is different than driving your own vehicle?
Even if you’ve been in an accident you might think that you are well-versed enough to just skate through the proceedings, well you are wrong. Getting into an accident while driving for rideshare is infinitely more complicated. You cannot get away with simply taking down someone’s information and going about your merry way.
Do not think for a second that you can avoid Uber or Lyft finding out. There are far too many ways for companies to expose you as a fraud. If you try to get cute with insurance companies, police officers, riders, or the rideshare companies themselves, they will find out sooner or later.
Why rideshare accidents are so much more complex?
Put simply, a Lyft or Uber accident involves more working parts. It’s not just you —the rideshare driver, the other driver, and the rider. An accident will inevitably involve other people too. This includes first responders, traffic officers, witnesses, your insurance company, the rideshare company insurance, and the insurance company of the other driver. The problem is that is the bare minimum. This ridiculous dance can get out of control fast. You need to be 100% you are crossing all of your T’s and dotting all of your I’s.
What to do if you are in an Uber accident?
I’ve done my fair share of research into what you should do if you find yourself in a rideshare accident and I’ve lived through it. The following list of action steps and tips aims to aid you— not to advise you as a lawyer would.
My first piece of advice, especially for full-time drivers, is to hire a lawyer that specializes in ridesharing. For part-time drivers, a family lawyer or an accident lawyer might be enough. Under no circumstances do I recommend skipping out on this step, unless you want to cost yourself money.
1: Watch what you say- don’t take the blame and do not apologize!
The first step in an accident might seem counter-intuitive, but it needs to be firmly rooted in your head. The reason for this is that accidents can often take you out of your normal mode of thinking, quickly.
Accidents happen fast and what happens afterward happens even faster. If you are not 100% collected throughout the process, you risk creating problems for yourself in the future.
The first key is to watch what you say and do NOT take the blame! Be wary of what you say to your rider, the other driver, the first responders, Uber/Lyft, or the insurance companies. Anything you say can and will be used against you.
I am not suggesting you lie, not by any stretch of the imagination. I am merely suggesting that you do not make any absolute statements that could damn you in the end. Often when a driver is in an accident, their natural inclination is to apologize to the rider, the other driver. Some may want to seem amiable and easy to work within the eyes of the traffic officer. There is nothing wrong with remaining calm. But you do not need to bend over backward. You need to defend yourself and the best way to do so is to watch what you admit.
2: Call 911 or Emergency Responders if anyone is injured
This is often one of the most critical mistakes made by rideshare drivers who have been in a Lyft or Uber accident. Again, I am not a lawyer, but it may not always be necessary to call 911 or Emergency Responders after an accident.
Some accidents could just be fender benders, resulting in only cosmetic damage to either vehicle. They might not warrant a 911 call. A Lyft or an Uber accident that occur in parking lots, side streets, and remote areas might not require the services of a traffic officer or ambulance.
Do your due diligence and check in with the rider first to see if they are ok. Next, be sure to check yourself and the condition of the other driver. If anyone is potentially injured you must err on the side of caution and dial 911.
About making a judgment call
Use your best judgment when and if you require the services of first responders. Not only can they cost you and your status of being at fault or not at fault. But an unnecessary ride in an ambulance can cost you more than an arm and a leg. Use your best judgment and determine if it is worth the added complication. An accident that requires these services will be obvious.
What to do with your rider after the accident?
If your rider is not injured, there are few things to consider. Your rider is often one of your best allies, they too have been through a similar experience and will most likely side with you. If they seem to be siding with you, it is important to get their information as it could be useful to you in court. Riders might need to leave quickly particularly if first responders have not been involved. They might decide to get another Uber or Lyft ride soon after the accident. If they do, be sure to take down their information.
3: Take Photos Immediately
After ensuring that your rider, yourself, and the other driver are in good health, it is wise to set about taking photographs of the Lyft or Uber accident. Try to get as many angles of the crash, the damage, and the surrounding area as you can. You will need to do this quickly, particularly if you are in a high traffic area.
In my case, the accident was during rush hour on a highly populated street. I quickly lost valuable evidence because I was not snapping photos that could have helped me win my case. If it’s a hit-and-run, get your phone out as quickly as possible and snap a shot of the license plate number.
The insurance companies will want photos
All parties involved will eventually require photos as evidence. This is particularly important for insurance companies with whom you will want to make claims. Remember that your ride is your lifeblood, especially if you are a full-time driver. Make sure you can recoup the loss. Even if the damage is cosmetic, you could be deactivated simply for having a small dent in your vehicle. Protect yourself by capturing every angle of the accident.
