Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have taken the world’s roads and highways by storm as some of the most convenient transportation options available thanks to intuitive and accessible apps. This convenience can quickly turn into a passenger’s nightmare when the driver gets involved in an accident during the trip. If injuries are sustained, insurance liability on the part of the driver or the rideshare company will depend on the three liability limits set forth by California:
- The driver was transporting the passenger or in the process of a pickup
- The driver was logged in and waiting on a new ride request
- The driver was not logged into the rideshare app and driving on their own time, but the Lyft or Uber driver had a rideshare passenger or was picking up an accepted ride
These three scenarios indicate whether the driver’s status was that of an employee, an independent contractor, or a person privately driving their vehicle on their own time.
Who Is Liable for Rideshare Accidents According to California Law?
In California, car accident liability often rests on proving negligence, where the party committing the act leading to the injury would assume some or all of that responsibility. It is also possible for parties to have compensatory damages that exceed the insurance coverage limits, leaving a potential gap in coverage that won’t meet the total personal injury compensation needs of the injured passenger(s).
To recover damages in a California car accident lawsuit that involves a rideshare company or driver, you must prove these three factors of negligence:
- You were owed a duty of care by the driver and/or rideshare company,
- This duty was breached by an act of negligence, and
- This negligence was the primary cause of your harm.
Usually, passengers receive coverage under the commercial liability policies that rideshare companies like Uber are required to carry under California law. These insurances are mandatory since these corporations get classified as transportation network companies (TNCs). In scenarios where a different driver on the road causes your rideshare service to be in an accident, then you may be able to file a claim against that individual’s coverage instead of Uber’s policy. But, if that driver did not have a policy or its limits won’t cover the extent of your injuries, you may be able to file against the company’s underinsured motorist policy. Many of these insurance coverages have a $1 million limit, as required by law.
Passengers injured by the actions of the rideshare driver may have to make injury claims against the actual company and/or the driver. Typically, if a driver is not currently in the process of completing a trip, picking up a passenger on the app, or isn’t logged in, they are just an everyday vehicle operator like the rest of us. Any accidents that they cause would make their personal car insurance liable.
Rideshare Driver Liability
Determining a driver’s liability can be difficult, especially if they are not honest about whether they were logged into the app at the time of the accident. When on the clock, individuals performing rideshare duties have commercial insurance protections that are far superior to their own personal policies.
Despite California’s “Respondeat Superior” laws holding employers liable for negligent acts committed by their employees, drivers are treated as independent contractors in these circumstances. Which means, if they were not performing authorized rideshare duties, their personal car insurance carrier would have to be responsible for the damages.
Uber or Lyft Liability
Even if a driver was transporting customers while not logged in to the app when an accident occurred, companies like Lyft and Uber are still liable if their hired driver was negligent. Failure to properly screen drivers for previous accidents and traffic violations or not oversee their performance could create an opportunity for a lawsuit against both the rideshare company and the contracted driver.
Cases involving distracted driving are also on the rise as drivers depend on these apps to help them navigate to customer pick-up and drop-off points. This has created dangerous situations on the road where pedestrians and bicyclists were injured by these busy drivers.
Damages You Might Recover in a California Ride-Share Accident Suit
Like any other car accident, compensatory damages available for rideshare-related crashes and injuries may include:
- Medical bills
- Emotional distress
- Lost wages and earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
- Loss of consortium
- Compensation for disfigurement or loss of a limb
The number of damages you might receive falls under California’s comparative fault laws, where regardless of blame, injured passengers in a rideshare accident can still recover compensation. In instances where a rider might hold some liability for the harm caused to them, a reduction compared to the percentage of fault is taken from the damage award as an adjustment. The state has no limits on the amount of fault a party can have before they lose the right to monetary damages.
Hire Skilled California Rideshare Attorneys to Represent Your Best Interests
Despite the newness of the rideshare industry, changes to the status of drivers as employees or independent contractors are regularly up for debate. The insurers of these companies often look to settle accident injury claims quickly and cheaply, which has no long-term benefit for your wellbeing if you require ongoing care.
In these cases, it is best to consult with a skilled California ride-share accident attorney to ensure you receive appropriate financial compensation from the at-fault party and not get bullied by the car insurance company. You deserve fair and just compensation for the harm caused to you financially, emotionally, and medically. At Setareh Law, our attorneys dedicate themselves to representing plaintiffs in California with their car accident claims. To schedule a free consultation with one of our trusted attorneys, complete an online contact form or call today at (310) 659-1826.