Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have become critical components of the mainstream transportation network because their door-to-door services make reaching your destination convenient. However, the accident risk in a rideshare vehicle is the same as in any other car. What happens when you are involved in rideshare accidents? The following information will help you file a lawsuit against the liable parties in the rideshare accident.
Meaning of Ride-sharing
Ride-sharing is when a passenger travels in another driver’s private vehicle by buying a one-time ride via an app. In California, the two most popular rideshare firms are Uber and Lyft.
Many passengers prefer ride-sharing because it is convenient when their car is unavailable, or it is unsafe to drive because they have been drinking. Ride-sharing instead of driving under the influence is a responsible action encouraged by the state to reduce car collisions.
California was the first state to allow rideshare services, also called transportation network companies (TNC), explaining why many big companies originate from the state.
The rideshare firms conduct background checks on their drivers, although a taxi driver’s license is not required.
Rideshare vs. Taxis
TNCs are different from conventional taxis. Typically, a taxi is inspected, maintained, and owned by a taxi firm, which then leases it to drivers. Your county has strict taxi regulations for vehicles, companies, and drivers.
On the issue of accessing taxi services, you can hail one from a sidewalk in a big city like Los Angeles. Besides, when leaving a metro station or airport, you will find a long line of taxis waiting to take the next passenger to their destination. You only need to hail one and tell the driver your destination. Once you arrive, you can pay with cash or a credit card.
Again, taxi drivers purchase commercial insurance policies that apply around the clock, whether or not the driver is on duty.
On the other hand, the operations of ride-sharing services are different. First, you will not find TNC drivers standing in a line on the streets waiting for passengers. Instead, when you want to travel somewhere, you log on to your Uber or Lyft app to contact a vehicle near your location depending on your destination, number of passengers, and special features like children’s safety belts.
When you arrive at your destination, you can pay using the same app, as your credit card is linked to the app.
Ride-sharing offers a more personalized experience than a taxi because you are riding in someone’s private vehicle, not a company car. Also, the app allows you to rate your experience during the ride. That way, other passengers who come after you can know the quality of service they should expect when riding in a particular car.
In ride-sharing, a commercial insurance policy only works when the driver has a passenger on board or the app is active and searching for passengers. When the driver is off duty, individual car insurance applies.
Forms of Rideshare Car Crashes
The personal injury claims you can file when involved in a rideshare accident are:
- When a rideshare passenger sustains injuries during a ride
- A ride-sharing driver obtains damages when picking up, driving, or dropping off a passenger
- Another motorist is involved in a crash with a rideshare company delivering its services
- An occupant of another car is injured in a collision involving ride-sharing services
Lawsuits have been filed against rideshare drivers for unsafe driving while using the app behind the wheel.
Liability in Ride Share Accidents
Liability in most car crashes, including rideshare accidents, hinges on negligence. When you have been injured in a TNC crash and want to seek damages from the liable party, you should hire a personal injury attorney to investigate the possible responsible parties and claim compensation. The injury attorney must demonstrate that the defendant had a duty of care toward you, but they breached this responsibility through negligence, which was the substantial cause of your injuries.
All drivers, Uber and Lyft included, must exercise rational care when behind the wheel and look out for foot travelers, other cars, and obstacles.
Also, the law requires drivers to operate their cars at reasonable speeds, failing which they can be liable for negligence.
Vehicle codes are intended to avert injuries and accidents. When a driver violates the regulation, they are presumed negligent.
1. Action to Take After Sustaining Injuries as a Passenger in TNCs
When you sustain injuries while riding on a TNC, you should know that the firm’s commercial liability insurance covers passengers. You can file an injury claim against the rideshare driver. When the driver’s compensation is insufficient to cover all your losses, the TNC you were using has a $1 million commercial insurance policy to cover these losses that exceed their driver’s insurance policy coverage.
If the other driver was at fault for the crash, you should seek damages from them. However, when the driver is uninsured or underinsured, the company will use its UM/UIM coverage policy to reimburse you no more than $1 million for damages.