4: Get the other drivers information
Things are already going to be escalating, especially if the accident was a nasty one. But, if you are standing and in good health, it is a good idea to grab the other drivers information in full as you take photos. Smartphones make note-taking ultra-accessible. It’s essential to take as many information as you can, including the following details:
- License plate number (Take a photo)
- Name and Address
- Phone Numbers
- Insurance Company Information
Other drivers may not always cooperate, for several reasons. If they do not, try to be cognizant of the tool you have in your smartphone. Record your interaction if you can or if you are having trouble getting the appropriate information.
Video evidence is almost always a slam dunk in court, so keep that in mind. This is also the reason many rideshare drivers are investing in the best dash cam on the market.
5: Identify witnesses and get their information
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Once you have spoken with the other driver it is time to begin identifying witnesses to the accident. Some accidents will be cases of he said—she said. But there are almost always extra eyes that have a different perspective.
Approach these people with caution and with an agenda —your agenda. Talk to as many as you can and get their information. Keep their details in the same place as the information of the other driver, your rider, and whoever else interacted with you after the accident.
The best record keeper will often be the winner of an accident trial
Should your Lyft or Uber accident go to trial —or worse, if you end up in a lawsuit— you will want as many voices as you can to represent your interest. If the other driver takes better records than you do, then you are more than likely going to suffer.
6: Take detailed notes of the Lyft or Uber accident
Things tend to get fuzzy. Some details that you will need to know later in conversations will begin to take different forms. You are going to describe the events leading up to the accident several times, to several different parties and your story needs to be straight.
Even if you are in good health and you have a killer memory, you would be wrong to assume you can keep it all straight. That is why taking notes will help you keep your story consistent. I can promise you that no detail is too small. The time of day, the street names, the color of the vehicle you’ve impacted, try to get as much down as you can.
7: Contact Uber or Lyft or whichever rideshare company you were driving for.
Up until this point, you’ve been collecting as much information as possible, to set yourself up for success. Now, it is time to contact the rideshare platform that you were driving for during the accident. This important step could save you countless hours of frustration —or even your gig— as a rideshare driver.
DO NOT under any circumstance try to conceal this accident from Uber or Lyft. If and when they find out, they will permanently deactivate you from the platform.
BUT! Before you do…be sure to payout your earnings before your account is locked.
When you call Uber or Lyft support, you should have all of the information you need to explain the situation. Be aware that once you report the accident, the rideshare company will deactivate you from their platform while they investigate what happened.
Depending on the damage that your vehicle has sustained and the conditions of the accident, the deactivation should be temporary. In most cases, you will need to repair your car before Lyft or Uber can reinstate you on their platform.
Remember, you do not need to call Uber if you were in an accident while not driving for rideshare.
8: Contact an Attorney
It is advisable to secure legal counsel before you begin to engage your insurance carriers to make a claim. An attorney can be the difference between covering the damages and being taken to civil claims court or worse criminal court. They can also help handle the claims process, ensuring that you have a more bulletproof story and claim. It is advisable to hire a rideshare specialist.
9: Contact your insurance company to make a claim
Once you have an attorney on your team, it is time to contact the insurance companies and submit a claim. This is where the real battle begins. Let me assure you it will be a battle. Whether you are at fault or not, insurance companies will do everything in their power to make sure they do not have to pay. This is where the collection of evidence will be critical. Everything that you collected —from names to photos to notes— will make or break your case.
Rideshare insurance falls into three major categories
The conditions of your rideshare ride will directly affect which insurance company you will need to engage in negotiations with. First and foremost, you need to be online in order to involve Uber or Lyft at all. If you were not online, your personal insurance company will be the agency that you’ll need to contact initially.
Both Uber and Lyft break up your driving record into periods. They do this to identify which insurance carriers are responsible for paying in the event of an accident.
There are three distinct periods in which they catalog your rideshare rides.
- If you were online, had a passenger, or have accepted a passenger and were en route to pick up a passenger.
- If you were online and waiting for an Uber or Lyft ride request.
- If you were not online at all.
1. If you were online, had a passenger, or have accepted a passenger request.
In this particular case, the accident will fall under the larger umbrella insurance of Uber or Lyft. In my opinion, this is the best place to be, post-accident, though it does infinitely complicate things. However, Uber and Lyft do have some heavy hitters at their disposal and they will often go to war for you, even if it is only to protect their own skins.
Uber and Lyft both utilize the James River Insurance company and from my personal experience, they are good at what they do. In my case, I did not follow the first rule of this article and I admitted fault, by accident. That’s right, you can accidentally admit fault. They were able to reduce my ticket on my driving record drastically.
