About Bicycle Accidents Involving Uber and Lyft Rideshare Vehicles

A collision with an automobile is the greatest fear most people have about riding a bike. Fortunately, car-on-bike collisions are relatively uncommon. And yet when a car-on-bike collision does happen, there’s a potential for serious—even catastrophic—injuries. Because of this potential for serious injury at the hands of a negligent driver, cyclists tend to be acutely attuned to what the drivers around them are doing.

But what happens when a driver is not just another driver? What happens when there is more than meets the eye to that driver’s behavior? When that driver is a rideshare driver—typically, driving for Uber or Lyft—it isn’t usually immediately apparent to others on the road, the way it’s readily apparent that a taxi is a taxi. As a result, that rideshare driver may be doing things that taxi drivers do—like pulling over suddenly to pick up or let off passengers—without bearing the usual distinctive paint jobs and signs that let people know that a taxi is a taxi. Combined with the rideshare driver’s distraction while using the rideshare app, the result can be chaos—and dangerous for the cyclist who may be unaware that a nearby vehicle is a rideshare vehicle about to unexpectedly pull over without a thought about the cyclist riding there.

As ride share vehicles have skyrocketed in popularity, we are increasingly seeing bicycle crashes involving ride share vehicles—and this creates new headaches for drivers, passengers, and cyclists alike. Consider the following real-life bicycle crashes involving a rideshare vehicle:

  • Portland, Oregon: A cyclist passing a rideshare vehicle is doored by the driver who has just pulled over to pick up a passenger.
  • Alameda, California: A rideshare driver who has just accepted a fare on her app backs into a cyclist who is stopped behind her at the stoplight.
  • Arlington, Texas: A rideshare driver runs down a bicycle-mounted police officer and leaves the scene.
  • Boston, Massachusetts: A rideshare driver pulls into a bike lane to let the passenger off. The passenger, unaware that there is a bike lane, opens the door, and hits a passing cyclist.
  • Tempe, Arizona: A self-driving rideshare vehicle runs down and kills a pedestrian who is crossing the street.

Rideshare vehicles represent an ever-increasing percentage of motor vehicles on the road, and with that rise in rideshare popularity comes an increasing number of problems, including crashes involving rideshare vehicles. Because rideshare vehicles operate in a grey area between “personal vehicle” and “vehicle for hire,” a crash involving a rideshare vehicle will raise some complex issues about liability and who pays when a cyclist is injured.

Who Was Negligent?

If you’ve been in a crash involving a rideshare vehicle, you will be negotiating with an insurance company (or companies) to compensate you for all of your injuries and losses. In a typical car-on-bike collision, the company you will be negotiating with is the driver’s insurance company. But in a crash involving a rideshare vehicle, complex new issues are raised. Is the driver’s insurance company responsible for compensating you for your injuries and losses? Or is it the rideshare company’s insurer that you will be negotiating with? Or will you be negotiating with both companies? And what if you weren’t hit by the vehicle, but were doored by the passenger—who’s responsible for that?

Regardless of which insurer or insurers are ultimately responsible for compensating you, negotiations with the insurance company will always focus on who was negligent (you or the driver, or the passenger), and to what degree. If you and the insurance company can agree on the question of negligence and the amount of damages, the case will be settled. If you cannot reach agreement, it will be necessary for you to prove that the driver was negligent in a court of law in order to recover compensation for the injuries received.

Because a lawsuit is the next step if an agreement on compensation cannot be reached, the vast majority of injury cases are settled out of court. However, because the legal and accident forensics issues can be complex, particularly in a crash involving a rideshare vehicle, cyclists who have suffered anything more than very minor injuries should always discuss their case with an attorney experienced at handling bicycle accident cases before talking with the driver or the insurance companies.

Who Pays?

Ideally, the rideshare company’s insurer will pay. But these cases can be very complex, and the rideshare company’s insurer may disagree that they are liable for compensating you. Both Uber and Lyft insure their drivers, and both Uber and Lyft require their drivers to carry their own insurance as well. However, which company is responsible, and how much insurance coverage is available will depend upon where the driver was in the rideshare passenger cycle when the crash occurred. Here’s how insurance coverage works for both companies:

Off-Duty

The driver is off-duty and is not logged into the rideshare app, so the rideshare company’s insurance policy does not apply. All rideshare drivers are required to carry their own auto insurance, and that personal auto insurance policy is deemed responsible for any liability incurred by the driver while not logged into the app.

Available for Hire

The driver is available for hire and is logged into the rideshare app. The rideshare company’s insurance policy provides up to $50,000 coverage per person for bodily injury, up to $100,000 total injury liability per crash caused by the driver, and $25,000 property damage caused by the driver, but does not cover injuries to the driver or damage to the driver’s vehicle.