It would help if you never treated a taxi or rideshare differently from a ride in a friend’s vehicle. You should wear a safety belt in rideshare, like in a friend’s car, because if an accident happens, you could find it difficult to seek compensation. Even if damages are available, they will be reduced by your share of the fault leading to the injuries. The defendant could use the refusal to wear a safety belt as an affirmative justification and assert that you, the passenger, acted negligently by not putting on the seat belt and that the harm would have been preventable or less fatal if you had a safety belt on.
2. Rideshare Driver Liability
You can sue the ride-sharing driver for damages if their negligence contributed to an accident and subsequent injuries. Your claim, however, depends on the following:
- The ride-sharing driver had a passenger on board or was on the way to pick one up
- The driver’s app was active and looking for clients
- The driver did not have a passenger, and the app was inactive
If the ride-sharing driver were inactive on the app, the accident would be no different from typical car accidents involving private vehicles. The driver is acting as a private entity and not an independent contractor. Therefore, you can only file a claim against the driver’s private insurer when claiming damages.
The nature of your claim will be different if the Uber driver logs into the app and searches for customers. Under the circumstances, contingent insurance coverage will apply, offering you a more significant limit to claim damages of approximately $50,000 to $100,000. And when the driver has a passenger aboard or has already accepted a client and is heading to pick them up, a $1 million insurance coverage limit will apply.
The defendant will not easily accept that the app was on when the accident occurred. Therefore, if the ride-sharing car that caused the accident and your injuries had a sign of the TNC, you should disclose the details to your legal representative. The legal representative will subpoena the vehicle's electronic files to determine whether the app was on or inactive during the accident.
It is worth understanding that once the driver logs into the app, the rideshare company and their commercial insurer assume liability. All victims of the crash can turn to the TNC for compensation.
3. Pedestrian and Bicycle Crashes Stemming from Rideshare Drivers
You can sue the negligent party for damages when a pedestrian or bicycle crash happens involving a TNC. These accidents cause severe injuries because you, the pedestrian or bicyclist, have no protection from the road surface. These accidents occur when the rideshare driver fails to give the right of way, opens the door in the path of an oncoming bicyclist, or suddenly pulls over in front of a bicyclist.
Liability Insurance Coverage for Rideshare Drivers
Every driver in California must possess minimum liability insurance, with liability restrictions depending on whether the car is for private or commercial use.
Common carriers, or commercial motor vehicles, have higher insurance coverage limits than private car drivers.
The most minor liability insurance rideshare drivers can have is:
- $15,000 for physical injuries or the death of a person in a crash
- $30,000 in damages for bodily injuries or deaths stemming from a single-car crash
- $5,000 damages for vehicle and property damage or loss
The driver is the one who purchases this insurance policy.
Parties to Sue for Ride-sharing Accident Damages
When you sustain injuries while catching a ride with or by a TNC, you can sue the party liable for the crash to obtain compensation. You would file a lawsuit against the ride-sharing driver if their negligence contributed to the accident.
Nevertheless, car accidents happen very fast, and the confusion experienced after the collision makes it challenging to establish the cause of the vehicle accident and who to blame, making it difficult to seek compensation, unlike when you know who is responsible.
When a driver causes an accident, you should sue them for personal injury damages. This is why, after the accident, it is crucial to jot down information about the other drivers involved in the crash, like their phone number, name, vehicle registration, auto insurer, and care registration. Besides, if witnesses are on the scene, you must write down their contact information if you need them to corroborate their testimony in court. Taking pictures of your injuries, car damage, road conditions, weather conditions, and street signs can also help accident reconstruction experts know who to point the finger at for the crash and subsequent injuries.
When the rideshare driver is liable for injuries, you should know that they enjoy extra protection as TNCs have vicarious or direct liability for accidents involving their vehicles, depending on whether the driver was deemed an autonomous contractor of the rideshare company.
California “Respondeat Superior” Statutes
Generally, employers are responsible for, or liable for, the negligence of their workers. In the case of ride-sharing accidents, TNCs are held accountable for the actions of their drivers. Nevertheless, most TNC drivers are independent contractors, not employees. Whether the driver was acting as an employee or an independent contractor will arise in your claim. Therefore, you should discuss your case with an experienced injury attorney to establish whether to sue a rideshare driver.
