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Hire A Los Angeles Attorney for Uber and Lyft Accidents

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

Any auto accident is a stressful experience, but the specific ride-sharing concerns add an extra layer of stress to the victims. Cases involving Uber / Lyft vehicles are far more difficult, complex, and difficult than other types of accidents.

Furthermore, these cases are vigorously defended. It needs an experienced and trained California Attorney For Personal Injury to take on such powerful organizations as Uber or Lyft.

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Ridesharing has quickly become one of the most popular ways of transportation in the United States and worldwide. California, and specifically Los Angeles, is no exception. Uber, the ride-hailing behemoth, and its major competitor, Lyft, are now everywhere. We see cars with either Uber's "U" emblem or Lyft's "pink mustache" emblem everywhere we go. Pick-up points for these companies can be found at hotels, business centers, and airports. On their phones, everyone seems to have an Uber or Lyft app.

Uber and Lyft provide a very handy and cost-effective mode of transportation. These businesses offered drivers a new way to earn money or enhance their income. However, due to the rapid growth of the ride-hailing industry, accidents involving Lyft and Uber vehicles are becoming more common. This relatively new mode of transportation brought with it a slew of additional complications, such as insurance coverage for injuries experienced in Uber and Lyft accidents, for example. Multiple elements must be studied and considered, which can quickly overwhelm somebody unfamiliar with the legal system.

Many victims of Uber and Lyft accidents are unaware that there are Top Rated Personal Injury Attorneys In Los Angeles that specialize in ride-sharing accident claims. When victims try to manage and resolve matters on their own, they usually settle for a fraction of the true value of their claims. That is why, if you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a ride-sharing service accident, you need the help of a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer from a Lawyer Referral Service certified by the California Bar Association.

You'll need a California Attorney For Personal Injury with a lot of experience who can help you get a far better deal. This business is a force to be reckoned with because of its significant litigation, courtroom, and trial experience.

History and Controversy of Ride-Hailing Companies

It's hard to think Uber and Lyft didn't exist only a few years ago. Both of these ride-hailing businesses are situated in San Francisco. Uber began operations in 2009, and Lyft followed three years later, in 2012. Uber and Lyft soon grew in popularity, from modest start-ups to large transportation companies that provide affordable rides to millions of people daily.

Lyft and Uber are considered "transportation network companies" or "TNCs." The California Public Utilities Commission provided a legal definition of a transportation network firm in 2013, one year after Lyft launched, as a company that uses an online-based platform to link passengers with drivers who use their personal/non-commercial vehicles. The goal of this definition is to regulate the ride-hailing sector.

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Nonetheless, critics of the ride-hailing sector argue that it is not sufficiently controlled. The taxi industry, for example, has long complained that ride-sharing businesses like Uber and Lyft skirt the strict commercial passenger transportation restrictions and, as a result, operate as unlawful taxis. Taxi firms must pay various fees for commercial registration, permits, and licensing. Uber and Lyft are exempt from these charges. As a result, ride-sharing businesses can afford to charge fares so cheap that taxicab businesses cannot compete.

Ride-sharing firms are not permitted to operate in various jurisdictions. Uber and Lyft, on the other hand, are prospering in Los Angeles. Despite strong opposition from all taxicab firms in Los Angeles, the city permitted Uber and Lyft to pick up customers at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) — a lucrative site that was previously only open to taxicab firms. The value of local taxicab businesses has dropped since ride-sharing was introduced in Los Angeles. Uber and Lyft have virtually "killed" the taxi industry in Los Angeles and are threatening the whole taxi sector in the United States.

What Causes UBER and Lyft Accidents in California?

When Uber or Lyft vehicles are involved in collisions, the following are the most common causes:

  • Excessive driving hours, inappropriate scheduling, and/or a lack of sleep cause driver weariness. Many ride-sharing drivers are students or have other full-time jobs. They utilize Uber and Lyft as a way to boost their income.

  • Distractions are a problem. For ride-sharing drivers, the frequent need to look at their phones to see Uber / Lyft apps and navigation screens is a big distraction. Reading and sending text messages and e-mails, as well as eating and applying make-up, are all distractions.

