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Rideshare Riders and Drivers: Know Your Rights to Legal Compensation


Ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft have become the go-to form of transportation for many Los Angeles and Southern California residents. During September 2018, Uber and Lyft drivers who logged in to one or both rideshare apps drove between 160 million and 184.9 million miles in greater Los Angeles.

Despite their convenience and ease, accidents still happen. Because ridesharing policies and laws are constantly evolving, it’s important to understand your rights if you were injured or suffered property loss in an Uber or Lyft related accident.

From 2017 to 2018, there were reportedly 58 deaths from accidents during Uber trips in the U.S. with 21% of these fatalities being Uber drivers, 21% being riders, and 40% being pedestrians. Moreover, 90% of Uber-related fatal crashes occurred in urban areas.

Personal injury and property loss claims involving Uber and Lyft are especially complex. These cases include numerous factors, such as whether a driver was logged into the app when the accident happened. They will often result in multiple claims against the company, the driver, and even other drivers.

Further complicating issues of liability is the recent passing of AB-5. We strongly recommend consulting with an experienced Los Angeles Uber/Lyft attorney if you suffered injuries as a result of a ridesharing accident and wish to file a personal injury claim.

1. What Exactly are Uber/Lyft Ridesharing Services?


While they are not the only companies in the ridesharing business, Uber and Lyft are by far California’s most well known and lucrative “Transportation Network Companies”. Sometimes known as TNCs, Uber and Lyft are both regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Public Utilities Code.

There are several key differences between TNCs -- such as Uber and Lyft -- and traditional limo or taxi services. For example: 

  • A rideshare driver typically sets his or her own schedule.
  • A rideshare driver is not obligated to accept a specific ride or rider.
  • TNC vehicles usually don’t have obvious visual displays or signage.
  • A rideshare driver typically drives his or her own personal car and is 100% responsible for all maintenance and fuel costs.

Taxi services must have a commercial insurance policy that is in effect at all times, whether or not the driver is on duty. This stands in contrast with Uber and Lyft, whose commercial policy will only go into effect if there are passengers in the vehicle, or if the driver is presently logged onto the app and is actively looking for a passenger.

Furthermore, anytime a rideshare driver is not logged onto the app, only the driver's individual car insurance will come into effect. This personal insurance policy only needs to cover California’s 15/30/5 minimum insurance, which covers a maximum of:

  • $5,000 in damage to property and other vehicles.
  • $15,000 per bodily injury (including death) claim
  • $30,000 per accident for all bodily injury (including death) claims

2. Determining Liability after an Uber/Lyft Accident


Determining liability after any car accident is complex. This is especially true when multiple parties are involved, such as in an Uber or Lyft accident. But like most car accidents, liability in an Uber or Lyft accident will generally be based on someone’s negligence. In other words, the driver who caused harm to another individual will typically be held liable for any injuries caused, as well as the resulting damages.

As it relates to Uber or Lyft accidents, negligence is usually some form of careless or reckless behavior. Common examples of Uber/Lyft driver negligence may include:

  • Speeding
  • Driving while under the influence
  • Not paying attention to the road
  • Texting 
  • Disobeying traffic laws

Negligent behavior is never acceptable and is against the law. Every driver has a duty of care while behind the wheel. This means that all Uber and Lyft drivers are legally responsible for using reasonable care while operating a vehicle. They must also be mindful of pedestrians and road conditions, as well as maintain control of their vehicle at all times.

If you were injured in an accident because of an Uber or Lyft driver’s negligence, you must be able to show that their negligence directly caused your injuries. The legal standard for negligence in the state of California will consider the following three elements:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
  • The defendant breached his or her duty of care through negligence. 
  • The defendant’s negligence was the primary cause of the injuries sustained.

2.1 Liability and Ridesharing Periods


It is entirely possible for a Lyft or Uber driver to incur varying levels of liability. It all depends on what he or she was doing when the accident took place. In general, there are three (3) liability limits which a Lyft or Uber driver may have when he or she:

  • Was currently logged into the app and was already waiting for a passenger.
  • Already had a passenger in the vehicle or was picking up someone.
  • Was not logged into the app, but was just driving on his or her own time.

Lyft and Uber divide insurance coverage into three separate time periods for their drivers.

