Rideshare services, such as Lyft and Uber, have become increasingly popular throughout the United States. In many areas, rideshare services are becoming more popular than other forms of public transportation. However, Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services are different from conventional forms of public transportation. Federal and state government agencies heavily regulate Buses, trains, and taxis. Therefore, governments had to act quickly to determine what steps, if any, were necessary to protect the public interest regarding this new industry. One area that quickly became a problem was car accidents involving Uber and Lyft drivers.
In this Article we discuss:
- What is a rideshare service?
- Insurance coverage in an Uber or Lyft Accident
- Unique issues faced by governments regarding rideshare services
- Current insurance laws for rideshare drivers and companies
- What should you do if you are involved in an Uber or Lyft Accident?
- Who is responsible for paying medical bills and other damages after a rideshare accident?
- What damages are paid after an Uber or Lyft accident?
What is a Rideshare Service?
Most people are familiar with rideshare services, but let’s do a quick review before we continue discussing car accidents involving these vehicles.
Ridesharing refers to a driver using his or her personal vehicle to offer a ride to a passenger for free or for a fee. Lyft and Uber made the concept popular by creating rideshare apps that drivers and passengers could use to schedule pickups. In addition to matching drivers and passengers, the apps allow passengers to schedule pickups and pay fares. Uber and Lyft are considered the two largest rideshare companies and are typically credited with beginning the rideshare craze.
To use the system, a passenger downloads the rideshare app, creates an account (including a credit card for payment), and searches for a driver. Pricing is based on the type of vehicle you select, such as a budget vehicle, cargo vehicle, or premium luxury vehicle. You can also review ratings for the driver from previous passengers before accepting a ride.
The rideshare companies promote safety by claiming they perform extensive background checks for all drivers, including requiring drivers to have a clean driving record. However, passengers should still be cautious when using a rideshare service.
When rideshare apps were first introduced, there was virtually no regulation on the industry because rideshare companies did not employ drivers. The companies were simply a go-between for private drivers and passengers to connect. Soon, several issues involving rideshare services developed, including issues related to car accidents involving Uber and Lyft drivers.
Insurance Coverage in a Lyft or Uber Accident
Before laws regulating insurance requirements for rideshare companies were enacted, car accidents involving Uber and Lyft drivers were extremely complicated. The rideshare company claimed that the driver was an independent contractor; therefore, Uber and Lyft did not have any liability for an accident involving one of their drivers. Basically, the companies washed their hands of the entire matter, leaving accident victims to deal with the rideshare driver directly.
If the Uber or Lyft driver caused the car accident, the passenger could sue the driver for injuries and damages caused by the accident. Most states, including California, allow car accident victims to recover compensation for damages from the driver or other party responsible for the crash. Since drivers are required to carry minimum liability insurance, the passenger would file an injury claim against the driver’s insurance coverage.
However, insurance providers quickly realized that they could avoid paying Uber and Lyft accident claims by denying coverage based on policy clauses related to commercial use. A typical automobile insurance policy excludes liability if the vehicle was being used for commercial purposes. Therefore, the insurance company denied the accident victim’s claim because the insured driver was operating a “business” at the time of the accident. The companies argued that by accepting a fare, the driver was operating the vehicle for commercial purposes.
Passengers and other accident victims had nowhere to turn. The insurance company for the rideshare driver denied coverage and Uber and Lyft denied responsibility for the accident. Rideshare accident victims were fighting a difficult battle to receive just compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages sustained in an accident that was not their fault. Many states, including California, began examining rideshare services and their legal responsibilities to passengers and the public more carefully.
Unique Issues Faced by Governments Regarding Rideshare Services
Even though states have enacted rideshare legislation, these services continue to pose unique issues for lawmakers. California declared rideshare companies illegal when they were first introduced, but the state soon legalized rideshare services in 2013 when the California Public Utilities Commission created a new class of transportation network companies. Other states have since enacted laws addressing various concerns important to the public safety such as:
- Insurance requirements for rideshare companies and rideshare drivers;
- The legality of the rideshare industry;
- Disputes with the taxi industry;
- Background checks and other public safety concerns;
- Disclosure requirements; and,
- Various state and municipal rights.
Many of the laws enacted deal with the problem of insurance coverage for rideshare drivers. Passengers, pedestrians, other motorists, bicyclists, and others on the road have an interest in how insurance laws apply to rideshares because an accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver could result in traumatic injuries and substantial losses and damages.
Current Insurance Laws for Uber, Lyft, and Other Rideshare Drivers and Companies
According to The Council of State Governments (GSC), many states have enacted laws regulating insurance requirements for rideshare services based on Indiana’s rideshare laws.
California passed new insurance rules for rideshare companies in 2014. The insurance rules went into effect on July 1, 2015. The rules cover TNCs (transportation network companies) operating throughout California. A TNC is the name used to describe a rideshare company like Lyft or Uber. The services provided by rideshare companies are divided into three periods with specific insurance rules for each period.