  • Driving while inebriated. Drivers' focus, judgment, and ability to respond quickly in an emergency are all impaired by alcohol and drug usage. Accidents are also common as a result of opioid and psychotherapeutic medication abuse.

  • Speeding, aggressive driving, running stop signs, and red lights are all examples of traffic violations.

  • Failures due to mechanical issues. When Uber / Lyft drivers neglect car maintenance, critical mechanical components such as brakes, for example, can fail.

  • Drivers were not properly screened. Ride-hailing businesses analyze potential drivers' driving records and do criminal background checks before allowing them to utilize their online platforms. A careless driver with a history of repeated convictions may be allowed to transport people if a check is not completed properly or at all.

The Duty of Care of Uber and Lyft

Lyft and Uber drivers, like any other vehicle operators, have a general duty to take reasonable precautions to avoid causing harm to others. If they fail to uphold this duty of care, someone is injured or killed. As a result, the victims have the right to file a negligence claim.

However, others have argued that because Uber and Lyft are common carriers, their duty of care is stronger. A "common carrier" is a transportation corporation that delivers people (as well as goods and property) for a fee.

Commercial bus companies and airlines are the most common instances of common carriers. Common carriers in California are held to a higher standard of care than normal drivers, and their duty of care extends beyond the usual responsibility to take "reasonable care" to prevent injuring others. Common carrier operators must take "utmost care and diligence" when carrying people to guarantee that their passengers arrive safely at their destination. The appropriate rules and requirements are detailed on this website's Duty of Common Carrier page.

Of course, the question here is whether ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are deemed "common carriers." There is no simple answer to this question at this time. The California legislature has yet to enact legislation recognizing ride-hailing companies (technically known as transportation network companies) as common carriers. However, successful moves in this direction are being taken at the court level.

In Doe v. Uber Techs., Inc., 184 F. Supp. 3d 774 (N.D. Cal. 2016), the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed Uber's motion to dismiss, concluding that the plaintiffs established sufficient circumstances to argue that Uber was a common carrier. Uber rejected responsibility for the alleged sexual assaults perpetrated by its drivers in that case, claiming that it was only a "broker" of transportation services. The Federal court disagreed, concluding that the following alleged factors pushed Uber into the category of the common carrier:

  • Uber provides transportation to the general public, and its services are available to everyone.

  • Customers are charged costs for Uber rides, which are standardized.

  • The applicability of the common carrier theory to the ride-sharing sector will be clarified in the future by either the California legislature or the appellate courts.

Accident Insurance for Uber and Lyft

Drivers are increasingly opting for the bare minimum of insurance coverage, which is a typical $15,000 in liability coverage. When an accident occurs, insurance policies with exceptionally low coverage limits deny those who have been wounded the chance to get proper financial recompense. The insurance situation with ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber is considerably different.

By law, Uber and Lyft must hold insurance to cover "death, personal injury, and property damage" from the time a driver "accepts a ride request" on the corresponding app and at all instances when the driver is en route to pick up a passenger or even on the way to the rider's destination.

Uber and Lyft, like other ride-sharing firms, have insurance policies that cover their drivers and provide substantial liability coverage to private entities like passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians. The insurance system, on the other hand, is complicated. The type of insurance coverage and policy limits that apply are determined by the time period in which the event happened.

Uber and Lyft offer period-specific insurance

Insurance coverage is divided into three categories by Uber and Lyft: (1) Both companies provide no insurance coverage for accidents that occur when the app is turned off; (2) Period 1 – when the driver is online but has not accepted any requests – is a "gap" period with limited coverage; and (3) Periods 2 and 3 – when the ride request has been accepted, and the driver is either on the way to pick up a passenger or on the way to drop off a passenger – provide the maximum available insurance coverage. The following are the specifics:

THE DRIVER IS OFFLINE: When a driver logs off, Uber and Lyft consider them to be off duty and driving for personal reasons. These companies do not provide insurance coverage because the driver is not using the Uber or Lyft rideshare technological platforms. The driver's personal auto insurance must pay any claims arising from "offline" accidents.

