Ridesharing has experienced significant growth within the last five years, becoming an essential service for urban commuters in California. Companies like Lyft and Uber have seen particular surges in popularity, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down.

Despite the success, there are still many questions left unanswered about the legalities of such ridesharing services. Chief among them: what happens when a passenger is injured in an Uber accident? Who is responsible? And can the injured party pursue Uber for any damages?

Over the last few years, Uber has failed to define its role in the eyes of the court. As a result, the state of California stepped in, identifying and defining periods within an Uber driver’s average day.

Period 1: The time in which the Uber driver is actively on the app, waiting for a passenger to match with them

Period 2: The time in which the Uber driver accepts their matched passenger but has not yet collected them. Typically, the time in which the Uber driver is heading towards the passenger’s location.

Period 3: The time in which the passenger has been collected, is in the vehicle, and on their way to their destination. This period begins the moment the passenger enters the Uber driver’s vehicle to the moment they exit.

This method of defining responsibilities and separating each into three stages creates uniformity, making it easier for the state to regulate and enforce liability laws and insurance practices.

It is only recently that companies like Uber have become required to provide insurance to their drivers. As a result, California Law has made coverage mandatory, though each period features slight variations.

Period 1: Rideshare companies must provide primary coverage of $50,000 for death and personal injury per person; $100,000 for death and personal injury per incidents; and $30,000 for property damage. Additionally, companies must provide minimum coverage of $200,000 in liability insurance for the driver.

Period 2 and 3: Rideshare companies must provide primary commercial insurance coverage of $1,000,000

Period 3: Companies must provide uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage of $1,000,000 from the moment a passenger enters the Uber vehicle until the passenger exits the vehicle.

Despite reasonable safeguards in place, insurance claims can still be denied or come in the form of lower than expected settlements for many different reasons. This is why you should consider speaking to an attorney with ridesharing accident experience. 

Liability—who is at fault?

In the state of California, the question of liability in a ridesharing accident depends on two factors: whether the Uber driver is considered an independent contractor, or a regular company employee. According to state liability law, when a commercial driver is operating as an independent contractor, they are typically held liable for accidents. Alternatively, if drivers are designated as employees, liability can fall upon the company itself. In an effort to absolve themselves of liability and negligence, Uber almost always considers its drivers as members of the former distinction. To make matters more confusing, drivers often contest this categorization.     

Contractors vs. Employees

The reason for the inconsistencies in Uber’s contractor / employee designation was seemingly settled as the result of a landmark 2014 California case. In it, an Uber driver filed a wage complaint with the California Labor Commissioner, seeking compensation for expenses including bridge tolls and gasoline. Uber had denied the claim, citing that, as a contractor, the driver was subject to their own expenses.

Upon thorough evaluation, the CLC concluded that Uber drivers were, in fact, Uber employees and that they were also not separate from Uber’s core business. Despite providing a forced settlement to the driver, Uber maintained—as it still does—that drivers are solely independent contractors. Currently, there are additional lawsuits pending to further publicize and solidify the correct designation of Uber drivers.

The reason for these ambiguities is why you should have an expert on your side. Hiring a lawyer to put together a case means that you can hand all responsibilities over to someone with relevant experience and knowledge, allowing you to focus on your own recovery. It also ensures that you have a greater chance of receiving the maximum amount of compensation to which you are entitled.

If you have been injured in an Uber or other ridesharing accident, your case may be resolved simply through standard insurance claim practices. If not, you may benefit from working with a personal injury attorney. In cases where a settlement does not cover the full cost of your expenses—including injury or death—you should reach out to the professional team at EFS Law Center for a free consultation

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