What Makes Uber Accident Claims in California Unique?
As the sharing economy continues to grow, so have questions around the legality of their operations. Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft are among some of the largest companies that have completely transformed how people get around, especially in major cities. Uber and Lyft are innovative because they don’t actually employ their drivers but rather empower people who own their cars to become entrepreneurs who pick people up and drop them off at their desired locations. For individuals who need a ride, it’s as simple as loading the app on their phone or tablet, entering in the requested information, and waiting for the driver to arrive.
So, what happens when an accident occurs while you’re riding an Uber or Lyft? That’s the type of question many rideshare accident attorneys across the country have been trying to resolve since these companies emerged. For riders and drivers in California, Uber and Lyft accidents raise several issues. For example, if you were injured in an accident and are looking to recover damages to cover your medical expenses, should you sue the driver or the company for the accident? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions are rarely very clear.
In December of 2019, Uber released its first-ever safety report that included various information regarding motor vehicle accidents, assaults and other incidents for the years 2017-2018. Regarding motor vehicle fatalities, the company noted that there were 107 fatalities total for those years and approximately 90% of those occurred in urban areas. Additionally, the report indicated that 30% of the fatal accidents involved pedestrians and 25% of those were either Uber drivers or passengers who were outside of the vehicle at the time of the collision.
Everyone is held to a standard of care on the road. Whether you’re a driver, a motorcyclist, a biker or a pedestrian, you are required to maintain your focus, adhere to the rules, and avoid creating hazardous conditions on area roadways. Uber and Lyft drivers are likewise expected to maintain this duty of care, and the companies take it one step further by requiring drivers to drive safe and well-maintained vehicles.
What many find most challenging about rideshare companies is the fact that drivers are not considered employees of the company but rather independent contractors. As independent contractors operating under California law, injured parties can’t hold the company accountable in the same way they would if the drivers were employees. This is why lawsuits against companies like Uber and Lyft require the guidance of an experienced rideshare accident lawyer. Proving that the company is responsible for some part of your injuries isn’t impossible, but it does require skill and legal knowledge.
As independent contractors, Uber and Lyft drivers are required to carry their own insurance coverage in addition to whatever is provided by Uber or Lyft. The company’s insurance, however, has a slew of conditions that make it more difficult to sue these drivers in the event of an accident. For example, if the driver was offline when the accident occurred - meaning they were not using the app at the time of the accident - the accident would be covered by the driver’s personal insurance.
By contrast, Uber drivers who are using the app while driving, yet aren’t presently carrying a passenger, would be covered up to a limited amount if a crash occurred. This coverage would only kick in if the driver were found to be responsible for the accident and its resulting injuries and would be capped at around $100,000. Finally, if a driver is either on the way to pick up a passenger or has a passenger in the vehicle, they would be covered by the full extent of the company’s policy, generally up to $1 million.
If you’re a driver who was involved in an accident with an Uber or Lyft driver, bear in mind that how much you can recover from the rideshare company’s insurer will depend on the circumstances surrounding your case. After an accident, it’s important to act quickly and call law enforcement, who can investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident and properly document their findings in a police report.
The unique nature of these companies equally compromises rideshare passengers involved in accidents. If another driver caused the accident while you were just a passenger in the car, the company might argue that they have no responsibility for your injuries and leave you to deal with your medical expenses on your own. Having an experienced rideshare accident attorney who understands California law regarding ridesharing is crucial to ensuring you are compensated for your injuries.
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a ridesharing company, consider hiring an accident attorney who understands the complexities involved in these types of incidents. Our lawyers have negotiated hundreds of settlements on behalf of victims in California. Contact our office today.
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