Hurt in a Ridesharing Accident? Why Uber/Lyft Accidents in California are Different
Understanding Your Rights After an Uber/Lyft Accident in California: Explained by Our Los Angeles Uber/Lyft Accident Lawyers
Understanding Your Rights After an Uber/Lyft Accident in CaliforniaWhether you work, play, or are just visiting Los Angeles, ridesharing services are an essential part of getting around California. Our state was the first in the United States to accept and regulate ridesharing services. While ridesharing was initially a novel concept, over the years it has grown more acceptance and roughly 36% of people surveyed in the United States have hailed a ride through a ridesharing app. Companies such as Uber and Lyft have made it easier, more convenient, and cheaper for people to get a safe ride home—particularly after a night out with friends and family. But while there are many benefits to ridesharing, our experienced Los Angeles Uber/Lyft accident lawyers know that far too many people are seriously injured or wrongfully killed in ridesharing crashes.
According to a joint traffic safety study, it is estimated that Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing app services have increased traffic fatalities by up to 3% each year. While that does not sound like a large percentage, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that there are approximately 36,100 traffic fatalities a year. This means that a 3% increase in traffic fatalities from ridesharing services contribute almost to 1,100 of those deaths. This is a large number, particularly considering that in California each year there are already roughly 3,500 traffic fatalities and over 277,000 people injured in crashes. In Los Angeles County alone, there are over 91,000 people injured or killed in motor vehicle crashes each year.
Why Ridesharing Accidents Are DifferentIn a normal motor vehicle accident, an injured person would have a claim against the driver and the owner of the other motor vehicle that caused the victim’s injuries. If that other driver or vehicle was being operated in the scope of employment or owned by a business, the victim would have a claim against the business. This allows a victim a better chance to recover compensation, as a business is more likely to have better insurance and “deeper pockets” to pay for a victim’s personal injuries as opposed to the individual driver or employee.
It also makes sense because a business is getting the benefit of the employee’s labor to earn profits, while also having the burden of being liable in a personal injury accident. This is a type of vicious liability known as respondeat superior, meaning the employer is liable for the actions of their employees in the common law (judge-made law) concept known as a master/servant relationship.
Unfortunately, ridesharing companies do not always play fair like this.
Most ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft try to limit their liability before an accident even occurs. They make drivers sign contracts that label them as freelancers or independent contractors. This is because the law generally finds that a freelancer or independent contractor’s actions will not result in vicarious liability for an employer.
Ridesharing companies also require their drivers have their own insurance policies to cover an accident. This is further used as an argument by a ridesharing company that the driver is just as able and capable of covering a victim’s losses as the ridesharing company—which is obviously not true.
Finally, ridesharing companies also require users to agree to the terms and conditions of the app—even acknowledging that drivers are freelancers or independent contractors and not employees. You can bet at trial or during your deposition that the defense lawyer will question you about this, and that you knew about this relationship and even agreed to it.
Common Defenses in a Los Angeles Uber/Lyft AccidentUnderstanding the concepts above, the most common defenses used by Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing companies in a motor vehicle accident include the following:
-The driver was not an employee or agent of the company, but an independent contractor that does not allow for vicarious liability
-The driver’s actions were an intervening event that supersedes liability for the ridesharing company
-The ride had not started or the ride was not ended
-Another third-party caused the motor vehicle accident and your injuries
-The driver’s insurance was primary and must be exhausted before getting to the ridesharing company’s liability policy, and
-All other types of car accident defenses that are not specific to ridesharing accidents, like the statute of limitations, pre-existing conditions, and other common defenses used in California.
As you can appreciate from these additional defenses, ridesharing accidents in California are more complicated than a normal motor vehicle accident.
How to Maximize Your Compensation in a California Ridesharing AccidentThere are certain steps that you can take to help maximize your compensation in a ridesharing accident. Some of these steps can and should be used in any motor vehicle accident, but there are certain steps that you can take to protect your ridesharing accident claim. These steps include the following:
After an Accident Always Call 911 – Even if you do not think you or someone else were injured, call 911. Many types of back, neck, and even brain injuries start off completely pain free but can develop into agonizing injuries requiring fusion surgeries or even causing wrongful death (brain bleeds). Get law enforcement to come and document the accident to create an official record, and have anyone injured in the crash evaluated by EMS.
Take a Screenshot of Your Opened Ridesharing App – Uber, Lyft, and other companies will try to claim that you were not actively in a ride at the time of the accident. This includes that the ride had not started or that the ride was over. Take several screenshots on your phone of the status of the ride showing that it is still ongoing, including a photograph of the map up close to identify streets (to corroborate with the police report) and also a zoomed out map to show the start and end points of the ride with your location somewhere in between. These are crucial to help prove your claim and avoid a ridesharing company from disclaiming your claim.
Seek Medical Treatment – If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident, always seek medical treatment even if that means going to the hospital during a vacation in Los Angeles. Not only will this help support your claim, but it could save your life. Explain all of your injuries to provides, even mild or achy injuries.
Take Photographs or Videos of the Scene – After an accident you will want to take photographs (if you are medically able to do so) of the vehicles, debris fields, signage, road markings, and your injuries. A video can also be helpful too.
Get Witness Information, or Request Another Person or Police Officer to Do it for You – This can help support your case and help your lawyer handle your claim later.
Contact a Lawyer Right Away – Although you need to quickly report your injuries to your car insurance company in just days after a crash, you really need to speak with a lawyer first who can help you do that.
Everything you say to your insurance company can (and often will) be used against you. Contacting a skilled and experienced lawyer like one of our Los Angeles Uber/Lyft accident lawyers at Hillcrest Law can help protect your rights to compensation.