En Route to Passenger

The driver is en route to pick up a passenger. Rideshare insurance liability coverage increases to $1 million.

En Route with Passenger

The driver has picked up the passenger and is driving to the passenger’s destination. Coverage begins when the passenger is in the driver’s vehicle and ends at passenger drop-off. The rideshare company’s insurance policy provides $1 million in liability coverage and $1 million in bodily injury coverage; the rideshare insurer also covers damage to the driver’s vehicle, but only if the driver has their own collision or comprehensive coverage. The rideshare insurer also provides Uninsured Motorist coverage while the driver is en route with the passenger.

Some Examples of the Problems You Can Encounter

When a rideshare driver doored a cyclist in Portland, Oregon, the cyclist filed claims with the driver’s insurance company and with the rideshare company’s insurer. However, the driver’s insurance company denied the claim, because the driver had signed into the Uber app and was picking up a passenger when the cyclist was doored. And yet, months after the driver’s insurance denied the claim, Uber’s insurer had yet to pay. The cyclist eventually filed suit against both Uber and the driver, at which point Uber made assurances that the “accident” would be covered—although no assurance was made about the amount of compensation that would be paid.

In Boston, when an Uber passenger doored a passing cyclist, the passenger, who doesn’t own a car, and thus, doesn’t have auto insurance, assumed that he would be covered by Uber’s insurance “as part of the ride.” However, Uber’s insurer denied the claim, with the rationale that “opening a door into a bicyclist does not constitute ‘use’ of a covered auto.”

Even though it may seem straightforward, “Who pays?” can be a minefield for the injured cyclist. The rideshare company may have pointless Catch 22 requirements about filing a claim with the driver’s insurance company first, even though it’s obvious that the rideshare insurance, and not the driver’s insurance, should be paying on the claim. Rideshare companies also deny that their drivers are employees; this means that the rideshare company will argue that they can’t be sued for the negligence of the driver, because they claim that the driver is not an employee. And rideshare insurers will even deny that some clearly negligent acts are not “covered use” under the rideshare insurance policy.

What To Do if You’ve Been Injured by a Rideshare Driver Or Passenger

Never assume that the vehicle you have been involved in a crash with is a “private vehicle.” Because rideshare vehicles aren’t as conspicuous as taxis, always check for Uber, Lyft and other rideshare stickers if you have been involved in a crash with a vehicle, driver, or passenger.

Always wait for the police to respond to the accident scene so that an official report will be filed. Some cyclists do not realize that they have been injured until several hours after the accident. Seemingly minor injuries may develop into serious and permanent injuries. By then, it may be too late to identify the at-fault driver or passenger.

You should not attempt to negotiate with the at-fault driver or passenger. The driver or passenger may not give you accurate information about his or her identity, insurance coverage, or vehicle ownership. Many people who cause a crash will apologize at the scene and accept blame for the collision, but later, after they have had time to consider the ramifications of their negligence, will deny that they were negligent. They may even deny that they were present at the accident scene! By waiting for the police, you have an independent third party at the scene of the collision who has the authority to demand the driver’s identity, registration, and insurance information.

If you have been involved in a crash with a driver, and you do see stickers or signs indicating that the vehicle is a rideshare vehicle, the passenger or passengers can potentially be an impartial witness, because they don’t know the driver. The downside of this is the passengers may not have been paying attention to the road at the time of the collision, so they may say something potentially damaging, like “the cyclist came out of nowhere,” because they were not really watching in the first place.

You should never tell the driver, or the passenger, or the police that you are “OK.” The truth is, you don’t actually know if you are OK, because you haven’t been evaluated by a doctor, so why would you want to assure the driver and police that you are “OK”? What if you have been injured but don’t realize it yet? You don’t want the driver’s insurance company to have it on record that you said you were OK; a doctor is the only person who should ever give you a clean bill of health.

If the police write an accident report, make sure that it’s accurate. The accident report will include the driver’s statement as well as all other witness statements. The responding officer may decide to ticket the driver, and this can be useful when trying to settle the case with the insurance company.

The accident report should also include the cyclist’s statement; unfortunately, law enforcement officers don’t always take a statement from the cyclist before completing their report. In these instances, the officer may have already decided that the cyclist is at fault, without even talking to the cyclist. Therefore, make sure you give your statement to the officer after the collision, if you are able to do so.

Regardless of whether an accident report is written, make sure that you have the driver’s name and contact info, as well as the names and contact info of any witnesses. If you are physically unable to gather this information, ask a witness to do it for you.

