Rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft offer affordable convenience, but most people do not think about how complex a rideshare accident can become until after they are injured in a collision.
The status of an at-fault rideshare driver at the time of a collision can significantly affect how injured drivers or passengers may be able to recover for damages.
The Sacramento car accident lawyers are prepared to help you file a claim if you were injured in an accident involving a ridesharing vehicle.
Under California law, rideshare companies are defined as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). A TNC is a company that offers prearranged rides or car rentals for a fee, utilizing an online application (app) via a mobile device. Customers are connected to automobile renters, such as Zipcar, or car owner/drivers, like Uber or Lyft.
California has specific insurance requirements for TNCs. The amount of insurance coverage that a rideshare driver maintains depends on the type of activity he or she was engaged in at the time of the accident.
TNC minimum coverage requirement is $50,000 per individual/$100,000 per accident/$30,000 for property damage. TNCs must also have coverage of at least $200,000 per occurrence for any liability associated with the driver using a vehicle in connection with the app.
TNCs must provide primary commercial insurance in the amount of $1 million dollars.
TNC minimum coverage requirement is $1 million in commercial liability and $1 million uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance.
If the rideshare driver was not logged into the app at the time of the accident, he or she would be considered an individual driving on his or her own time. The accident would be like any other car accident. If the rideshare driver was at fault, insurance coverage would be limited to the driver’s personal insurance coverage. The minimum insurance coverage requirement for individuals in California is $15,000 per individual/$30,000 per accident/$5,000 property damage.
Under California law, an employer is generally held responsible for the employee’s negligence. Rideshare drivers are usually considered independent contractors – not traditional employees -- for liability purposes. However, “gig economy” jobs are still evolving. The question of whether rideshare drivers are independent contractors or employees may continue to change.
Even if the rideshare driver is considered an independent contractor, the TNC may share liability for the accident. For instance, the company may have been negligent with screening, training or supervising drivers.
In addition, there are laws in California against distracted driving, including operating a phone or device while driving. Rideshare drivers tend to use their phone screens while driving, increasing risk to the passenger and others on the road. TNCs may be partially liable for accidents caused by their driver distraction because they are presumably aware of the increased risk associated with using the rideshare app they provide.
An injured rideshare passenger may have a claim against a driver if he or she caused the accident. Passengers may also be eligible to file a claim against the TNC’s commercial policy if the damages exceed the driver’s insurance coverage. Rideshare passengers are generally covered by the TNC’s liability coverage because the rideshare driver was engaged in Period 3 activity.
If another driver caused the accident, the injured rideshare passenger would file a claim against the at-fault individual. If the at-fault driver did not have insurance or was underinsured, the TNC’s underinsured motorist (UIM) policy may cover the damages up to $1 million per accident.
Responsibility for vehicle collisions is primarily determined by negligence. All drivers have a duty to use reasonable caution when driving a vehicle, complying with vehicle codes and watching out for other cars, pedestrians and obstacles.
Determining fault can be more complex with a collision involving a rideshare vehicle, because more parties and factors may be involved and because injured drivers, passengers, or pedestrians may not know the exact cause of the accident, victims may end up naming all potential defendants in the case. The fault is then determined by a legal discovery process that takes into account witness statements and other evidence. More than one party may be found responsible.
The driver found to be negligent is liable for damages. When an accident involves a rideshare vehicle, the person who caused the crash may be liable for injuries to any other involved parties, including rideshare passengers.
Some people choose to not wear a seat belt when riding in a taxi or rideshare vehicle. However, failure to wear a seat belt could affect your eligibility to recover damages if you are injured in an accident. Failure to wear a seat belt can establish negligence as a passenger, and the defense may argue that injuries caused by the accident would have been avoided or less severe if you had worn a seat belt.
California law requires all rideshare drivers to display their company's decal in the vehicle's windows at all times when the app is on.
Unfortunately, the rideshare driver may not be honest about whether the app was on at the time of the accident, making it difficult to determine whether TNC insurance coverage applies. If you are injured in an accident caused by someone driving a vehicle with a rideshare service decal or sign, consult with an attorney. They may subpoena electronic records to determine whether the driver had the app on, or if the ride was active at the time of the collision.
If you were injured in an accident with a rideshare company, you probably have questions about who is responsible for damages and how to proceed with your claim.
Call the Arnold Law Firm to discuss your situation confidentially with an experienced attorney. We will evaluate your case at no cost and no obligation.
Call us at (916) 777-7777 for a free case evaluation to get started.