Here in California, if you are injured in a traffic accident because another driver was careless, distracted, intoxicated, or negligent in any other way, you must discuss your rights as an injury victim – immediately – with an experienced Fresno personal injury attorney.
Most of the personal injury claims arising from California traffic collisions are straightforward matters that do not involve going to court. Your attorney helps you file a damage claim against the negligent driver’s auto insurance company, and that company reimburses you for your losses.
But keep reading – not every personal injury case goes so smoothly. A case becomes more legally complicated if a commercial vehicle like a truck or a taxi is involved. What happens, for example, if you are riding with Uber or Lyft, and an accident happens, and you’re injured?
WHAT PROTECTION IS OFFERED BY RIDESHARE OPERATIONS?
With so many people now taking advantage of these popular rideshare services, it is important to know how safe and how protected you are when you’re a Lyft or Uber passenger, or if you’re in a vehicle that is involved in an accident with a Lyft or Uber vehicle.
Two key questions must be answered about any accident involving a rideshare vehicle:
1. What “level” of insurance coverage applied to the rideshare vehicle at the time of the accident?
2. Was the driver working as an employee, working as an independent contractor, or not working at the time of the accident?
WHAT ARE THE “LEVELS” OF RIDESHARE INSURANCE COVERAGE?
The insurance coverage “level” for an Uber or Lyft vehicle depends on the status of the vehicle:
1. If the driver is transporting a passenger or is en route to pick up a passenger, the vehicle is covered for $1 million in commercial liability and $1 million of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
2. If a driver is waiting for a ride request, the vehicle is covered for up to $50,000 for bodily injury to one person in a single accident; up to $100,000 for bodily injury to multiple persons in a single accident; and up to $30,000 for property damage in a single accident.
3. If the driver is not working, not looking for a passenger, and not carrying a passenger, the driver’s personal auto insurance coverage applies.
If another motorist or another motorist’s passenger, a pedestrian, or anyone else is injured by a negligent Lyft or Uber driver here in California, that driver is at least partially liable for the damages.
WHEN DOES A RIDESHARE COMPANY HAVE LIABILITY FOR AN ACCIDENT?
However, the rideshare company may also have either “direct” or “vicarious” liability for the accident, depending in part on whether the driver is classified as an employee or as an independent contractor.
If you’re starting to get confused, that’s okay. The law and the insurance rules are confusing. The most important thing to know is what to do if you’ve been injured in a traffic crash.
You’ll have two priorities. Medical attention comes first. Get immediate treatment. If you don’t think you’ve been injured, protect yourself by getting a medical exam within at least 24 hours of the accident. If you’ve sustained a latent or difficult-to-detect injury, you’ll be glad you did.
Retaining good legal help – as soon as you’ve been treated or examined by a healthcare professional – is the second priority.
WHAT WILL AN INJURY ATTORNEY DO ON YOUR BEHALF?
If you’re injured in any accident involving an Uber or Lyft vehicle, you’re going to need the advice and insights of a personal injury attorney to help you untangle the complications and understand how the law and the insurance coverage applies in your own case.
A rideshare company could have direct liability for an accident if the company did not adequately check a driver’s background when hiring or did not adequately supervise and train drivers after hiring.
In the strictest legal sense, as of 2018, Uber and Lyft drivers in California are not employees. The companies maintain that their drivers are independent contractors.
California law holds employers “vicariously” liable for the actions of their on-the-clock employees, but employers generally have no liability for the negligent actions of their independent contractors – even if that negligence injures someone.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER MOST ACCIDENTS INVOLVING UBER OR LYFT?
That doesn’t mean, however, that Uber or Lyft won’t pay for your injuries if you are injured by one of their drivers.
If you are injured as an Uber or Lyft passenger – or in an accident with an Uber or Lyft driver with a passenger or en route to pick up a passenger – you are covered by the $1 million liability coverage without regard to which driver was actually at-fault for the collision.
However, if you’ve suffered any injuries worse than the most minor scrapes and scratches in an accident involving Uber or Lyft – or in any traffic mishap here in California – you are still very much going to need a good accident attorney’s guidance and advice.
IF YOU’RE INJURED, WHAT SHOULD YOU TELL AN INSURANCE COMPANY?
If you’ve been injured, do not even speak to an insurance company representative until you’ve consulted a California injury attorney.
Insurance adjusters and investigators can twist what you say and use it against you. An insurance company may reject your injury claim or offer you far less than the claim is actually worth.
If you are injured in any crash involving a rideshare vehicle in California, have your personal injury lawyer – who routinely negotiates insurance settlements – do the talking for you.
HOW WILL YOUR PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM BE RESOLVED?
Most personal injury cases in this state are settled out-of-court when attorneys for both sides meet privately to negotiate a settlement. Your attorney can usually handle everything, and you probably will not even have to go to court. You can concentrate on regaining your health.
In the rare cases when there is a dispute over liability, over which driver was at-fault, or if for any reason no acceptable settlement offer is forthcoming, your attorney may recommend taking the case to trial and asking a jury to compensate you for your injuries and related damages.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve learned that accidents involving rideshare vehicles can be legally complicated for a number of reasons.
WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR YOUR PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM TO PREVAIL?
Every victim of negligence in California is entitled to compensation, but acquiring that compensation – particularly in cases involving Uber and Lyft vehicles – will take some patience as well as the legal skills and talents of an experienced accident attorney.
After any traffic injury, you can learn more about your rights by arranging a consultation with a California personal injury lawyer. Most injury lawyers offer a free first consultation to injury victims.
If you’ve been injured by negligence in Fresno, arrange that legal consultation now. Your future could depend on it.