Tools of the Trade

Three Questions to Ask When a Ridesharing Case is Placed on Your Desk
guest authors: Zachary B. Pyers and Emma H. Mulvaney

Ridesharing involves a taxi-like service, usually through mobile-phone applications which connect users to drivers, namely Uber and Lyft. These services are growing in popularity. According to Lyft's blog, the company reached 1 billion rides in September 2018 and had more than 50 million rides every month. In 2017, Uber boasted its presence in 600 cities and 49 languages worldwide. With ridesharing growing in prevalence, it is safe to assume that the number of motor vehicle accidents involving ridesharing drivers will also. And as accidents involving ridesharing drivers become more common, it is important to be able to understand how liability is allocated, starting with what questions to ask.

  1. Was a ridesharing application in use, and if so, which ridesharing application was in use?

If a driver was using the vehicle for personal use and no applications were open, then the only potential claims would be against the driver, like any other car accident. However, if the driver was actively engaged in driving for a ridesharing service while the accident occurred, there may be more opportunities for claims, as well as different insurance sources for recovery (beyond that of the driver's personal claim). Some drivers use more than one ridesharing application and will have more than one ridesharing application running at a single time. Knowing which ridesharing app was engaged will help determine which insurance would be responsible. E-discovery will be critical to making this determination.

  1. What phase of ridesharing was the driver in when the accident occurred?

Phases of Ridesharing

Phase 1: When application is open, and the driver is waiting for a rider.

Phase 2: After fare is accepted on the way to the rider's location.

Phase 3: Rider is in the vehicle on the way to a destination.

Uber and Lyft provide insurance coverage (a one million-dollar policy which covers passengers) in phases 2 and 3. For phase 1, drivers are generally responsible for providing their own coverage. This is troublesome as most car insurance policies have exclusions for those using their personal vehicle for commercial purposes, including drivers who use their vehicle for ridesharing. Some insurance companies now offer gap coverage for phase 1, but this can greatly increase the cost of an insurance policy.

  1. Has the ridesharing driver been in previous accidents or previously convicted?

Because most ridesharing drivers are classified as independent contractors and not employees, establishing vicarious liability may be difficult. However, a claim may be established directly against the ridesharing service through a claim of Negligent Hiring and Retention. Either based upon criminal acts committed by ridesharing drivers or based upon bad driving, intoxicated driving, or mechanical issues. See Doe v. Uber Techs., Inc., 184 F.Supp. 3d 774 (N.D. Cal. 2016).


Zachary B. Pyers is a partner in the Columbus, Ohio, office of Reminger Co., L.P.A., and is licensed to practice in Ohio, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. His practice focuses on civil litigation, including complex litigation, corporate and commercial litigation, professional liability, and general liability. Mr. Pyers has represented numerous professions in professional liability claims, including attorneys, accountants, architects, engineers, surveyors, builders, insurance agents, and investment advisors. He is an adjunct professor at Capital University Law School, where he teaches courses in Depositions, E-Discovery, and the school's Mock Trial Competition team. Mr. Pyers earned his LL.M. degree, in business, at Capital University Law School. He earned his B.B.A. degree from Ohio University and his J.D. degree, cum laude, from Capital University Law School.

Emma H. Mulvaney is a law clerk in the Columbus, Ohio, office of Reminger Co., L.P.A., and a second year law student at Capital University Law School. Ms. Mulvaney is a teaching assistant for the first year writing course at Capital University Law School and will participate in Law Review in the fall. She earned her B.A. from Capital University.

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