Filing a Lawsuit After an Uber or Lyft Car Accident
Car accidents are common incidents and can lead to tragedy for victims. While you might know the basics of what to do after a car accident with regular motorists, the process can change when the driver works for Uber or Lyft.
Many victims wonder if they can sue these rideshare drivers or companies for their injuries and losses. In short, you can file a lawsuit, but many factors will influence how you can take legal action. Therefore, speak to a local Uber & Lyft car accident lawyer today.
The concept of ridesharing
A rideshare concept is similar to taxis and other passenger transport vehicles but has a modern and distinct twist. In California, these are called transportation network companies (TNC), and potential passengers will order a ride from an app on their phone. Uber and Lyft are commercial companies and therefore must carry commercial liability coverage for their employees.
Ridesharing involves drivers using their vehicles to transport people during a one-time ride. All contact goes through an app, and this form of transportation is becoming mainstream, overtaking taxis in some cities. They are often convenient in airports and other areas where cars might not be easily accessible. Other times rideshares are a good idea when you drink and do not want to get behind the wheel.
Differences between taxis and rideshares
While rideshares accomplish similar tasks as taxis, there are some significant differences. The most notable distinction is the license requirement. Uber and Lyft drivers do not have to get a taxi driver’s license, but they do require background checks.
Conversely, taxi companies often own, maintain, and inspect their vehicles. Taxi drivers require a particular driver’s license. They will then lease a company taxi, and the city or county will strictly regulate the vehicle and driver.
To use a cab in a metropolitan area, you can stand on the sidewalk and call one to you, and you will often see taxis near train stations and airports. There are specific taxi stations where you can secure one, and you can pay with credit cards or cash upon completion of your ride.
Uber and Lyft operate differently.
Uber and Lyft drivers may not line up on the streets and wait for passengers. If you need a ride, you request one on the app and first must sign up and build a rider profile. Then, you plug in your destination, pick-up location, and number of passengers.
You can also add other specifics, such as child safety seats, and some apps allow you to choose the music you want to listen to. Payment is through a preloaded credit card in the app, and you even have the option to add a tip.
People often choose rideshares over taxis for various reasons. One is they feel it is a more personal experience, while others prefer this method because they can get a ride from anywhere within minutes with just a few taps on their phone. When a ride concludes, the app will prompt the driver and passenger to rate each other, allowing others to know what to expect in subsequent rides.
One thing that does not differ in either case is the risk factors of a car accident. Accidents strike taxis, rideshares, and regular motorists. You need legal representation from an Uber & Lyft accident lawyer after an accident with one of their drivers.
Driver status and liability
Rideshares in California must purchase three levels of liability insurance. Depending on which tier the accident occurs, you can recover different compensation.
The three levels of available insurance include:
- Passengers in vehicles or drivers en route to pick up passengers. Uber and Lyft provide $1 million in uninsured/underinsured insurance and commercial liability.
- Logged onto the app, waiting for a passenger to order a ride. Rideshare companies offer coverage when their driver is at-fault as follows:
- $50,000 for injury or death of one person
- $30,000 for property damage
- $100,000 for injury and death for more than one person in the collision
- Driving without a passenger or not on the app. The driver provides insurance. Minimum coverage is $5,000 for property damage, $15,000 for injury or death to one person, and $30,000 for injury and death for more than one person.
Types of rideshare car accidents
There are several ways that rideshare accidents can occur, and the main categories or methods by which crashes happen include:
- Passenger suffers an injury during a ride
- Driver suffers an injury when driving, picking up, or dropping off passengers
- Another driver suffers an injury from a rideshare vehicle
- Passengers in other vehicles suffer injuries from a rideshare vehicle en route to pick up a passenger
Many other incidents can lead to a car accident; therefore, seek advice from a car accident lawyer. A lawyer can investigate the cause and determine negligence.
When the rideshare driver is at fault
You can file an insurance claim against the rideshare company or driver as an injured passenger, and the type of policy you can pursue depends on case worth.
When the rideshare driver is at-fault, you can sue if you are:
- A passenger in a Lyft or Uber
- In a vehicle hit by the rideshare driver
- A pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcyclist hit by the rideshare vehicle
For a claim, you must prove the person was negligent in causing the accident. Another element is insurance policy coverage, where the driver’s insurance will affect your compensation options.
Insurance requirements for rideshare drivers
There are different insurance requirements for rideshare drivers, and you might be unable to sue when they only have a personal policy. Individual auto policies do not cover any accidents in commercial operations, including transporting passengers during a rideshare.
While insurance regulations exist, many drivers violate these laws and may drive without insurance. Sometimes drivers will get the minimum requirement, as low as $15,000 for injury or death in a collision, meaning that even if the driver has insurance, it can be insufficient to cover your losses.
