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Deadheading and Ridesharing Accidents in Colorado

Ridesharing companies report low numbers of accidents involving their drivers but they may not be accounting for all the time their drivers spend on the road. Including the downtime between rides and time taken to get back to their driving zone after a long fare may be increasing the risk of accidents for other drivers. 

An article in the Denver Post reported the amount of time Uber and Lyft drivers were “deadheading,” or driving around without a passenger or en route to pick up a rider, was at least 40% of their time.

If you are involved in an accident with a ridesharing driver, the attorneys at will investigate your case, handle the insurance and ridesharing companies, and work to get you the maximum compensation after an injury accident in Denver and Colorado. Contact us today for a free consultation.

What is Deadheading for Uber and Lyft Drivers?

“Deadheading” is a term that refers to truck drivers driving without freight or goods for logistical reasons. The term also refers to airline employees who take flights while not working to get to another airport or flight. 

Deadheading for Lyft and Uber drivers similarly refers to the time when a driver is not carrying a passenger and is returning to their home area or a place where Lyft or Uber needs more drivers. 

When Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber or Lyft have drivers without passengers traveling across the highways, the drivers are putting miles and hours on the road that may not be included in the TNC statistics for evaluating safe driving. 

For example, when Uber put out a safety report, the report did not include deadheading time. Their definition of an “Uber-related” crash only included the time the driver was en route to pick up a rider or during the ride. However, deadheading accounts for a lot of a TNC driver's time on the road and miles that increase the risk of an accident with another driver, cyclists, or pedestrians. 

Ridesharing Accidents and Deadheading Statistics in Colorado

According to a study from the University of Chicago, “the arrival of ridesharing is associated with an increase of 2-3% in the number of motor vehicle fatalities and fatal accidents.”

The study notes, “rideshare drivers have riders in their car for only a fraction of the time that they are driving on the road: they must drive from fare to fare, and they drive from location to location in the city looking for better fare prospects as there is not always a fare available. Moreover, rideshare companies often subsidize drivers to stay on the road even when utilization is low, to ensure that supply is quickly available.”

However, like many other ridesharing statistics, this study did not take into account non-fatal accidents. Injuries are much more common than fatal accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were over 35,000 motor vehicle fatalities in 2015, but more than 2.3 million people are sent to the emergency department each year in motor-vehicle related injuries. 

Additionally, ridesharing injuries may have a higher rate than ridesharing fatalities because so many ridesharing accidents occur at lower speeds, which are less likely to be fatal than higher speed accidents. 

Are Lyft and Uber Drivers Insured for Deadheading Accidents?

Uber and Lyft insurance coverage is regulated by Colorado driving laws, Colorado laws specific to TNCs, and the ridesharing insurance coverage policies. Ridesharing companies have different insurance coverage policies based on when a TNC driver has a passenger, is waiting to get a fare or returning from a fare, and when the driver is on their own time. 

All drivers in Colorado are required to carry the minimum liability insurance. For TNC drivers, this insurance generally applies when an Uber or Lyft driver has not yet turned on the ridesharing app or has already finished a ride and shuts off the app. The mandatory minimum coverage required for drivers in Colorado includes: 

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death to any one person in an accident;
  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death to all persons in any one accident; and
  • $15,000 for property damage in any one accident. 

Contingent Coverage During Deadheading

Under Colorado law, “contingent” liability coverage applies during the time between making the app active and being matched with a rider. This also generally applies after a driver drops off a passenger and is returning to their area to pick up a new rider. When the TNC driver indicates they are available for a ride but has not yet accepted a ride request, ridesharing coverage must provide a minimum of: 

  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death to any one person in an accident; 
  • $25,000 in property damage per accident; and
  • $100,000 for bodily injury or death to all persons in any one accident.

Maximum Insurance Liability During Rides

The highest level of Uber or Lyft insurance coverage applies when a TNC driver is en route to pick up riders and during the rides. During this time, policy coverage is up to $1 million in third-party liability. 

After an Accident with a Deadheading Lyft or Uber Driver  

If you are involved in an accident with a driver who also drives for Lyft or Uber, you may not be aware if the driver was covered by Lyft or Uber contingent coverage at the time. The TNC driver may not even be aware of their liability at the time of the accident. 

Insurance coverage at the time of an accident when the Lyft or Uber driver may depend on whether or not the app was offline at the time. For example, if the driver did not want to work any more after their last ride and turned the app off, then the driver may be considered to have returned to their private driver status and they will only be covered by their personal insurance. However, if the driver was returning towards home but kept the app active, then the contingent driver's liability may be active. 

If you notice the other driver has an Uber or Lyft sign or sticker on their car after an accident, make sure you tell your accident attorney. Your lawyer may be able to investigate the driver's status at the time of the accident, which could influence the amount of liability coverage in your case. Your attorney may also be able to get ahold of electronic records that show the driver's ridesharing status, or other relevant information from their phone records, such as if the driver was using their phone at the time of the accident. 

Offline Ridesharing Accident Injury Lawyers

The attorneys at have successfully represented their clients and families in Denver who were involved in a car accident with Lyft and Uber drivers to get compensation for their losses. Our attorneys understand how the ridesharing and insurance companies operate and will fight to get the maximum compensation available for your injuries. Contact us today for a free consultation.