Rideshare Accidents – Commuting in California and around the US has been revolutionized by rideshare services such as Lyft and Uber. Rideshare services have made and continue to make commuting convenient. Because getting rideshare services is at our fingertips, it is a very accessible mode of transport.
It should be noted that with the popularity and convenience of rideshare services, the risks of accidents continue to abound. With the increasing number of accidents, crucial questions such as liability and legal recourse continue to come up. It follows from this that it is more than necessary to understand the legal landscape that surrounds rideshare services in California.
This article shall give a comprehensive overview of the legal landscape in California, the pertinent issues around rideshare services, the process of seeking compensation following a rideshare accident, case laws, the process of establishing liability, the timelines applicable to filing rideshare accident claims and the people that you should contact as soon as you are involved in a rideshare accident.
Understanding Rideshare Liability in California
The Basics of Rideshare Driver Classification
Rideshare drivers are classified as independent contractors instead of employees of Uber and Lyft. The classification as independent contractors other than employees has a very significant impact on the apportionment of liability when accidents involving rideshare drivers happen. The Supreme Court of California established a very strict “ABC” test in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court when it held that any worker has to be presumed as an employee unless the entity that hired them can prove otherwise.
The above classification hurts the apportionment of liability of rideshare companies when their drivers are involved in an accident. It should be noted that the drivers of the rideshare services are ordinarily deemed to be acting within the scope of their employment with rideshare companies. Because of the classification, it is possible that the rideshare companies can be held liable for the accidents that have been caused by their drivers.
Insurance Requirements for Rideshare Companies
Section 533 of the California Public Utilities Code provides that rideshare companies must always maintain valid and current insurance covers for their drivers. It should also be noted that the law provides that rideshare companies must always have personal car insurance coverage when driving the cars. It should also be noted that rideshare companies must provide additional insurance coverage during different stages of the rideshare rides. The stages are as indicated below:
- App On, No Passenger: Under this stage, rideshare companies are mandated to provide liability coverage of at least $25,000 to cover any property damage, $50,000 for any person who has been injured in a rideshare accident and $100,000 for any injury per accident.
- En Route to Pickup or During Trip: The amount of insurance coverage increases significantly when en route, at pickup or during the rideshare trip. The amount of insurance coverage increased to at least $1 million for liability coverage, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and contingent comprehensive and collision coverage.
One must understand this insurance liability coverage as they are very crucial when determining the person who is at fault for the accident and the amount of compensation that one can be eligible to receive in the event of a car accident.
Determining Liability in Rideshare Accidents
Uber or Lyft Driver Negligence and Liability
The process of proving liability in rideshare accidents involves putting together various pieces of evidence. The establishment of liability shall often revolve around proving the negligence of the rideshare driver. A rideshare vehicle victim must therefore ensure that they have sufficient pieces of evidence to prove negligence such as evidence proving that the rideshare driver was driving while distracted, the rideshare driver was speeding, the rideshare driver did not adhere to traffic lights or the rideshare driver flouted traffic laws.
It should be noted that California follows pure comparative negligence to the extent that the liability that emanates from a rideshare accident has to be shared among the parties involved in the accident depending on their percentage of fault for the accident.
Rideshare Company Liability
It should be noted that rideshare companies may also be held liable for rideshare accidents involving their drivers. For the rideshare company to be liable for the accident, it must be proven that the at-fault driver was in the active engagement of the rideshare company at the time the rideshare accident occurred. In instances where the rideshare driver was on the way to pick up a rideshare passenger or they already had the passenger in the car, the rideshare company shall be held liable for the accident.
It is worth noting that the various stages in which the liability coverage of the rideshare company applies must be taken into consideration as they shall have an impact on the amount of compensation that one can get.
Case Laws on Rideshare Accidents in California
Grillo v. California
In this case, California’s Supreme Court held that rideshare companies have a duty of care to rideshare service users. It follows from this that the rideshare drivers have a huge responsibility to ensure that their passengers are properly driven and that they should avoid instances which can put their passengers at risk. It follows from this precedent that parties who are injured in a rideshare accident can easily sue and claim compensation from the relevant rideshare company.
Smith v. Uber Technologies, Inc.
In this precedent, the Court of Appeal in California was called upon to address the issue of whether rideshare companies can be held vicariously liable for their drivers’ actions. The court critically looked into the issue and concluded that a rideshare company shall be held vicariously liable for the actions of their drivers if the drivers were engaged in the duty of providing transportation services when the rideshare accident happened. In light of this decision, rideshare companies are not protected from liability for the actions of their drivers if the drivers were acting within the scope of employment.
It follows from this decision that you can easily sue and win a claim against a rideshare company if you can demonstrate that the rideshare driver was providing rideshare services at the time the accident happened.
Steps to Take After a Rideshare Accident
Seek Medical Attention
Because you must be rideshare accidents can result in both major and minor injuries, it is fundamental that you seek medical intervention as soon as you are involved in an accident. While you can be tempted to ignore minor injuries, you must be medically examined so that the extent of your injuries can be noted. It is worth noting that certain minor injuries can drastically lead to major injuries. It follows therefore that you must seek urgent medical attention.
It’s important to note that you must obtain a copy of the medical records upon treatment so that you can rely on the same when you shall be seeking compensation from the at-fault party.
Document the Scene
Fundamentally, you document the accident scene so that you can rely on the same when you seek compensation from the party that was responsible for the accident. You must take pictures You must take must report and videos of the accident scene. Moreover, you should take note of the accident scene and gather the information of various witnesses as much as you can. The evidence gathered shall be extremely valuable when deciding on the issue of liability.
Report the Accident
You must report the occurrence of the rideshare accident to the rideshare company as soon as possible. They must provide as many details as possible in your report to the rideshare company. You should indicate the location, the date, the time and the description of the rideshare accident.
Consult with an Attorney
It is crucial to seek advice from a rideshare attorney immediately after being involved in a rideshare accident.
It is also important to consult an attorney as soon as possible so that you can begin the process of seeking compensation. California’s laws provide that you can only file a rideshare accident claim within two years from the date of the occurrence of the accident. You lose your chances of getting compensation if you file the rideshare lawsuit after the lapse of two years.
Consulting an attorney would also be helpful in that they shall guide you on steps that you should take in the collection and in the putting together of the various pieces of evidence that are necessary when proving liability.
Big Ben Lawyers are available and ready to assist you pursue compensation for your rideshare accident claim. Its team of experienced personal injury lawyers shall take through what you should expect in your pursuit of compensation right from the time that you are involved in a rideshare accident to the time that you receive compensation. Contact us today.