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Personal Injury Firm in Los Angeles

West Coast Trial Lawyers


Los Angeles Uber / Lyft Accident Attorney

Ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft have become the go-to form of transportation for many Los Angeles and Southern California residents. 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/Lyft-related accident.

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, and will often result in multiple claims against the company, the driver, and even other drivers. 

An Uber/Lyft car accident victim may be entitled to compensatory damages

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: 

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

As it relates to taxi services, they 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 and is simply existing on his or her own time, only the driver’s individual car insurance will come into effect. This personal insurance policy only needs to cover the minimum California 15/30/5 insurance, which covers a maximum of:

  • $5,000 in damage to property and other vehicles.
  • $15,000 in damages for injuries or the death of any single individual for any single accident.
  • $30,000 in damages which will be appropriately divided among anyone killed or injured in any single accident.

2)Determining Liability After An Uber/Lyft Accident

Determining liability after all car accidents 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:

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

2.1 Ride-Sharing Periods Defined

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:

  1. Was currently logged into the app and was already waiting for a passenger.
  2. Already had a passenger in the vehicle or was picking up someone.
  3. 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/Lyft Accident?

If you were injured as a passenger in an Uber or Lyft-related accident, you will generally be covered by their 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/Lyft’s UM/UIM policy typically will cover the damages up to $1 million per accident.

3.1 What If An 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: 

  1. Has the app turned on and is already waiting for a passenger.
  2. Does not have a passenger and does not have the app turned on.
  3. 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 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:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Lost Wages
  • Medical Bills
  • Loss Of Consortium
  • Physical Therapy
  • Lost Earning Capacity
  • Pain and Suffering

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. 

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 claim for:

  1. Financial loss
  2. Funeral and burial costs
  3. Loss of companionship and support.

4.1 Am I Entitled To damages If I Was Partially At Fault?

California is a comparative liability 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. 

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. A 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 (213) 927-3700 or email info@westcoasttriallawyers.com to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring and compassionate legal team.

References

https://www.cpuc.ca.gov/

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=PUC&division=2.&title=&part=&chapter=8.&article=7

https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/400/400/

https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/1000/1001/

https://legiscan.com/CA/bill/AB5/2019

https://westcoasttriallawyers.com/

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/punitive_damages

https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/400/405/

https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/public-utilities-code/puc-sect-5445-2.html



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