For instance, Period 3 begins when a passenger enters the vehicle and continues until the passenger exits the vehicle. During this time, the TNC (i.e. Uber, Lyft, etc.) must ensure the driver is covered by at least $1 million in primary commercial insurance. The rideshare company must verify that the driver’s personal insurance covers this requirement or must provide insurance maintained by the rideshare company. The law also has several other requirements designed to protect the public interest in the event of an accident involving a rideshare vehicle.
You can check with your state’s Department of Insurance to inquire about state-specific insurance laws related to Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare companies.
You may also contact the Thompson Law Office if you have questions about Uber and Lyft insurance coverage and how that insurance coverage protects you if you are injured in a Lyft or Uber accident.
What Should You Do If You Are Involved in an Lyft or Uber Accident?
If you are injured in a rideshare accident, you need to take many of the same steps that you would as a victim of any other type of traffic accident. Always make sure that the car accident is reported to the police and you remain at the accident scene until assistance arrives.
You should try to take pictures of the accident scene or make a video of the accident scene, if it is safe to do so. Try to capture the position of the vehicles, the license tags, and the surrounding area. If any eyewitnesses stop to lend aid, you should ask for their names and contact information. Many eyewitnesses leave before the police arrive if they are not needed.
As with any accident, it is very important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible. You could have suffered an injury that you are not aware of immediately because of delayed symptoms, the shock of the collision, or the amount of adrenaline in your system. In addition, a delay in medical treatment could be used against you later in the case by the insurance company. The adjuster may attempt to argue that your delay in seeking medical care is an indication that you were not injured in the accident or your injury is not as severe as you claim.
Contact an Uber or Lyft Car Accident Lawyer Immediately!
It is always prudent to contact an attorney to discuss your accident claim before dealing with the insurance adjuster directly. However, when the accident claim involves a rideshare driver or rideshare company, it is very important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible.
One of the first things that must be done when evaluating a car accident claim involving a Lyft or Uber driver is to determine fault. The person or persons responsible for causing the crash can be held liable for your damages. However, you must prove the party was “at fault” before you can recover money for your claim. Even in small accident claims, but especially in larger claims, the insurance companies and other parties may deny fault. In that case, you need an experienced rideshare accident attorney to protect your rights and your best interests while the other parties fight to blame each other for the crash.
Who Is Responsible for Paying My Medical Bills and Other Damages?
At Thompson Law Office, our legal team performs a thorough accident investigation to determine the cause of the rideshare accident. By establishing the cause of the crash, we can identify the factors that contributed to the crash and identify the liable parties. In some cases, one driver may be responsible for causing the crash. However, some crashes could involve two or more parties who may have varying degrees of liability for the crash. It is important we identify all parties with any potential liability to increase the chance that you recover maximum compensation for your claim.
If another driver or a third party caused the collision, your claim would be against that driver or party. For example, if another driver rear-ended the Uber vehicle you were riding in, then we would file a claim against that driver. However, if a driver failed to yield the right of way, but your Uber driver was reading a text, you could have a claim against both drivers.
When your rideshare driver is responsible for causing the crash, the claim can become more complex. As mentioned above, there are specific insurance requirements for rideshare drivers and rideshare companies. If the Uber or Lyft driver has any responsibility for causing the collision, you must determine what “period” is covered to determine the insurance coverage available for the crash.
As discussed above, California requires that a rideshare driver has a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance coverage when a passenger is in the vehicle. However, this requirement may be satisfied with one or more insurance policies. If two insurance companies are involved, the matter could become more complicated than it needs to be if the insurance companies argue about liability.
For pedestrians, bicyclists, and victims other than the rideshare passenger, the “period” at the time of the accident can significantly impact the amount of insurance coverage. During Period 1 when the rideshare app is open, but there is not a rideshare match, the insurance coverage required is substantially lower than the insurance required during Period 3. This difference could result in an accident victim receiving less than the full value of his or her injury claim.
At Thompson Law Office, we investigate all potential sources of compensation for a rideshare accident to help ensure our clients receive the maximum compensation available for their claim.
Damages Paid in an Uber or Lyft Accident
The damages paid in an accident involving a Lyft or Uber driver are the same as damages paid in other car accidents. The types of damages and the amount of compensation recovered depends on several factors, including fault, injuries, and financial damages.
Common damages that are compensable in a rideshare Lyft or Uber accident claim include:
- Cost of medical treatment, including ongoing medical expenses and personal care
- Loss of income, including a diminished earning capacity and future lost wages
- Other out-of-pocket financial losses
- Physical pain, scarring, disfigurement, and permanent disability
- Mental anguish, depression, emotional distress, PTSD, and loss of enjoyment of life
The legal team at Thompson Law Office works closely with our clients to document all damages and expenses carefully to increase the chance of recovering full compensation for all damages and losses.
You Deserve a Dedicated Legal Advocate to Fight for Your Rights after a Lyft or Uber Accident!
At Thompson Law Office, we are dedicated to providing the support, guidance, and trusted legal counsel you need as you continue to recover from your injury and fight for the compensation you deserve. We invite you to contact our office to speak with one of our experienced Lyft or Uber accident lawyers.
Contact California Uber and Lyft Accident attorney Bobby Thompson if you or a family member has been injured in a rideshare accident. Thompson Law Office has the experience and skills to get you the maximum compensation you need and deserve.