2. If you were online and waiting for an Uber or Lyft ride request.
Under this particular circumstance, your claim will most likely be filled with your own personal coverage policy. The general rule is that if you are at-fault, the insurance company will cover the damages. Keep in mind that insurance covers the other driver’s medical bills and their property damage. Example: their vehicle, home, etc. If the other driver was at-fault the claim will be through their insurance company.
3. If you were not online at all.
As before when you did not have a passenger or a pending request, you will need to contact either your own insurance company or that of the other driver. There are some caveats in different states. However, in states like California, they have laws that protect rideshare drivers under the policy of the larger company. Unfortunately, most of us live outside of California and will need to fend for ourselves for the time being.
Being at fault or not at fault and what to do!
Who is at fault is often the largest conflict in an accident. That is why you must be so diligent in collecting evidence to prove your case. Once you have admitted fault in an accident, your record will show it. Your insurance will sky-rocket and you may also be permanently deactivated from one or both rideshare companies.
It is vital that you fight for yourself with every resource you have, particularly if you are a full-time driver.
Uber and Lyft will suspend your rideshare access while they investigate who was at fault in the accident. This can sometimes last weeks and will cost you damages and a loss of income. If you are at fault, you need to be proactive and try to arrive at the end of the road as soon as possible. Even if you are not at fault, settling with the insurance companies and repairing your ride as soon as possible is the key to getting you back on the road.
Affording the $1000 Deductible
Depending on the damages to your vehicle and the thresholds that your personal coverage falls under, you may have to shoulder the $1,000 deductible. This is one of the primary reasons I suggest that every rideshare driver put away a portion of each payday or payout. You will need a war chest to get through the eventual accident that you come across. Accidents are a part of the business and you need to be prepared for anything.
What to do if you have a rental vehicle?
If you are by chance driving a rental vehicle or leased vehicle, things change a bit. The majority of rental vehicles carry coverage up to $1,000,000 in liability insurance. This level of insurance coverage should cover the majority of the damages. This is another case in which a rideshare attorney would be a great ally to help you in discovering the best path forward.
What should you do if you are a rider who has been in an accident?
As a rider, things are admittedly different. If you happen to be riding in an Uber, Lyft, or any other rideshare vehicle at the time of an accident, the same rules tend to apply.
Remain calm, keep your wits about you. Document as much as possible as you might have suffered injuries that are not obvious at first. Injuries like whiplash, spinal misalignments, and fractures can often linger and dramatically decrease the quality of your life. If you were in a Lyft or Uber accident, be sure to communicate with the driver and gain as much information as you can.
In cases when the driver is not responsive or is incapacitated, it is up to you to initiate first responders to the scene. Collect evidence that you can present to traffic officers and first responders —anything could be deemed relevant.
If the driver does not seem to care about your well-being or your health, tend to yourself as best you can. Should you need another ride, book an Uber or Lyft once you’ve determined that you are okay and don’t need any medical care. Remember that accidents do happen and they happen often for those of us that make a living on the road.
A plea from the drivers…
Please, remain calm. This is often our livelihood at stake. Your support could end up saving not only our jobs but the quality of our lives moving forward. We will appreciate anything you can do to help us in this trying time.
As rideshare drivers, we realize that the event was also potentially traumatizing for you. Try to remember that we are doing our best to handle the situation. If you require anything from us, let us know in as calm a manner as you can muster.
Accidents are a serious aspect of the rideshare business and they are intrinsic to our line of work. As rideshare drivers, we need to be aware of all of the potential threats to our business, including accidents.
Whether you are at fault or are the victim of someone else’s carelessness, presence of mind can make all the difference. I wish that I had been prepared when I encountered my first accident while driving for rideshare. Had I been, I would have saved myself an absurd amount of time and money.
Make no mistake, we are in an at-risk business, meaning that our lives are at stake. Rideshare drivers are not paid at a premium like other at-risk businesses. Because of this, we need to be 100% ready for the potential of an accident to occur. I suggest making a checklist of to-dos in the event of a Lyft or Uber accident. Feel free to use this guide to create your own.
I keep a laminated sheet with all relevant phone numbers and contact information that will be helpful in the event of an accident. There are also several checklists online that you could print out and keep in your glove compartment. Ultimately, you need to keep your cool. Be sure to do as much as you can to document the accident so that you have a fighting chance once lawyers and the insurance companies get involved.
We’d love to hear from the drivers!
If you’ve been in an accident while driving for rideshare let us know! Feel free to leave comments below about your experience. Highlight any helpful tips that could aid another driver in the future.
If there is something within the contents of this article that you know to be factually incorrect or misleading, do not hesitate to let us know. Our primary goal is to provide you with appropriate and accurate information. We do this at Uber Driver Things so that you can treat your Uber or Lyft as a business and make it the best as it can be.