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Whether driving for Uber or Lyft is a part-time gig or a primary occupation, the income that comes from these jobs can be critical to supporting day-to-day life. But what happens when rideshare drivers lose the use of their vehicles after an accident during working hours?
Recovering lost wages can make real a difference for rideshare drivers, but receiving compensation for lost income is not always cut-and-dry. This article discusses what happens if a rideshare driver is in an accident with a passenger, and how a driver for Uber or Lyft can get the compensation they need for the wages they lost.
Are Uber or Lyft Drivers Entitled to Lost Wages Under State or Federal Law?
Rideshare companies treat drivers as independent contractors rather than at-will employees. Legal protections afforded to contractors and employees differ substantially. Employees are covered by federal and state workplace protection laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, while contractors generally are not. As a result, contractors are generally not entitled to leave benefits, overtime pay, or minimum wage guarantees from their employers as a matter of law.
Hiring drivers as contractors rather than employees helps rideshare companies avoid responsibility for accidents or other damages that happen when drivers are transporting passengers. Some states, including California, have passed laws extending important employment protections to rideshare drivers that help them recover lost wages. Even in the absence of state and local laws guaranteeing lost wages for contract workers, however, an Uber or Lyft driver may still be able to recover lost wages after an accident with a passenger.
How Can a Rideshare Driver Recover Lost Wages After an Accident?
Whether a driver can recover lost wage typically depends upon two things: fault and insurance coverage.
If the Uber driver or Lyft driver can demonstrate zero fault on their behalf, he or she can demand that the at-fault driver compensate them for income lost as a result of the accident. This is particularly true if their vehicle is taken out of commission or they are unable to work following the accident. In these cases, the driver will most likely need to hire an attorney who can take legal action against the other driver on their behalf, which may require a lawsuit to be filed against the at-fault driver or their insurance company.
Even when an accident is not a rideshare drivers’ fault, the law requires them to mitigate their losses. If a Uber driver or Lyft driver’s vehicle is out of commission, mitigating the loss involves trying to repair their car, recover from their injuries, and return to work as quickly as possible.
Can Rideshare Drivers Receive Lost Wages if They are at Fault in an Accident?
Most accidents involve some degree of shared fault. In these cases, rideshare drivers can still recover lost wages from either their rideshare company or from their insurance provider. If an Uber or Lyft driver wants to recover lost income from their rideshare insurance, the driver must start by making a claim.
What is Rideshare Insurance?
Rideshare companies require drivers to maintain auto insurance for their vehicles. However, personal auto insurance providers usually will not cover rideshare drivers because they are using their vehicles for commercial transportation. As a result, anyone driving for Uber or driving for Lyft can typically only recover lost wages or other damages if they maintain rideshare insurance.
Rideshare insurance coverage helps Uber drivers and Lyft drivers recover lost wages after an accident with a passenger. However, the coverage provided by a rideshare insurance policy depends on the particular terms of the policy and the requirements of state law. Anyone driving for Lyft, Uber, or any other rideshare company must understand where their personal automobile insurance and the company’s insurance plan meet. There may be gaps in coverage between the two that policyholders should be cautious of. As a result, the best way for rideshare drivers to find answers after an accident where they are partially or fully at fault is for them to consult with their rideshare insurance provider.
Will Uber or Lyft Pay Lost Wages After an Accident?
When a rideshare company contributes to the costs suffered by a driver following an accident, the amount covered and where the coverage applies depends on which company the driver is working for at the time and the insurance coverage that applies. The circumstances of an accident can vary greatly, and whether a rideshare driver is eligible for lost wages depends heavily on what the driver is doing at the time of the accident. Here are a couple of hypothetical scenarios to help clear things up:
Scenario 1: An Uber or Lyft driver gets into an accident while not driving for the app
In this case, the personal auto insurance policy will provide coverage for lost wages if this is included in the driver’s coverage. A rideshare driver is only acting as an independent contractor when the Uber app or Lyft are online. When the apps are not online, they are not considered “on the clock” for purposes of being employed.
Scenario 2: A driver gets into an accident when...
- the driver is in their car, has the rideshare app on, but the driver has not accepted a ride request;
- the driver has the app on, has accepted a ride request, but has not picked up the passenger; or
- the driver has the app on, has accepted a ride request, and has the passenger in the vehicle.
Collecting Evidence to Support a Claim for Lost Wages
No matter what the circumstances, a rideshare driver should collect evidence to support a claim for lost wages. This is important because a rideshare driver must be able to prove how much income they lost as a result of an accident. This is true whether they move forward with an insurance claim or a lawsuit against the other driver. If an Uber driver or Lyft driver is involved in an accident with a passenger, they should begin by collecting the proper paperwork, including:
- Any information about how often and when the driver carried passengers and earned money in return;
- Any and all pay statements and pay stubs; as well as
- Work summary reports or similar information.
Uber and Lyft are known to suspend a driver’s account pending an accident report investigation. As a result, drivers should gather this information as soon as possible after an accident has occurred in case it becomes unavailable later on – particularly if there is any question regarding fault.
Rideshare Drivers' Options May Vary By Policy and/or State
These general guidelines are helpful for Uber drivers and Lyft drivers seeking to understand more about what happens if they are in an accident with a passenger. However, how any particular set of circumstances plays out depends upon the insurance coverage of the persons involved and the state in which the accident occurs. In any situation involving a car accident while driving for Uber or driving for Lyft, it is best to consult with a local lawyer. An attorney can help Lyft drivers and Uber drivers get the best outcome for recovering lost wages and lost income after an accident with a passenger.
RideshareGuru.com does not provide legal advice. This article is for informational purposes only. Consult with a licensed attorney regarding any legal issues. We may be compensated for referring apps or services listed on this website.
Samantha Joule Fow is an experienced legal writer, educator, and consultant specializing in academic, technical, and legal fields. She holds a Juris Doctorate (JD), Masters of Laws (LL.M), and Masters in Energy Regulation and Law.