Uber, Lyft, or any other TNC you have purchased a ride with can partly be responsible for the crash. If the companies were negligent when recruiting drivers or using their apps, they could be vicariously or directly responsible for your injuries. You can sue the rideshare company if any of the following is true:
- They neglected to screen drivers thoroughly during recruitment
- They refused to train drivers
- Failed to supervise their drivers
California has laws prohibiting distracted driving. Nevertheless, rideshare drivers scroll through the apps when driving, elevating the risk of accidents. Therefore, if TNCs know that their applications cause distracted driving, heightening the risk of accidents, they could be partly responsible for your injuries.
It is best to understand that Uber and Lyft have not been in the market for long, and most of the injury lawsuits leveled against them have settled out of court. However, insurers for these companies require that you sign a confidentiality agreement before tabling a settlement. With this happening, it is incredibly challenging to know the number of ride-sharing accidents and the size of payments. Therefore, in these situations, you should speak to an injury attorney with experience in rideshare accidents to guide you on the best way to obtain compensation from TNCs.
Even though you will follow the same procedures as in car accidents to seek compensation, TNCs are challenging. Therefore, you should report the accident to your insurer after hiring an attorney to start the claim process. The route the claim will take will depend on whether the driver was driving for personal reasons or if the app was active.
Compensable Damages in Ride-Share Vehicle Accidents
The damages you will obtain from rideshare accidents are like those associated with typical car crashes. The compensation you will recover from the wreck includes:
- Medical costs
- Lost earnings
- Pain and anguish
- Lost earning capability
- Physical therapy
- Loss of limb
You can pursue punitive damages if the liable party acts recklessly and intentionally or engages in fraud to interfere with investigations or evidence.
For example, when TNCs know they are partly to blame for the crash and attempt to hide their negligence, you can seek punitive damages.
When a loved one dies in a ride-sharing accident, the deceased's descendants can seek wrongful death damages to recover compensation for funeral expenses, financial losses, burial costs, and loss of companionship.
Comparative Negligence in Ride-Sharing Car Crashes
Even if you contributed to rideshare accident injuries in one way or another, you can still bring a compensation claim. Comparative fault assigns blame to all parties whose negligence led to the accident or harm. If you are partly to blame for the injuries you pursue compensation for, your damages will be reduced based on your contributory negligence.
In a rideshare accident, you can seek compensation from the liable party. However, if the defendant proves your negligence contributed to or was part of the accident's cause, the jury must decide how to distribute fault among the liable parties. You need an experienced personal injury attorney to build solid arguments if other responsible individuals accuse you of contributing to your injuries. The attorney will argue against the defendant’s assertions so that even if you significantly reduce your fault percentage, it will not dent the total damages awarded.
When many parties contribute to the crash, they blame each other or other aspects as the cause. Apart from drivers, other factors that contribute to ride-sharing accidents are:
- Driverless vehicles
- Dangerous road conditions
- Defective tires
- Fault auto parts
- Road construction
- Road debris
- Bad weather conditions
- Poor road designs
Classification of Rideshare Drivers
TNCs contend that their drivers are independent contractors, while others claim that the roles played by these drivers make them qualify as employees.
By classifying drivers as independent contractors, TNCs avoid the liability associated with paying workers' benefits and payroll taxes.
If a driver using their app causes an accident resulting in injuries, the company can deny liability by arguing the driver was not an employee.
The Supreme Court recently adjusted the test to establish whether a driver is an autonomous contractor. Nevertheless, the changes only apply to pay and hour statutes.
California implemented the ABC test in 2018 to help with worker grouping. The test assumes all workforces are employees, and it only categorizes a worker as a sovereign or independent contractor when:
- The employee does not take directions or instructions from the employing entity regarding work performance
- The worker engages in tasks not for the benefit of the employer; in this case, TNC
For vicarious or direct liability reasons, TNC drivers are independent contractors.
Find a Knowledgeable Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
After sustaining injuries from a car wreck caused by a ride-sharing driver, you can have a problem seeking compensation, especially if additional liability coverage is involved. At the Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, we can help you obtain compensation from the driver’s or rideshare company’s insurer. Call us today at 424-231-2013 to discuss your case.