With just a couple of clicks on your smartphone, a driver can pick you up in minutes. Over the past few years, ridesharing companies have experienced exponential growth around the world.
There were 45.2 million ridesharing users in 2017 and that number is expected to almost double by 2022.
The meteoric rise of rideshare companies stems from their cheaper fares and quick accessibility. The two biggest ridesharing companies are Uber and Lyft. These companies are considered “transportation network companies” or “TNCs”, which are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) by rules set forth in the Public Utilities Code. In order to operate, TNCs must have up-to-date permits, undergo vehicle inspections, perform background checks on all drivers, establish driver training programs, and must abide by certain regulations on insurance coverage. TNCs are also considered “common carriers” under the California Civil Code, and therefore must use the “utmost care and diligence” in providing their services.
As the use of ridesharing increases, so does the number of car accidents that involve ridesharing drivers. Many drivers and passengers mistakenly believe that ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft will take care of their damages. Unfortunately, these ridesharing companies will not always be the ones protecting you. For this reason, it is imperative to know what to do and how to prepare yourself when you are involved in a collision with a ridesharing vehicle.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A CRASH INVOLVING A RIDESHARE VEHICLE
STEP 1: MAKE SURE YOU ARE OKAY
When involved in crash, maintain your safety. If possible, move your car to the side of the road and away from incoming traffic. Do not get out of your vehicle if you are stuck in the middle of the freeway or the road.
STEP 2: CALL 911
Calling 911 is vital, especially if you or another person involved in the collision sustained injuries. The police will ensure that you and your vehicle are not in a hazardous area. Moreover, the police will help you document the evidence and get a report from both parties. Once the police document the evidence, make sure to request the contact information of the police officer that responded to the accident and get the report number. You should then follow up with the officer in a couple days and request a police report of the accident. The police report should be free and will provide very useful information. However, relying on the police is not enough!
STEP 3: DOCUMENT THE CRASH
When involved in any crash, you want to make sure to gather as much evidence as possible. Start of by taking pictures of the accident, including both vehicles. Next, you want to write down names, email addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses. Follow this up by writing down the name of the ridesharing driver. If you are a ridesharing passenger, take screen shots of your ride and receipt on your phone.
STEP 4: SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION
Whether you feel your injury is minor or significant, you should seek an immediate medical care. If you are experiencing significant pain you should promptly visit the emergency room. If the injuries are minor, you should schedule an appointment with your general physician. Nothing is more important than obtaining the proper medical treatment. The primary goal is to ensure that you will not suffer any long-term health complications as a result of an accident. Additionally, the proper medical care will help build a foundation for a personal injury claim.
STEP 5: GET HELP FROM AN ATTORNEY
When involved in an accident, you should immediately seek help from an attorney. Avoiding delay is crucial, as your health is our number one priority. Delays may cause long-term health problems, negatively impact the value of your claim, result in lost evidence, and can result in a failure to bring forward a claim due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. The sooner you consult with an attorney the sooner they can work on your claim.
DETERMINING RIDESHARE LIABILITY
A rideshare company may be liable for your injuries if the crash was caused by a rideshare vehicle, or if you were the passenger in a vehicle operated by a rideshare driver involved in a collision.
When determining liability, there is one key factor: the timeframe of the crash. The reason is that the Public Utilities Code has created different coverage requirements depending on whether the driver merely has the ridesharing app on, is en route to pick up a customer, or is in the middle of a ride. Depending on when the crash occurred, the coverage available may vary.
Phase 1: The ridesharing app is on, but no trip has been accepted, and there are no passengers in the vehicle. The Public Utilities Code requires that there be coverage at a minimum of $50,000 per person, $100,000 per incident and $30,000 for property damage. This may be satisfied through the driver’s own policy or the TNC’s policy, or a combination of the two. The Public Utilities Code also requires a minimum of $200,000 in excess coverage.
Phase 2: The driver is en route to pick up a passenger. The Public Utilities Code requires $1,000,000 for death, personal injury, and property damage either through the driver’s policy, the TNC’s policy, or both, plus $1,000,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage by the TNC.
Phase 3: There is a passenger in the vehicle and the driver is in the process of completing the ride. The Public Utilities Code requires $1,000,000 for personal injury, death and property damage with $1,000,000 in underinsured motorist coverage similar to Phase 2.
HOLDING THE RIDESHARE SERVICE RESPONSIBLE
In addition to finding insurance coverage, crashes involving rideshare services present the additional issue of how to “hook” the company itself as a liable party. Generally speaking, employers are considered responsible for the acts of employees committed in the course and scope of employment. This principle is called “respondeat superior”. However, in the case of independent contractors, it can be more difficult to hold the hirer liable for the acts of the independent contractor. In California, there are two main tests that a court may apply to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. These tests are discussed in more depth in a separate article. However, for the purposes of rideshare liability, it is important to note the distinction between employee and independent contractor is something that rideshare companies nearly always fight in the hopes of dodging liability for a crash.
The number of car crashes involving ridesharing companies is increasing daily. Kramer Trial Lawyers specializes in these cases and understands the laws and regulations that govern TNCs such as Lyft and Uber. If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of an automobile collision, KTL is here to help and will fight for the compensation that you deserve.