The accident scene should be investigated for information about how the accident occurred. The investigation should include obtaining skid mark measurements, photographing the accident scene, speaking with additional witnesses, and measuring and diagramming the accident scene.

See a Doctor Immediately After the Crash

In one famous example that highlights the dangers of hidden injuries, rock musician Stiv Bators died after being hit by a taxi in Paris. Bators went to a hospital after the collision, but after waiting fruitlessly for several hours to see a doctor, he assumed that he was not seriously injured and went home without seeing a doctor. He died later that night in his sleep from an undiagnosed traumatic brain injury.

In the minutes and hours immediately after a crash, DO NOT assume anything about your injuries. It’s very common for people to assume that they haven’t been seriously injured following a collision, only to have the true extent of their injuries become apparent later. If you’ve been involved in a crash, it’s vitally important for you to see a doctor immediately afterwards. You should not decide anything about the seriousness of your injuries; let the doctor decide if your injuries are not serious. By seeking prompt medical evaluation and treatment, you are giving yourself the chance to catch a serious injury in the early stages—and if you haven’t been seriously injured, you are giving yourself the chance to get a clean bill of health from a doctor.

And because you will be dealing with the driver’s insurance company, a prompt medical evaluation and treatment for your injuries will establish that you were in fact injured, while the medical records generated by the medical provider will help establish the extent of your injuries. Have several photos taken, from different angles and under different lighting, as soon as possible after your accident. Keep a journal (an “injury diary”) of your physical symptoms starting immediately after the accident, and make entries every couple of days.

Consult With An Attorney Before Talking With The Insurance Company

Do not communicate with either the driver’s insurance company or the ride share company’s insurance company before consulting with an attorney. Most cyclists want to be fair and reasonable with the insurance company. Unfortunately, when you communicate with the insurance company, they are gathering information to be used against you later. What you see as an effort on your part to communicate a fair and honest account of the accident will be seen by the insurance company as an opportunity to gather evidence in support of their argument that your negligence caused the accident.

If you have been involved in a crash involving a ride share vehicle, driver, or passenger, contact bicyclelaw.com or another personal injury attorney who understands bicycling. While many attorneys are competent to handle general injury cases, make sure your attorney has experience and is familiar with:

  • Bicycle traffic laws
  • Negotiating bicycle accident cases with insurance companies
  • Trying bicycle accident cases in court
  • The prevailing prejudice against cyclists by motorists and juries
  • The names and functions of all bicycle components
  • The speed bikes travel as well as braking and cornering
  • Bicycle handling skills, techniques, and customs
  • How to get the full replacement value property damage estimates for your bicycle
  • Establishing the value of lost riding time
  • Leading bicycle accident reconstruction experts
  • Licensed forensic bicycle engineers
  • Establishing the value of permanent diminished riding ability
Protect Yourself Before a Crash

Your best option will always be to avoid a crash before it happens. Among other things, this means that you should know how to reduce the odds of being involved in a collision, ride with situational awareness, and know and practice your emergency maneuvers before you need them.

In this day and age of rideshare vehicles increasingly taking to our roads, it also means that any driver around you may be a rideshare driver. Because rideshare drivers are likely unfamiliar with the area, and may be more focused on their app than on the road, they will not be paying attention to the presence of bike lanes and cyclists as they search for addresses and pull over suddenly to pick up and drop off passengers. To protect yourself from their carelessness you have to watch for the possibility of any driver unexpectedly pulling over and making sudden stops.

This doesn’t mean that you have a legal duty to anticipate illegal and unsafe behavior from drivers. You can’t be held liable for failing to anticipate that a driver would be careless, and if you are injured by a careless driver, they can’t shift the blame to you by saying that you failed to protect yourself from their carelessness. But if you do watch for the kinds of careless behaviors from rideshare drivers and passengers that cause crashes, you may be able to avoid a crash before it happens.

Finally, you should always make sure that your own insurance is in place before you need it, including your PIP and your UM/UIM coverage on your auto policy, as well as your health insurance and any other policies you have and may need.

For more information

For information about protecting yourself with insurance, see Insurance Advice.

For more in-depth information about accidents and insurance, see Bicycling & the Law.

For information on avoiding accidents before they occur, see How to Avoid Car-On-Bike Accidents

For information on protecting yourself with situational awareness, see: Riding with Situational Awareness

For information on emergency maneuvers that can help you avoid a crash, see Emergency Maneuvers Every Bicyclist Should Know

Related ArticleAbout Bicycle Crashes: Why We Say “Bicycle Accidents” Are Not Accidents

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, whether in a solo accident that may be the result of another party’s negligence, or in a collision with another person, contact bicyclelaw.com for a free consultation with bicycle attorney Bob Mionske.

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