Many people travel to California from other states and countries for vacations or work. Instead of renting vehicles, some people decide to rely on ride-share services, including Lyft or Uber, while they are in the state. While ride-share apps are convenient and allow visitors to easily get around without worrying about navigating on unfamiliar streets and highways, there is still a risk of suffering injuries in an Uber or Lyft accident while visiting California.
Riding in a Lyft or Uber car involves the same risks as riding in any other type of vehicle. While ride-share companies do not keep drivers who frequently engage in unsafe driving behavior or often get into accidents, drivers who are normally safe still sometimes have accidents. When your accident occurs while you are visiting California, knowing what to do can be difficult. Here is some information about how to handle an Uber or Lyft accident when you are injured while on vacation in the state.
Liability in Lyft/Uber accidents in California
A number of states follow a no-fault rule for car accident claims. However, California uses an at-fault insurance system for motor vehicle accidents. Under the state's at-fault system, the driver who is at fault for causing an accident can be held liable to pay damages. In a ride-share accident, the at-fault driver might be the ride-share driver, the other involved driver, or both. If you suffered injuries as a passenger in a Lyft or Uber while visiting California, determining who is liable will be critical.
In California, all drivers are required to carry insurance in at least the following minimum amounts:
• $15,000 in bodily injury per person
• $30,000 in bodily injury per accident
• $5,000 in property damage per accident
If the other driver caused the accident, the amount of available coverage might be limited if he or she only had coverage in the state's required minimum amounts. However, if your losses were above these limits, you might still be able to file a claim with Uber's or Lyft's insurer. Both companies provide their drivers with uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage for bodily injuries in accidents of up to $1 million.
If the ride-share driver was at fault and caused the collision, the companies provide $1 million in coverage. While this insurance coverage might seem to be fairly straightforward, recovering compensation following an Uber or Lyft accident in California can be complicated for out-of-state victims.
Ride-share driver liability
Ride-share drivers are independent contractors and not employees. They have contracts with ride-share companies and must meet specific criteria to drive for them. However, they are not classified as employees. While most independent contractors are responsible for their own actions and liability coverage, California requires ride-share app companies to provide drivers with additional coverage.
This additional coverage does not kick in until the driver turns the ride-share app on. When a ride-share driver does not have the app turned on, his or her personal liability coverage will apply instead of Uber's coverage. The amount of coverage through Lyft or Uber will depend on the period the driver is in with the ride-share app.
Period zero occurs when a ride-share driver does not have the app turned on. This period occurs when the driver is driving for his or her own purposes unrelated to performing duties as a driver for the company. Uber's insurance will not be available to people who are injured in accidents during this period. Instead, the driver's personal insurance coverage will be responsible up to the policy limits. Some drivers may only have liability insurance in the previously listed minimum amounts. However, others might carry auto insurance with higher amounts or additional coverage such as UM/UIM coverage, comprehensive and collision, and medical payments coverage.
When the ride-share driver turns on the ride-share app and is waiting for people to hail rides, he or she is in period one. During this period, the driver must still have personal insurance coverage. However, insurance coverage through Uber or Lyft will be available if the driver's insurance is insufficient to cover the damages.
During period one, Lyft and Uber provide the following coverage amounts:
• $50,000 bodily injury per person
• $100,000 bodily injury per accident
• $25,000 in property damage
Periods two and three
A ride-share driver who is en route to pick up a passenger who has hailed a ride is in period two. Period three occurs when a ride-share driver has a passenger in the vehicle. During these two periods, Uber's or Lyft's $1 million insurance coverage will be available to cover the passenger and driver.
Handling a ride-share accident as a passenger
Lyft and Uber passenger injury claims are normally handled in a similar way as other California car accident claims. If you are involved in a ride-share accident as a passenger, the first thing you should do is to call for help. Check yourself and others for injuries while you wait for the police to arrive, and provide first aid to anyone who might have been injured if possible.
Lyft or Uber will have records of your driver's identity, the vehicle's license plate, and the location of the accident. All of this information is tracked in the app by GPS. However, you will still need to collect information from both involved drivers, including the following:
• Both drivers' names
• Both drivers' addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses
• License plate numbers of both vehicles
• Registration information for both vehicles
• Makes and models of both vehicles
• Insurance information for both drivers
Look for anyone who might have witnessed the accident. If anyone saw what happened, ask them for their names and contact information. If you can, use your smartphone or camera to photograph the involved vehicles and the accident scene, including the damage to both cars, the weather and road conditions, nearby street signs, and pictures that capture the entire scene.
Make sure to seek immediate medical attention after you are released from the scene by the police. Prompt medical care can help to identify all of your injuries and ensure that you receive appropriate treatment. Going to the hospital immediately after your accident can also show the insurance company that your injuries were caused by the Uber or Lyft accident instead of some other cause.
When you can, call your insurance company to report what happened. Your company will then contact the driver's insurance provider to initiate the claims process. Once you report your accident, your insurance company will begin the process of determining liability. If two or more vehicles were involved, the claims adjusters from each insurance company will try to determine the fault. If two or more drivers shared fault, each will be responsible for paying his or her percentage of damages.
When the Lyft or Uber driver was at fault
If your Lyft or Uber driver caused the accident in which you were injured, you can file a lawsuit against him or her. However, if the driver only has personal insurance coverage, it might not cover your losses unless the driver has a special endorsement allowing him or her to drive his or her vehicle for commercial purposes.
Under Cal. Veh. Code 5430, ride-share companies are required to carry additional insurance coverage of $1 million for personal injury, death, and property damage in accidents caused by ride-share drivers. This law also mandates that the ride-share company's liability coverage will be the primary policy. This means that you will likely only need to file a lawsuit against Uber or Lyft and not the driver.
When the ride-share driver wasn't at fault
If you were injured in a ride-share accident as a passenger when the other driver was at fault, you will file a claim against the other driver. All drivers in California are required to carry insurance coverage in the previously mentioned liability limits. However, some people still drive without insurance. The other driver might also be underinsured. Depending on your injuries and the coverage carried by the other driver, the policy that the other driver has might be too low to cover your losses.
In this situation, you could file a claim with Uber's or Lyft's UM/UIM coverage. This coverage might help to pay for your losses when a different driver caused the accident.
Damages in an Uber/Lyft accident
After a Lyft or Uber accident, the damages you might be able to recover include the following:
• Compensation for your past and future medical expenses
• Compensation for your other treatment-related expenses
• Compensation for your past and future income losses
• Compensation for any property damages
• Compensation for your past and future physical pain and suffering, disability, and mental anguish
• Punitive damages if the actions of the defendant were outrageous
It is important to note that while Uber and Lyft are required to carry insurance coverage of $1 million, that does not mean that you will recover that amount of compensation. All insurers try to minimize how much they pay out on claims, and Uber's and Lyft's insurers are no exception. Working with an experienced attorney might help you to recover more compensation than you might receive on your own.