So, You Had a Rideshare Accident in California. What Are Your Rights? - Adamson Ahdoot LLP

So, You Had a Rideshare Accident in California. What Are Your Rights?

We explore what your rights are and who could be responsible in a rideshare accident.

There are no two ways about it: Rideshare services are growing in popularity. 

In 2020, Uber estimated it had as many as 209,000 active drivers in California each quarter, and some 305,000 Lyft drivers had completed trips in the state between October 2019 and October 2020. 

“In 2020, Uber estimated it had as many as 209,000 active drivers in California each quarter, and some 305,000 Lyft drivers had completed trips in the state between October 2019 and October 2020.”

Medium/CNBC

As the number of trips increases, so does the likelihood of traffic accidents. In the battle of which rideshare service is safer, it’s important to note that Lyft, unlike Uber, has put in place a compulsory safety education program for its drivers. Per Lyft’s safety page, “We also conduct continuous criminal monitoring and driving record checks of current drivers. Anyone with disqualifying violations won’t be able to drive with Lyft.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that accidents aren’t happening and with much higher frequency.

If you’ve been injured in a rideshare accident, it’s important to look into what your rights are, who may be liable, and how much you can recover in damages. 

The rules governing the so-called gig economy can be complex and are still in flux, so you want to do your research carefully and consult with a specialist Uber and Lyft accident attorney.

Rideshare Accident Statistics

In its first-ever U.S. Safety Report, Uber reported that:

  • 99.9% of the 3.1 million daily trips in 2017 and 2018 had no safety-related issues. 
  • 0.0003% of rides had a report of a critical safety incident, including 107 fatalities across 97 fatal crashes.
  • The fatality rate for 2017 and 2018 was 0.59 and 0.57 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, or about half of the national rates.

These figures may seem reassuring. Yet, research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business shows that rideshare services were associated with a 3% increase in the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents and fatalities in large U.S. cities from 2001 to 2016. 

Rideshare services were associated with a 3% increase in the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents and fatalities in large U.S. cities from 2001 to 2016.”

University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Common Injuries in Uber and Lyft Accidents

The injuries you may sustain when a rideshare trip goes wrong are similar to those in “regular” traffic accidents. Some of the more serious injuries include:

Who Is Responsible in a Rideshare Accident in California?

Liability for traffic accidents in California is generally based on negligence. To establish negligence, you need to prove that:

The party at fault owed you a duty to exercise reasonable care on the road;
They breached that duty; 
The breach was the direct cause of the accident; and
This caused you physical or mental injuries or monetary harm.

Alternatively, you can show that the driver violated the California Vehicle Code or another law or statute. Common violations include:

  • Speeding
  • Running a red light
  • Rolling through a stop sign
  • Distracted driving
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

This creates a presumption that they were negligent, and it is on them to prove that they weren’t. Once you’ve established they were negligent, the next step is to seek compensation and relief. 

Who Can You Sue in a Rideshare Accident?

Can you sue the rideshare company, or should you go after the driver–or someone else altogether–instead? That will depend on:

Who caused the accident?
Whether you were a rideshare passenger or not
Whether the rideshare driver is an employee or independent contractor

Who Caused the Accident?

If another driver caused the accident, in most cases, you’d only be able to file a claim against that driver. However, if they don’t have insurance or are underinsured, the rideshare company’s Uninsured Motorists (UM) or Underinsured Motorists (UDM) policy should cover the damages.

If the rideshare driver caused the accident, they are generally liable, even if they have additional insurance through Uber or Lyft.

Were You a Rideshare Passenger?

California law considers services like Uber and Lyft as transportation network companies (TNCs). 

As a result, passengers injured while riding an Uber or Lyft vehicle may not only have a claim against the driver but also have additional protection under the company’s commercial liability insurance if the damages exceed the driver’s personal coverage.

However, if you were injured while driving your car or as a pedestrian or cyclist, you’ll only have a claim against the Uber or Lyft driver. 

Was the Driver an Employee or Independent Contractor?

Under California law, employers are liable for their employee’s negligence. Currently, Uber and Lyft drivers are considered independent contractors, but this may change as the rules governing the gig economy evolves. That said, rideshare companies may still be partially liable if they acted negligently when screening, training, or supervising drivers or failed to address known safety risks.

