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What Happens After an Uber or Lyft Accident in Wisconsin

Know your legal rights if you’re hurt by a rideshare driver

The major rideshare services, Uber and Lyft, are a convenient way for many people to get around. Especially in cities like Madison, they can make transportation much easier – pickups and drop-offs at Dane County Regional Airport, rides to the University of Wisconsin campus, and so on. Thankfully, most passengers get to their destinations easily and safely.

However, when drivers for those services are involved in car crashes, the legal situation can be complex and murky. That’s why it’s important to know your legal rights and options. Even if you don’t use the rideshare services yourself, this is useful information in case you’re injured in a car accident involving a rideshare driver.

The potential dangers of rideshare drivers

For the most part, people who drive for Uber and Lyft are regular motorists like anyone else. They’re required to meet certain legal standards – for instance, having multiple moving violations on your driving record can make you ineligible to drive for these services – but they aren’t given the same level of training and supervision as traditional taxi drivers and other commercial drivers.

Lyft and Uber drivers often drive for the rideshare services as a second job, and they have certain incentives to drive at odd hours to get the highest fares. People who drive full-time for the rideshare services may have to work many hours in a week to make ends meet. That means there is always a risk of fatigue or falling asleep at the wheel.

In addition, the vehicles used by rideshare drivers are not subject to the same level of maintenance or inspection as traditional cabs. They’re required to meet the same safety and emissions requirements as any other vehicle registered in Wisconsin, but that’s basically it. The only other requirement is vehicle age – 15 years or newer in Madison, Milwaukee, Janesville and the Sheboygan-Fond du Lac area, 16 years in Green Bay, and 17 years or newer in all other Wisconsin cities.

The point isn’t that rideshare drivers are dangerous. The point is that accidents happen, and you need to know your legal rights and options so you can respond accordingly.

Whose insurance pays for an Uber or Lyft accident?

Like all other motorists, Lyft and Uber drivers are required to carry personal auto insurance. The legal minimum insurance in Wisconsin is 25/50/10 coverage: $25,000 in bodily injury liability for injuries to one person, $50,000 in bodily injury liability for injuries to more than one person in a single accident, and $10,000 in property damage liability per accident. However, most personal insurance policies contain exclusions for accidents that happen while the insured driver is “driving for profit” – so they may not be covered while they’re driving for the rideshare services.

That’s why Wisconsin law requires the rideshare companies (legally known as transportation network companies or TNC) to carry additional insurance that covers their drivers. The amount of available insurance depends on what the Uber or Lyft driver was doing at the time of the accident.

If the driver was “off duty,” signed out of the Uber or Lyft app and not available to accept ride requests, then their personal insurance applies.

If the driver was signed into the Uber or Lyft app and available to accept a ride request, but not actively engaged in picking up or transporting a passenger, Wisconsin law requires $50,000 in bodily injury coverage for injuries to a single person, $100,000 for bodily injury to multiple people per accident, and $25,000 for property damage, plus uninsured motorist protection. The Lyft or Uber driver’s personal insurance generally applies first in this situation, but the rideshare company’s insurance comes into play if the personal insurance claim is denied or if the personal insurance is inadequate to meet the legal requirements.

If the Uber or Lyft driver was actively engaged in a ride request – that is, from the moment they accepted the ride request to the moment they dropped off the passenger – then the rideshare company’s full insurance applies: $1 million in liability coverage and $1 million in uninsured/underinsured motorist protection.

As with any car accident, there may be other insurance that applies in your situation as well, such as the insurance policy for another vehicle involved in the accident or the manufacturer of a defective vehicle.

Can you sue Lyft or Uber for a rideshare accident?

It depends. The rideshare companies have gone to great lengths to have their drivers classified as independent contractors so that they aren’t vicariously liable for an individual driver’s actions. Usually, you take legal action against the driver rather than the rideshare company, but the rideshare company’s insurance does apply as described above. However, you may be able to take legal action against the rideshare company itself if they were negligent in hiring the driver in the first place (for example, if they hired a driver who should have been disqualified under Wisconsin law) or if other negligence on their part caused or contributed to the accident.

Ultimately, only an attorney can tell you what your legal options are in your situation. The sooner you get legal assistance, the better.

What you should do after an Uber or Lyft accident

As with any other car accident, your first priority should be your health and safety. Make sure the scene is safe and get emergency medical attention if you need it. Call 911 and remain at the scene until the police arrive.

Be sure to get contact information and insurance information for all drivers involved in the accident. If you were in another car and you see the Uber or Lyft decal on an involved vehicle, ask the driver of that vehicle whether they were signed into the app or picking up a passenger – as discussed above, this can be critical information to determine the available insurance. Keep your comments at the scene brief, however, and stick to the facts of what happened. Don’t say anything pertaining to fault for the accident.

Start gathering evidence right away. Take pictures of the scene, vehicle damage, property damage, skid marks, and any visible injuries. As soon as possible after the crash, write down your recollection of what happened: the time, location, weather conditions, and what each vehicle was doing leading up to the crash. Every detail matters.

See a doctor as soon as possible, even if you feel okay. You might have a hidden injury such as a brain injury or damage to an internal organ. Tell the doctor who examines you what happened and describe all your symptoms in as much detail as possible. Follow your doctor’s instructions and remember to keep copies of all documents from your appointments.

If applicable, you do need to notify your insurance company (for instance, if you were driving your own vehicle and were hit by an Uber driver). Again, stick to the facts and keep your comments brief. Answer their questions succinctly and don’t volunteer any additional information.

Make sure you get legal advice

Then, talk to a car accident lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights and options. Uber and Lyft accidents can be exceptionally complicated from a legal perspective, and you don’t want to navigate that situation on your own. Remember, as soon as you accept the insurance company’s money, that’s it; you can’t go back for more. An experienced attorney can investigate the accident and the available insurance, advocate for your rights, and pursue the full compensation you need and deserve under Wisconsin law.

Most car accident attorneys offer free consultations, so there is no downside to speaking with a lawyer about your legal options. Don’t go it alone after an Uber or Lyft accident in Wisconsin. Schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney in your area today.

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Founded by Attorney Robert Kasieta in 1997, Kasieta Legal Group, LLC, is a personal injury law firm based in Madison, WI. We have big-firm legal knowledge, small-firm attention an...