  • No period - This when a driver is not actually logged into the app. If an Uber or Lyft driver is involved in an accident and wasn’t logged into the app, he or she is considered off the job. This means that any claims arising from an accident will be covered by the driver’s personal insurance coverage.
  • Period 1 - This is when a driver is already online and waiting for a fare. If a driver is currently online, is waiting for a fare, and was involved in an accident, Uber and Lyft have 50/100/25 liability coverage. This translates into liability limits of $50,000 per person and $100,000 for any accident involving bodily injury, and $25,000 for property damage. Further, insurance coverage for the driver does not apply (uninsured, underinsured, medical payments) or for the driver’s vehicle (collision) during this in-between time period.
  • Period 2 - This is when a driver already accepted a fare and is on his or her way to pick up a customer. Under these circumstances, Uber and Lyft offer $1 million in liability, uninsured, and underinsured coverage. As it applies to collision coverage, that will depend on whether the driver has their own collision coverage.
  • Period 3 - This is when a driver picked up a customer and is already on the way to a destination. Under these circumstances, Uber and Lyft offer $1 million in liability, uninsured, and underinsured coverage. Collision coverage is contingent on whether the driver already has collision coverage, as well.

3. What if I Was Hurt in an Uber or Lyft Accident?


If you were injured as a passenger in an Uber or Lyft-related accident, you will generally be covered by the company’s commercial liability coverage.

You may be able to file a claim against Uber/Lyft if you were injured as a result of a rideshare driver, as well. Fortunately, these companies have a $1 million commercial policy and if damages exceed the drivers’ personal insurance coverage, Uber/Lyft’s commercial policy may cover the difference.

Furthermore, if responsibility for the accident was in the hands of another driver, you may file a claim against the at-fault driver. However, in the event that the at-fault driver was uninsured or underinsured, Uber or Lyft’s Uninsured Motorist / Underinsured Motorist policy typically will cover the damages up to $1 million per accident.

3.1 What if the Uber/Lyft driver was responsible?


If an Uber/Lyft driver injures a driver or passenger in another vehicle, any injured parties will have a claim against that rideshare driver. In these cases, liability will depend on whether or not the rideshare driver:

  • Has the app turned on and is already waiting for a passenger.
  • Does not have a passenger and does not have the app turned on.
  • Is already carrying a passenger or is en route to pick someone up.

These are important considerations, because if a rideshare driver has the app turned off, then any accident he or she is involved in at that time will be treated like any normal car accident. Furthermore, insurance coverage in these cases is strictly limited to that rideshare driver's personal insurance coverage.

However, if an Uber/Lyft driver does have the app on and is also waiting for a ride, contingent coverage with limits of $50,000/$100,000 will apply. And if a rideshare driver has a passenger in their vehicle or if they have already accepted a rider and are picking up the rider, the rideshare company’s $1 million commercial coverage goes into effect.

3.2 What Is Ab-5?


Both Uber and Lyft have taken aggressive action towards keeping their drivers enlisted as independent contractors. This strongly works in the company’s benefit, as the driver would be at fault for any wrongdoings while on the job.

However, there have been many news reports about rideshare drivers engaging in sexual misconduct, driving while intoxicated and even being involved in physical altercations. Though these billion dollar rideshare companies have taken a strong stance against the California Assembly Bill (AB5), their efforts have been in vain as it now understood that rideshare drivers are employees.

California is in the process of enforcing its AB 5 bill and the rules regarding rideshare drivers’ employee classification are changing dramatically. According to this new law, many of California’s independent contractors, including everyone from rideshare drivers to exotic dancers, are considered as employees. 

Therefore, if there is an accident involving personal injury and property damage, the ridesharing company may be held responsible. If you were involved in an accident and you are unsure of your rights or whether you should file a claim, it is crucial that you contact the experienced Uber/Lyft attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers to help understand your rights.

4. Available Damages after an Uber/Lyft Accident


Available damages after an Uber/Lyft accident typically are the same as in a normal car accident. Compensatory damages may include:

As it relates to fatal car accidents, surviving family members may also be entitled to damages for the loss of their loved one. Certain family members may be able to file a wrongful death claim for:

  • Financial loss
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Loss of companionship and support.