Underinsured or uninsured motorists’ coverage can be a provision that helps circumvent these complications. This covers you if the at-fault driver has no insurance or their policy is insufficient to cover your losses.
For example, California VC Section 5430 also requires that rideshare companies carry $1 million policies to cover property damage, personal injury, or death. This policy covers claims arising while the driver accepts a ride and lasts until they complete the ride or end the transaction in the app.
Rideshare companies can also access a lower policy limit when the driver is between trips, and during this time, the personal auto policy can apply. You should always speak to an Uber and Lyft accident lawyer to see which policy applies and how to file a claim.
When another driver is at fault
Sometimes people are in accidents that are not the rideshare drivers’ fault; instead, another negligent motorist is responsible. A careless driver can injure you if you are a driver or passenger in an Uber or Lyft, and you can bring a claim against the at-fault driver. Injured passengers can file lawsuits against the at-fault driver, and if there is an issue with insurance coverage, they may tap into the rideshare company’s policy.
A third-party claim may involve recovering similar damages to other car accident claims.
You can name several parties in these claims:
- Other drivers
- Local municipalities responsible for road design or maintenance
- Auto mechanics
- Parts manufacturers
With so many potentially liable parties, a claim can get complicated fast. You must speak to a local car accident lawyer to determine how to proceed.
Liability in pedestrian and bicycle accidents
Sometimes the victim of an Uber or Lyft driver is not involved in the rideshare process at all, such as a pedestrian or bicycle accident. These instances will have different legal ramifications, where the victim may suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries.
Often accidents occur in the following ways:
- Drivers failing to yield
- Drivers pulling out in front of the pedestrian or cyclist
- Drivers opening a door in the path of an approaching rider or pedestrian
Pedestrians and cyclists not affiliated with rideshare companies will still need legal representation, as they must seek compensation from individual drivers or rideshare corporations just like any other injury victims.
Uber Eats and Lyft Deliveries
Aside from transporting passengers, Uber and Lyft have other delivery services. Uber has a food delivery service that involves a driver picking up food and delivering it to a person. Personal policies only apply when the app is off, whereas, during all other times, Uber’s insurance policy will apply.
Lyft has delivery services for food, retail items, and prescriptions. Coverage is provided for accidents while making a delivery or when the driver waits for a delivery request. Passengers are not in the vehicle at this time, and this can narrow down some of the legal implications.
Drivers: employees or independent contractors?
Liability often depends on whether the driver is an independent contractor or an employee. Driver status, as outlined above, is another significant aspect of your case. The answer to whether a driver is a contractor or an employee depends on who you ask.
If you ask the rideshare company, they will classify the driver as an independent contractor.
This classification helps companies save money on:
- Payroll taxes
- Reduced liability
Employers can also avoid adhering to California wage and hour laws, voiding other employer-employee agreements. Saying the driver is a contractor can also help avoid liability in an accident because Uber and Lyft will have more legal responsibility if the person is an employee.
Per state law, a person is an independent contractor if:
- The person performs work outside the course of the business.
- The work is free from the direction or control of the employer and can apply to work performance or contractual agreements.
- The workers engage in independent occupations similar to the nature of the work performed.
If you ask a driver, they will most likely say they are employees because their duties align more with an employee than a contractor. Legally speaking, they are contractors, but California law may change that. Companies like Uber and Lyft take advantage of this classification so they do not have to pay for accidents.
You may obtain damages for items such as:
- Mental anguish
- Physical impairment
- Pain and suffering
- Medical expenses such as hospitalizations, disability, rehabilitation, etc.
- Lost income, including wages or salary
- Property damage
- Loss of future income
- Permanent diminished earning capacity
- Wrongful death damages for surviving families
- Punitive damages for egregious wrongful conduct
Damages will depend on the circumstances of the incident. Punitive damages are also available in cases where the company attempted to cover up its involvement in the accident, including negligent hiring practices, among other things.
Will foregoing legal representation save money?
No. Settling your cases independently with Uber or Lyft can cost you thousands of dollars, especially for catastrophic injury or death cases.
You will likely receive less payment if you do not have an attorney. The insurance company will lower all payouts, and adjusters may say you do not need medical care now or later and claim you do not qualify for benefits. However, working with a rideshare accident lawyer can often lead to higher settlement amounts than without legal representation.
Speak with a rideshare accident lawyer today
Uber and Lyft will work hard to deny your claim even though they have extensive insurance policies. You should have someone representing your best interests. Because of many complex legal processes, a local car accident lawyer can help with the claim process.
Schedule an initial consultation with a personal injury attorney in Orange County immediately.