Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have expanded – all over the world – with astonishing speed. But what happens if you’re injured in a traffic crash while you are an Uber passenger or a Lyft passenger? How does their insurance coverage work? Are you covered if you’re seriously injured? Here in the greater Chicago area, before you order another ride on your smartphone, you need to know.

Uber is a unique business success story. Founded less than nine years ago, today the company is valued at $70 billion. Uber estimated in 2015 that it was serving more than two million customers every day. In fact, the rideshare industry has expanded so rapidly that many rideshare drivers – as well as their customers – may not fully understand all of the risks involved with transporting passengers commercially.

The insurance coverage for Uber and Lyft drivers and passengers depends on a driver’s “status” – that is, whether or not the driver is carrying a passenger, is waiting for a passenger, or is off duty. When a rideshare driver has a passenger, Uber and Lyft cover both the driver and passenger with a one-million dollar liability policy and a one-million dollar uninsured/underinsured motorist policy.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU’RE INJURED RIDING WITH LYFT OR UBER?

In most accidents that involve rideshare vehicles, passengers should be covered by Uber’s or Lyft’s insurance policy, without regard to which driver was responsible for the accident. However, if your injuries are severe or catastrophic to the extent that your final damages exceed a million dollars, you may face some difficulty obtaining the full compensation you need and deserve.

That’s because rideshare drivers are categorized by Uber and Lyft not as employees, but as contractors, and while employers in most cases can be held liable for the actions of employees, in most cases they cannot be held liable for the actions of independent contractors. Thus, if an injured passenger’s damages surpass Uber’s or Lyft’s million dollar limit, that person will very likely need a personal injury attorney’s help.

If you are a pedestrian, or if you are a driver or a passenger in another vehicle, and you are injured by an Uber or Lyft driver, you are only covered by the rideshare company’s policy if the driver was carrying a passenger or was in route to pick up a passenger. Again, how the accident is handled depends on the driver’s status, because drivers are only covered by Uber or Lyft if they are carrying a passenger or in route to pick one up.

Consumers should also understand that although they are “covered” as rideshare passengers, the insurance companies which provide that coverage are like every other auto insurance company. If you are injured as a rideshare passenger, the rideshare company’s insurance provider may seek to limit its liability and to compensate you as little as possible for your injuries.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU’RE INJURED RIDING WITH LYFT OR UBER?

Thus, if you are injured in a traffic collision in or near Chicago while you are an Uber or Lyft passenger, it’s best to get the advice and insights of an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney – and to seek that advice as soon as you have obtained medical treatment after the accident.

If you are injured as an Uber or Lyft passenger, take most of the same steps you would take if you were a driver in any other accident. Summon medical help to the accident scene, and call the police. Try to obtain as much information as you can from the drivers – names, driver’s license numbers, personal contact information, and how to contact their insurance companies.

Take photos of the accident and your own visible injuries. If there were eyewitnesses, try to get their contact information as well. If you do not think that you’ve been injured, have a healthcare provider examine you anyway within 24 hours. An undetected or latent injury can emerge later as a serious medical problem, and if you require compensation, you will need the paperwork that medical exam provides.

If you are injured as an Uber or Lyft passenger, or if you are injured by an Uber or Lyft driver, do not provide an insurance company with a written statement or a recorded statement, and do not sign any insurance documents before you speak with an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney. You might unknowingly sign away your right to bring a legal action.

WHY SHOULD YOU AVOID A QUICK SETTLEMENT?

Never settle hastily with an insurance company. Instead, exercise patience, and seek advice from your doctor as well as your personal injury lawyer. If you think that you will recover rapidly from your injuries, and you agree to a quick settlement, you’ll be waiving any right to additional compensation if your medical condition changes.

When the amount of compensation that an injury victim needs is substantial, negotiating by yourself with an insurance company is not a good idea. However, an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney negotiates with insurance companies regularly, understands what to expect, and knows what is required to succeed on an injury victim’s behalf.

After a serious injury, you should be allowed to focus on recovering and regaining your health. Let an experienced personal injury lawyer provide sound advice, protect legal your rights, manage your injury claim, and fight for the compensation and justice that injury victims need and deserve – while you concentrate on recuperating.

HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION?

If you’ve been seriously injured, it’s important to act quickly. Illinois’ statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years from the date of the injury or injuries, and after two years, your case will not be heard. But you should not wait two years – or even two weeks – to consult a personal injury attorney regarding your rights and options as an injury victim. If you are injured by a negligent driver in this state, compensation is your right.

Rideshare drivers and passengers need to understand both their risks and their rights. Ride-sharing can be smart, fast, convenient, and less expensive than other ways of getting around the Chicago area, but there is also risk. As the risks linked with ride-sharing are understood and reduced, rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft should continue to be popular with consumers in Chicago and around the world.

By: Stephen Phillips

Stephen D. Phillips is the managing partner at the Phillips Law Offices in Chicago. He earned his Juris Doctor from Loyola University in 1985 and his B.A. from the University of Iowa in 1981. He is an extensively published writer and sought-after lecturer on legal topics ranging from medical malpractice to tort reform. Mr. Phillips is also the recipient of a number of awards and honors from various legal and community groups.