Punitive damages may be awarded in rare cases. These types of damages are only limited to cases involving recklessness, deliberate harm, or when fraud is committed, such as attempting to cover up an accident. An example of fraud could be when a ridesharing company was aware of their own negligence, yet made efforts to cover up their role in an accident.

4.1 Am I Entitled To Damages If I Was Partially Responsible?


Yes. California is a comparative negligence state, which means that if you were injured in a car accident and were partially responsible, you may still be able to recover some damages. In summary, a plaintiff's damages are reduced based on how much they contributed to causing the accident. The court will typically determine how to divide fault amongst all parties involved.

5. Uber/Lyft Safety


  • Top 9 Uber Rider Fears 

    Though these fairly new businesses have left other modes of transportation in the dust, there are still some people that reserve skepticism when it comes to this transit trend. 

  • Uber Assault Cases 

    There are a plethora of examples when it comes to physical assault in an Uber. Whether it has to do with a drunken passenger or an inappropriate driver, physical altercations happen. In order to protect its drivers and passengers, Uber has created a system built within the app.

  • Tips on Staying Safe When Taking an Uber or Lyft

    Taking a ride from a complete stranger as your driver form a rideshare app can be frightening. This is especially true when these rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft already have seveal rape, assualt, kiddnapping, and murder allegations against some of their drivers. These popular ridesharing companies have been faced with turmoil and have ran into serious legal issues in recent times.

  • Point Checklist: Uber Vehicle Requirements 

    Uber has administered a code of standards for a vehicle to adhere to before it can drive for the famous rideshare association. They are set in place not only to keep the roads safe, but to ensure that Uber riders can rely on a certain level of professionalism and excellence.

  • Uber Driver Requirements / Has Uber Made Roads Safer? 

    A driver’s criminal background must be clear of felony convictions, violent crimes, or sexual offenses. Though some non-violent felons are accepted, Uber usually makes a determination based on the nature of the crime.

6. Read More Uber/Lyft Accident Resources


  • Uber Misclassification Settlement | All About AB5 And Health Insurance

    In the past, Uber drivers were expected to pay for their own gas, oil changes, and most importantly, health insurance. California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) has changed all that, now that Uber drivers are now considered as employees and no longer as independent contractors.

  • Uber/Lyft Driver Safety Kit

    Uber and Lyft actively update their safety policies, but as an Uber driver it is imperative to take safety matters into your own hands. It is essential to carry a safety kit in your vehicle as an Uber driver, in the case of an emergency while waiting for paramedics to arrive.

  • AB5 Uber and Sick Passenger Liability 

    As a driver, it is your right to refuse service to anyone, including passengers who are sick. However, after you have allowed them to enter your vehicle you do owe that passenger a duty of care.

  • Are Uber/Lyft Drivers Employees or Independent Contractors? 

    Among the plethora of lawsuits, perhaps the most debated is whether rideshare company drivers should be considered as “employees” or “independent contractors”. Depending on the state, the difference between the two classifications can differ greatly, offering certain protections to the driver and limiting the company’s liabilities. The recent passing of California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) sets the record straight (for now).

  • Uber Accident Settlements and Laws

    Due to the rapid growth of Uber, Lyft, and other Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s), many states are discovering an infinite variety of possible threats and regulation challenges. Uber must follow these changing laws and regulations - if the company opens itself up to many lawsuits.

  • Uber Driver Protections / Can a Driver Sue Uber?

    As seen in recent news, there have been several instances where an Uber driver has been physically attacked or suffered an emergency while on the job. As an Uber driver the company has certain policies in place for your protection.

  • What is The Uber Accident Policy?

    If your state considers your driver an independent contractor, it can become a nightmare to sue that individual. Luckily for California residents, the recent AB5 bill forces rideshare companies to enlist their drivers as employees, giving you the right to sue them directly.

  • Passenger in Ridesharing Accident 

    You ordered a rideshare expecting that you would arrive at your destination safely and in a timely manner. However, accidents do happen - if you’re injured in an accident, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries and damages suffered as a result of them. Rideshare companies Uber and Lyft each have a $1 million insurance policy to cover this compensation to you.