THE DRIVER IS AVAILABLE ONLINE (Period 1): If an accident occurs while the driver has already logged into the app but has not yet accepted any ride requests, and the Uber or Lyft driver is at fault, both firms give the following liability coverage:

  • Personal injury or death

  • Damage to property caused by a Lyft or Uber driver

Self-inflicted bodily injury and property damage by an Uber or Lyft driver: Significantly, for incidents that occur during this time, Uber and Lyft give their drivers with no insurance coverage at all — either for their own injuries or for damage to their vehicles. In other words, Lyft / Uber drivers are not covered by the firm for uninsured motorists, underinsured motorists, medical payments (Med Pay), or collision coverage during this "gap" period. The drivers are left to their own devices. If the drivers are not at fault in a collision, they may pursue a claim against the at-fault driver(s).

Otherwise, Uber and Lyft drivers will have no choice but to get personal auto insurance coverage. As a result, ride-sharing drivers are advised to obtain either a "rideshare rider" for their own motor insurance or a wholly different "rideshare policy."

PERIODS 2 AND 3: THE DRIVER IS ON HIS WAY TO PICK UP A RIDER OR IS ALREADY ON A TRIP: Both Uber and Lyft provide the following coverage if a rideshare accident occurs after the driver has accepted the ride request and is either en route to pick up a rider or is already on a trip with the passenger:

Considerations for Rideshare Accident Victims in Terms of Insurance

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident involving a ride-sharing service car like Uber or Lyft, keep the following insurance factors in mind:

Uber and Lyft passengers: Both Uber and Lyft have $1,000,000 in liability insurance and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. The practical impact is that it makes no difference whether your driver or the driver of another car caused the accident. If you are injured while riding with Uber or Lyft, $1,000,000 in coverage is available for your injuries and related damages.

Vehicle Drivers Involved in Collisions with Uber/Lyft Vehicles: If you were driving your car and collided with a ride-sharing service vehicle, your coverage would be determined by several criteria. If the Uber / Lyft driver is at fault, the insurance options will differ depending on the service "period":

  1. if the driver of the ride-hailing service was not on duty, you must file a claim with the driver's personal auto insurance carrier;

  2. If the driver was in Periods 1–3, Uber and Lyft would give coverage; however, whether the driver was simply online and "available" or actually accepted a ride will determine whether coverage is provided. You will have $1,000,000 inaccessible coverage if the driver has already been matched with a passenger.

Keep in mind that Uber and Lyft will go to great lengths to avoid being held liable, especially if their driver incur more than $1 million in compensable losses. They'll argue that the driver was an "independent contractor" rather than an "employee," and they'll vigorously dispute any liability.

Vehicle Passengers in Collisions with Uber/Lyft Vehicles: There are even more insurance "variables" in this circumstance. If the Lyft or Uber driver is at fault in the accident, your injuries will be covered by either the ride-sharing company's insurance or the driver's personal policy, depending on the service "period." You would file a claim with your driver's insurance provider if the crash was caused by the driver of the vehicle you were in.

If you were injured in an accident while driving an Uber or Lyft vehicle and were not at fault, the primary coverage will have to come from the other driver's auto liability insurance. If the other driver's insurance is inadequate or non-existent, your coverage will be determined by the ride-sharing service "period" in effect at the time of your accident.

Remember that Uber and Lyft will only cover you for $1,000,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage if you were driving during Period 2 or Period 3. (i.e., on the way to pick up a rider or already with the rider in your vehicle). You must obtain coverage from your own motor insurance in other scenarios (i.e., if you were offline or available / waiting in line for a ride request).

Uber and Lyft will make a strong case that the accident happened before you accepted the ride, especially if the accident happened right after you were connected with a passenger. Both ride-sharing firms will seek to effectively "downgrade" your service phase from Period 2 or 3 to Period 1 to deny your claim. Be prepared to prove the exact time of the accident as a Lyft / Uber driver:

  • Request a Police Report when law enforcement authorities arrive on the scene.

  • With your smartphone, snap a "screenshot" of the open Uber/Lyft navigation app, which should indicate the exact time, the name of the passenger, and whether you were on a "Pickup" or "Drop off" route.

