What Happens When a Lyft or Uber Driver Leaves With Your Belongings?
When Palash Pandey was using the rideshare service, Lyft, to take his cat “Tux" to a pet hospital, it was a it was a “cat - astrophe." Pandey exited the car and went to retrieve the pet carrier, but before he could do so, the Lyft driver sped off with the cat. He tried to reach the driver through the Lyft app but couldn't connect with the driver. He went to social media for help and got many people involved, including Lyft's CEO, David Risher. Fortunately, two days later, he was reunited with his cat, who has a clean bill of health (and Lyft offered to cover the vet bill).
So, what happens if a rideshare driver leaves with your belongings? Is it theft? Theft is intentionally taking another's belongings without consent to deprive them of their property permanently. However, items left behind may not fall into that category, so a driver is not legally obligated to return the items. The driver may not know whose item it is, and subsequent passengers may take the items without the driver even knowing about it.
Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors, not employees of the rideshare companies. As such, Uber and Lyft do not provide reimbursement for lost items. So how can you get your items back?
If You Leave an Item in an Uber
Uber has an explicit policy that neither Uber nor their drivers are responsible for personal items left behind. However, they provide guidance on how to contact the Uber driver directly. You enter your phone number in the Uber app, and Uber connects you with the driver. You can check if the driver has your item and determine how the driver can return the item to you. If the driver is unavailable, leave a message on their voicemail describing the item and give them your contact phone number. You arrange a way to pick up your item at a dropoff location, or the driver may come to you. If the driver returns the item, Uber charges $20 to your account to compensate for the driver's time. Although Uber facilitates the connection with your driver, they do not guarantee the return of your item.
If You Leave an Item in a Lyft
Similarly, Lyft does not reimburse you for any items you leave behind. Within 24 hours after you exit your Lyft ride, you can contact the driver through the Lyft app or the link found on your emailed ride receipt. Lyft Support masks your contact number, so you should give the driver your phone number if you need them to contact you. Upon the driver returning your item, Lyft charges your account a $20 found fee for the driver and also encourages tipping.
If You Leave an Item in a Taxi
Generally, taxi services have a “lost and found" for items left behind in their cars. The drivers should deliver any personal items to the general dispatch. However, that may not always happen. Contact the taxi's general dispatch.
Tips for Your Next Ride
How can you make sure you don't lose your items before your next Lyft or Uber ride?
- When you end your trip, collect your items before you pay and exit the driver's car. That way the driver won't leave without you getting your items.
- If you have luggage, a backpack, or a pet in a pet carrier, place a tracking device such as an Apple AirTag to track where the item travels through your cell phone.
- Report any lost items immediately on the rideshare app. If you leave your iPhone or cell phone in the car, you can report the missing items to the rideshare websites.
- If you can't get any response from the app, consider filing a police report. It is unlikely your items would turn up, but if you have an insurance policy on the item, you may need to show a police report for the claim.
Finally, if you can't get a response from the rideshare company, you can be resourceful like the Lyft passenger who took to social media to report his missing cat.
- Don't Take Legal Advice From Uber (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Obtaining and Using a Police Report (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Can I Sue a Rideshare Company as a Driver on the Road? (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
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