  • What to Do If You’re Hit by an Uber or Lyft Driver

    When you get hit by any vehicle, you can experience physical, emotional, and financial losses. It could be a more strenuous case to get compensation if the driver who hit you is uninsured. However, if you get hit by an Uber or Lyft Driver, at least you know that the damages you face are covered by each company’s million dollar insurance policy.

  • What do Do If You’re in an Accident As An Uber or Lyft Driver 

    If you’re injured in an accident while due to somebody else’s negligence while driving for Uber or Lyft, you could be compensated by the rideshare company’s $1 million insurance policy coverage. However, this insurance coverage is dependent on what period you fall under when the accident occurred.  

  • Uber Accident Statistics 

    California is one of the states with the highest rates of car accidents throughout the country. With more than 15 million rideshares a day, it is bound that Uber accidents happen and account for that number of accidents as well.

  • Rideshare Car Insurance - the 4 Uber Rideshare Periods

    Uber has four different rideshare periods, each which determine the amount of insurance coverage is available for injuries sustained in a car accident under Uber’s $1 million accident insurance policy.  

  • If I Drive for Uber or Lyft, Does My Insurance Go Up?

    California law requires all drivers to have car insurance and if you are an Uber or Lyft driver, you have additional insurance coverage only when you are working under the app. You should report that you are an Uber or Lyft driver to insurance companies to provide you with the extra insurance in the in between period times, however be aware about how this might affect your insurance rates.

  • Important Safety Tips for Uber and Lyft Drivers

    You take great risks everyday driving strangers around town as an Uber or Lyft driver. It’s important to stay safe while on the road working for these rideshare companies. As an employee, you have certain protections, however there are preventative measures to ensure that you don’t get into a situation where you have to defend yourself while driving as well.

  • Lyft Damage Fee Dispute 

    A damage fee can be charged to any rider that a Lyft driver suspects to have left a mess or damage in their vehicle. However, to assign a damage fee, there is not much need for proof, so sometimes a rider can be wrongfully charged for leaving a mess or damage that they didn’t create.

  • Uber vs Lyft 

    Uber and Lyft are the country’s two top ridesharing companies and each other’s competitors. Each one is different in their own unique way in the protections they offer their drivers and riders. They also offer different kinds of services, two of which set the two companies apart is UberEats and the fact that Uber is available worldwide whereas Lyft does not offer food delivery service and is only available in the U.S.

  • Most Common Rider Violations 

    Being a rider in a strangers vehicle during a rideshare service requires that riders and drivers alike show common courtesy to one another. It is important to know that violations of regulations by both riders and or drivers can get them banned from using the app.

  • UberEats Vs Uber 

    UberEats is a food delivery service provided by the same Uber company. Uber employees can decide to either offer food delivery services through UberEats, rides through Uber, or both - though not at the same time.

  • What To Do If You’re a Passenger in an Uber or Lyft Accident 

    If you were injured in an accident while being a passenger in an Uber or Lyft, you can get compensation for your injuries and any damages that resulted from them. Uber and Lyft each have a $1 million insurance policy to offer compensation to passengers and drivers in the case of an accident.

  • How to Protect Yourself as an Uber or Lyft Driver 

    Uber and Lyft drivers have a dangerous profession and should know how to protect themselves while on the road. This includes knowing the different safety features offered on each app, taking preventative measures, and taking active measures in the case of an emergency.

  • What to About an Uber or Lyft Driver Sexual Assault  

    Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft market themselves as a safe alternative to get passengers to their next destination. However, since they don’t properly screen their drivers before hire, many cases of sexual misconduct and assault have resulted.

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help


If you have sustained injuries as a result of another driver’s carelessness, you have the right to hold that driver responsible. An Uber/Lyft attorney at our firm can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering from your injury.

Call us today at (888) 997-4053 or email [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring and compassionate legal team.

References


CACI No 400. Negligence - Essential Factual Elements.Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI 2017 edition).Justia.

CACI No 1001. Basic Duty of Care.California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI 2017 edition). Justia.

CACI No. 405. Comparative Fault of Plaintiff.Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI 2017 edition). Justia.

California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) 2019-2020. LegiScan.com 

California Public Utilities Commission. CA.gov

Public Utilities Code.Article 7. Transportation Network Companies. California Legislative Information.

Punitive Damages. Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School.

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