  • Obviously, if the accident happened in Period 3, it will be easier to show because your rider will be present.

While speaking with insurance adjusters, especially those who work for the opposing party's insurer, you must be cautious when reporting your accident. Insurance companies may examine your claim for ways to refuse or reduce it. Overall, given how involved the insurance analysis and claim process may be, consulting with a California Personal Injury Lawyer before speaking with an adjuster is a good idea.

Employees vs. Independent Contractors: The Employment Status of Ride-Sharing Drivers

What Is the Importance of Uber/Lyft Drivers' Employment Classification?

Rideshare firms like Uber and Lyft have been embroiled in legal battles in various forums almost from their start over the question of whether their drivers are independent contractors or employees. The importance of this classification cannot be overstated.

Unlike independent contractors, employees are entitled to various benefits and protections, including, but not limited to, meal breaks, overtime pay, minimum wage standards, anti-discrimination safeguards, and unemployment and workers' compensation benefits.

The question of whether an at-fault motorist was an employee or an independent contractor is equally important in the context of traffic accidents. Employers can be held liable – or "vicariously liable" – for their workers' negligent conduct and omissions under California's respondeat superior concept.

If an employee behaved within the limits of his or her employment at the time of the occurrence – that is, performed something that was a part of his or her duties – or if the employer could reasonably foresee that the employee would do something while executing the job, the employer is vicariously liable.

If drivers are considered employees, and an accident happens during Periods 2 or 3 (i.e., on the way to pick up a passenger or with the passenger already in the vehicle), rideshare drivers plainly behave "within the scope" of their work at the time of the crash. If an accident results in catastrophic harm that exceeds Uber / Lyft's insurance coverage maximum of $1 million, these businesses will be held directly liable.

To put it another way, categorizing ride-sharing service drivers as employees would safeguard both the drivers and the general public, which includes rideshare passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians. Uber and Lyft built their platforms to classify drivers as independent contractors because otherwise, the business' earnings would suffer. It's easy to envision Uber, Lyft, and other similar corporations fighting tooth and nail to keep their drivers classified as independent contractors "at all costs." If drivers are treated as independent contractors, corporations can safeguard their bottom lines by denying them numerous legally permissible benefits and insulating their assets from liability in high-damage catastrophic injury and wrongful death lawsuits.

Are the drivers of Lyft and Uber employees or independent contractors?

So, are Uber and Lyft drivers self-employed or employees? There is yet to be a definitive answer that is specifically applicable to the ride-sharing sector. Recent legal advancements, however, have made it simpler for drivers and accident victims to prove that Lyft and Uber drivers are, in fact, employees.

The court refused to make a legal finding, as a matter of law, in Cotter v. Lyft, Inc., 60 F. Supp. 3d 1067, 1078 (N.D. Cal. 2015) on the issue of whether Lyft drivers were employees or independent contractors. The court determined that this was a factual issue that the jury should decide at trial. Because the trial judge dismissed Lyft's move for summary judgment and clearly did not agree with Lyft that its drivers were independent contractors, this was an unmistakable success in the fight to categorize ride-sharing service drivers as employees.

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In Berwick v. Uber Technologies, a California Labor Commissioner concluded that a driver (Berwick) was an Uber employee, not an independent contractor, three months later. This was a fairly worrying incident for Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing companies.

In 2016, Uber agreed to pay $100 million to settle class-action lawsuits in California and Massachusetts, alleging that its drivers were wrongfully classed as independent contractors. Uber agreed to adopt policy modifications as part of the settlement, including allowing "tips are not included" signs and dismissing drivers only if there was an adequate cause. To put it another way, Lyft and Uber are prepared to go to any length – from paying millions of dollars in settlements to rewriting their policies – to avoid any chance of a court judgment classifying their drivers as workers.

However, the California Supreme Court made it much more difficult for Uber and Lyft to argue that their drivers were independent contractors in 2018. Until 2018, California courts used flexible criteria dubbed the "Borello" test, which was based on the S. G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Dep't of Indus. Relations, 48 Cal. 3d 341 (1989) judgment, to determine whether someone was an independent contractor or an employee. The Borello test allowed judges to consider various criteria, which gave businesses considerable leeway to artificially manipulate certain characteristics and "make it appear" that their employees were independent contractors. Everything changed in 2018.