“Currently, Uber and Lyft drivers are considered independent contractors under California law, but this may change as the rules governing the gig economy evolve.”

Axios
How Much Insurance Is Available in a Rideshare Accident?

If you were injured in an accident involving a rideshare vehicle, you might be able to tap into two types of insurance:

– The Driver’s Personal Insurance Coverage – All drivers in California must carry personal liability insurance. The minimum requirements for private passenger vehicles are:

$15,000 for death or injury to any one person
$30,000 to be distributed among all people killed or injured in an accident
$5,000 for damage to other vehicles and property

Keep in mind that the damages in traffic accidents often exceed the minimum coverage limits for personal drivers. If the insurance limits are too low and the driver doesn’t have sufficient personal assets, you may need to cover the remaining costs yourself if you weren’t a rideshare passenger. Alternatively, if you were a rideshare passenger, Uber or Lyft’s commercial liability policy may cover you. 

– The Rideshare Company’s Commercial Coverage – How much you can recover depends on what the rideshare driver was doing at the time of the accident.

1. The Driver Had a Passenger or Was On Their Way to Pick Up an Accepted Ride

If the driver had a passenger in the vehicle or had accepted a rider and was on their way to pick them up, Lyft and Uber’s $1 million commercial liability and $1 million UM/UDM coverage would kick in.

2. The Driver Was Logged into the App and Was Waiting for a Passenger

If the driver had the app on and was waiting for a ride, Lyft and Uber’s contingent coverage might apply. You could get up to:

  • $50,000 per individual
  • $100,000 per accident
  • $30,000 for property damage

3. The Driver Was Not Logged into the App and Was Driving on Their Own Time

Finally, if the driver had not switched the app on, the accident would be treated like any other traffic accident. The available damages would be limited to the driver’s insurance.

It’s important to know that rideshare drivers are not always honest about whether the app was on at the time of the accident. This is why you should talk to an Uber or Lyft accident lawyer. They may be able to subpoena electronic records to find out whether the app was active.

What If You Weren’t Wearing a Seatbelt? 

If you weren’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, this could reduce your damage award or prevent you from recovering damages altogether. California is a comparative negligence state. This means that if you contribute to the accident or your injuries by acting negligently yourself, your compensation may be reduced accordingly.

“If you weren’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, this could reduce your damage award or prevent you from recovering damages altogether.”

Rideshare Accidents FAQs

Here are the answers to some questions we often get in our practice:

What Do You Do in a Rideshare Accident?

Health and safety should be the top priority. Everyone involved in the accident must seek immediate medical attention, even if they don’t feel pain or have visible injuries. The next step is to contact law enforcement, a personal injury lawyer, and your insurance provider. 

What Happens If You Get into an accident with an Uber Driver?

If the Uber driver caused the accident, you might have a claim against them. If you were riding as a rideshare passenger or the driver had the app on, you may have additional coverage under Uber’s commercial liability, Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists, or contingent coverage.

How Common Are Rideshare Accidents?

In 2017 and 2018, Uber reported 3.1 million U.S. trips. Of these, 99.9% had no safety-related issues. Only 0.0003% had a report of a critical safety incident, including 97 fatal crashes and 107 fatalities.

Who Is Liable in an Uber Accident?            

Whoever caused the accident will be generally liable. This could be the Uber driver or another driver. The company itself is unlikely to be liable, as rideshare drivers are considered independent contractors under California law. 

Does Uber Compensate for Accidents?

If the driver’s personal coverage and assets are insufficient, you may qualify for additional coverage under Uber’s commercial liability, Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists, or contingent coverage. 

Is Uber Legally Responsible for Their Drivers?

Uber’s drivers are considered independent contractors in California. However, the company is still responsible for screening, training, and supervising its drivers.

Is Uber Liable for Drunk Drivers? 

In some cases, rideshare companies may be liable for accidents caused by intoxicated drivers. This will turn on the unique circumstances of the case. To explore your legal options, you should contact a specialist Uber/Lyft accident lawyer.

Were You or a Loved One Injured in a Rideshare Accident?

To best protect your interests and peace of mind and get the compensation you deserve, it’s important to seek competent legal advice right away. 

Rideshare accidents are a relatively new problem, and the rules are still being written. If you make a single mistake in filing your claim, you may be denied coverage. That’s why you want to make sure that your attorney is an expert in the area like Adamson Ahdoot LLP.

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