No matter where you are in California, chances are you have used Uber or Lyft. Like millions of people each day, you use these ridesharing services to get you around your town or city. While the vast majority of these trips go as planned and are safe, accidents do occasionally happen that lead to you as the passenger being injured and wondering what to do next. Since ridesharing services are still relatively new, the laws surrounding these accidents are ever-evolving and changing with the times. Because of this, it is imperative you work with attorneys who are experienced in handling these cases. Otherwise, you may lose out on the chance to gain compensation for your medical treatment, lost wages if you are unable to work, and damages to any property you may have had with you in the vehicle.
Was the Driver Negligent?
Under California law, accidents involving Uber or Lyft drivers are like other auto accidents and are based on negligence. Should you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit in California, you as the plaintiff will need to prove your ridesharing driver owed you a duty of care, breached that duty of care through a negligent act, and that the negligence on the part of the driver resulted in your damages. For example, if your driver was speeding or driving in a reckless manner at the time of the accident, this will be crucial to proving and winning your case. Since California law states that when a driver violates a state vehicle code they are automatically considered negligent, this will be a critical component that must be proven by your attorney.
Company Insurance Policy
If you are a passenger who is involved in an Uber or Lyft accident, these companies have $1 million insurance policies in place to compensate victims for their damages. However, just because these policies exist does not mean the companies are eager to pay compensation to passenger in their vehicles. In fact, like most other similar situations, chances are they will do everything possible to deny your claim. Whether they try to claim the driver was not on duty at the time of the accident or that you as the passenger distracted your driver and caused the accident, these and other tactics will be used in an attempt to deny you compensation. Due to the numerous complexities that surround these cases, never take anything for granted. Instead, contact an experienced attorney to discuss your case in greater detail.
When these accidents take place, it will be important to have as much evidence as possible to support your claims of negligence. Therefore, you should always be willing and able to take photos of anything that may be crucial to your case. For example, should you witness your driver talking or texting on their cellphone while driving you to your destination, always take a photo to back up your claim of negligence. Likewise, if you suspect your driver is high on drugs or alcohol, make note of this as well when speaking to police at the accident scene. Along with having your concerns noted in the accident report filed by police, they may decide to pursue this matter further and possibly charge your driver with DUI, which would virtually guarantee your personal injury lawsuit will be successful.
Wearing or Not Wearing a Seat Belt?
When you enter an Uber or Lyft vehicle, do not choose to treat it casually as if you are getting into a friend’s car. For your safety as well as making sure it cannot be held against you should an accident take place, always put on your seat belt immediately. Under California law, should you not be wearing a seat belt at the time of your accident, this may impact your ability to recover any damages at all or possibly limit the amount of compensation you can receive. If you do not have your seat belt on when your Uber or Lyft accident occurs, expect the company to use this against you by saying your injuries would not have occurred or been serious had you followed the law and worn your seat belt.
Was the App On When the Accident Occurred?
In many instances when Uber or Lyft drivers are involved in accidents, the outcome of the case comes down to whether or not the driver’s app was on at the time of the accident, determining whether or not they were on duty for the company when the accident occurred. If the app was on, the company’s liability insurance coverage will kick in and cover your damages. However, if the app was not on at the time of the accident, the focus will shift to the driver’s individual insurance coverage. Unfortunately, some drivers may attempt to lie about whether or not their app was on at the time of the accident. If you suspect your driver is not being truthful about this critical aspect of the accident, speak with an experienced ridesharing accident attorney at once. Upon doing so, a subpoena can be issued for the company’s electronic records, which will show if the app was indeed turned on at the time of the accident.
What if Damages Exceed Insurance Coverage Limits?
In some accidents where a passenger’s injuries and other damages exceed the coverage limits of a driver’s personal insurance coverage, circumstances can become difficult for the injured passenger. If the driver who was responsible for the accident has limited insurance coverage as well as limited financial assets, some victims find themselves out of options and scrambling to pay medical expenses on their own. Rather than let this happen to you, turn instead to a knowledgeable California ridesharing accident attorney who has a track record of success in these cases. By doing so, settlements can often be negotiated with the ridesharing company or the driver’s insurance company to compensate accident victims for their injuries and other damages.
Employee or Independent Contractor?
Since ridesharing companies rarely consider their drivers to be employees, they are instead classified as independent contractors. While this may not sound important, it is actually critical to determining who will be held liable for your accident. Based on California’s “RespondentSuperior” laws, an employer is almost always held liable for any injuries caused by their employees who are on the job at the time of the accident. However, if a company considers those working for them to be independent contractors, questions will arise as to who is liable for damages. In these situations, never try to handle negotiations with the company or an insurance company on your own. If you do, you will no doubt become confused about certain matters and say or do things that will derail a personal injury lawsuit before it ever gets started. Instead, hire the services of an experienced Uber or Lyft accident attorney and let them negotiate on your behalf.
Though ridesharing services have existed for more than a decade, many laws associated with these accidents are still vague and can be interpreted multiple ways. Because of this, always work closely with attorneys who specialize in these cases, since it will likely be the difference between winning or losing your case.