The California Supreme Court, in Dynamex Operations W. v. Superior Court, 4 Cal. 5th 903 (2018), abandoned the "Borello" test in favor of a more clear and more stringent "ABC test." The ABC test establishes a presumption that all employees are workers. The new law lays the burden on the firm employer to establish all of the following to overcome this presumption and prove that a specific worker was an independent contractor:

  1. That the individual is free from the direction and control of the firm concerning work performance, both under the contract with the company and in actuality;

  2. That the individual conducts labor that is not in the ordinary course of the company's operations;

  3. That the person's regular trade, occupation, or business is self-established and that he or she provides the same service to other businesses.

Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing companies will have difficulty overcoming the new "ABC" presumption. Uber/Lyft drivers and accident victims will be able to make a compelling case that ride-sharing service drivers are employees because: (a) drivers provide consumer transportation, which is the primary function of ride-hailing companies; and (b) transporting passengers is not an independent profession for drivers, especially if some drivers work for only one ride-sharing company (i.e., only for Uber or only for Lyft). The only possible "out" for ride-hailing companies from the strict ABC test is to claim that they merely provide "technical support" and not actual transportation. Such arguments for Lyft and Uber will certainly be an uphill battle.

Determining Who's at Fault in a Lyft or Uber Accident

When cars participate in a crash in the ride-sharing industry, the results can be tragic and terrible, ranging from catastrophic injuries to fatalities. In this regard, such crashes are similar to other car accidents. At the same time, fault analysis might be difficult due to the numerous factors and possible fact patterns. Consider the following scenario:

  • As a result of a crash caused by an Uber or Lyft driver, ride-hailing service passengers, other motorists, or pedestrians are hurt or killed.

  • Another motorist causes a collision involving a Lyft or Uber driver that results in significant injury or death;

A collision is caused by the actions of multiple drivers

Certain components of recoverable damages in California are contingent on the parties' relative degrees of culpability and negligence. This is referred to as "comparative negligence." Because the amount of compensation obtained by victims is influenced by the determination of fault, it is an important aspect of case review in ride-hailing accident cases. Even if the injured motorists contributed to the occurrence of the collision – that is, they were partially to blame – they may be entitled to financial compensation in many situations. Depending on the severity of the issue, the recovery will be lowered.

Because Lyft / Uber passengers aren't involved in the actual driving process, they can't be held accountable for their actions. There are, of course, exceptions to this general rule. Passengers, for example, can cause a rideshare accident by disrupting the driver by being loud, aggressive, or violent. If this is the case, the passengers may still be entitled to monetary damages for their injuries. Even for people who were partially at fault in the accident, a California Attorney For Personal Injury will be able to wade through these complex difficulties and get a recovery.

Navigating Claims Requires the Assistance of an Uber or Lyft Accident Lawyer in Los Angeles.

The concept of a ride-hailing service is relatively new. Several components of this fledgling industry are still unregulated and fraught with risk. Unresolved difficulties include the designation of drivers as independent contractors vs. employees and the use of the "common carrier" doctrine, as mentioned above. As a result, claims involving Lyft and Uber accidents can be extremely complicated. Therefore, it's critical that you hire a California Attorney For Personal Injury who knows what they're doing.

The value of your Lyft or Uber accident claim is partly determined by what you do immediately after the accident and afterward. Your choices and actions can significantly impact the outcome of your claim and the amount of money you may be able to recover.

If you or a loved one was injured or died in an Uber or Lyft accident, it's critical to recognize and understand your legal options. You might be able to file a lawsuit against Uber or Lyft, the rideshare service driver, and others. Consider getting a referral to one of our prescreened Los Angeles UBER and Lyft Accidents Attorney on your California Attorney Search.

Get in Touch With The Top-Rated Los Angeles UBER and Lyft Accidents Attorney in your Area is a California Bar Association-Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to a prescreened Los Angeles personal injury lawyer best fit to handle your claims. Contact us on our 24/7 lawyer referral hotline at 1-661-310-7999 or complete our inquiry submission form for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.


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