ACCIDENTE EN UBER/LYFT
LESIONES COMUNES EN ACCIDENTES DE VIAJES COMPARTIDOS
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California Ride-Share Accident Attorneys
Everything you as a victim need to know...
Ridesharing apps have changed the way people travel, particularly in California and large cities like Los Angeles. Over 90 million people have downloaded the Uber app, and over 60 million have downloaded the Lyft app. Across the world, over 100 million people use the Uber or Lyft app at least once a month. There are over 200,000 active Uber drivers in California alone. While Uber and Lyft are commonly referred to as “ridesharing” or “ride hailing” apps, California officially calls them “Transportation Network Companies.”
REQUIREMENTS FOR UBER AND LYFT DRIVERS AND VEHICLES
Uber requires that its drivers have a valid US driver’s license and meet the minimum age to drive in a city. If the driver is over the age of 25, at least one year of licensed driving experience in the United States is required. If the driver is under the age of 25, at least 3 years of driving experience in the United States is required. Uber is supposed to screen all of its drivers, including an applicant’s driving record and criminal history.
Lyft also requires that its drivers have a valid US driver’s license and meet the minimum age requirements for a region. Lyft also conducts a background screening for its applicants that includes a criminal background check and a review of the applicant’s driving history.
Uber permits its drivers to use any eligible 4-door vehicle that is no older than 15 years. The vehicle must be in good condition with no cosmetic damage and cannot contain any commercial branding. Uber is also supposed to conduct an inspection of any vehicle used by an Uber driver, and no vehicle should have holes in the exterior or significant damage to the interior.
Lyft also requires vehicles to have 4 doors and to be no older than model year 2001. Each vehicle must pass an annual inspection. In California, the vehicle must have a California license plate.
Both Uber and Lyft permit their drivers to use rental vehicles. In larger cities, Uber has partnered with many rental companies, including Avis and Hertz, to enable its drivers to rent vehicles. Lyft has created a program called Lyft Express Drive to allow its drivers to rent vehicles.
INSURANCE FOR UBER AND LYFT ACCIDENTS
If you are injured in an automobile accident that was caused by a vehicle being operated by an Uber or Lyft driver, a primary consideration is whether there is insurance available to compensate you for your injuries. In California, the laws regarding insurance for Uber and Lyft vehicles are included in Insurance Code §§ 5430 – 5443. These laws appear very complex but can be broken down into periods of time based on what the Uber of Lyft driver is doing at a particular time.
- RIDESHARE APP IS OFF
During this time period, the Uber or Lyft driver does not have the rideshare app on at all. If the driver is involved in an accident during this time, only the driver’s personal insurance applies. In California, the minimum automobile insurance requirement is $15,000 per person injured and $30,000 per accident. Both Uber and Lyft require its drivers maintain insurance on personal vehicles.
- RIDESHARE APP IS ON BUT DRIVER HAS NOT BEEN PAIRED WITH A PASSENGER
During this time period, the driver is required to have the following insurance:
- $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage per person injured
- $100,000 bodily injury liability coverage per accident
- $25,000 property damage liability coverage per accident
Uber maintains this insurance for its drivers. Lyft also maintains this insurance for its drivers if the driver’s personal insurance does not apply. In most situations, a driver’s personal insurance policy will not apply if the driver is using the vehicle for a commercial purpose, including driving for Uber or Lyft.
- DRIVER IS PAIRED WITH PASSENGER AND/OR PASSENGER HAS ENTERED THE VEHICLE
During this time period, the driver has been paired with a passenger and includes the time during when the passenger is in the vehicle. During this time, Uber and Lyft are required to carry a $1 million liability insurance policy that covers both the driver and the passengers.
UM COVERAGE FOR DRIVERS
UM coverage is insurance that provides coverage for insured drivers who are injured by an at-fault driver who either has no insurance at all (uninsured motorist) or has insufficient insurance to compensate the injured driver for his or her injuries (underinsured motorist). If, for example, an uninsured motorist crashes into your vehicle but that driver has no insurance, you can look to your own UM policy to cover you for your injuries and damages.
In an underinsured motorist claim, the at-fault driver does have insurance but it is not enough to compensate you for your injuries and damages. For example, the underinsured motorist may have a $25,000 policy but your damages are $100,000. Even if the insurance company pays you the policy limits of $25,000, you still have not recovered for the full amount of your damages. In those situations, you can look to your own UM insurance policy and seek your additional damages.
In California, your UM carrier will receive a set off for any amounts available from a third party’s insurance carrier. For example, if the at-fault driver has a $25,000 policy that is paid to you and you have a $25,000 UM policy, your insurer receives a credit for the $25,000 paid, meaning you are not entitled to any UM benefits. If your UM policy is $50,000, your insurer receives the $25,000 credit and you are entitled to seek $25,000 in UM benefits.
If you are an Uber or Lyft driver, Uber and Lyft are required to provide uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage in the amount of $1 million. This coverage applies from the moment a passenger enters the vehicle of a participating driver until the passenger exists the vehicle.
Just because you make a UM claim, however, does not mean that your UM carrier will pay the claim. Even though your insurance carrier owes a duty of good faith and fair dealing and loyalty to its customers, they often dispute UM claims. In California, UM claims are required to be submitted to binding arbitration, which means you cannot have your case decided by a jury if you are seeking UM benefits under your own insurance policy. If the at-fault driver denies liability, you may have to go to trial and obtain a judgment against that driver, only then to have to demand arbitration and proceed to litigate the case against your own carrier for UM benefits.
If you are involved in an accident with an Uber or Lyft driver, or if you are injured as an Uber or Lyft driver, in addition to proving that another driver was negligent, you must also establish that the other driver’s negligence caused your injuries. In order to prove this, you must establish that the other driver’s negligence was a “substantial factor” in causing your injuries.
The term “substantial factor” can be misleading and confusing. A “substantial factor” means only that the negligence contributed to cause the injury and was more than a remote or trivial factor. If a reasonable person would consider the negligence to have contributed to cause the harm, then it was a substantial factor in causing the harm. In contrast, negligent conduct is not a substantial factor if the harm would have still occurred even without the negligent conduct.
The other driver’s negligent actions do not have to be the only cause of your injuries. To the contrary, a person’s negligence may combine with other factors to cause harm and that person’s negligence can still be a substantial factor in causing your harm. The law in California is clear that a defendant cannot escape liability to you just because someone else may have also contributed to cause your harm or even if you also contributed to cause your harm.
Apportionment of Fault
When there are two or more causes for a plaintiff’s injuries, a jury may be asked to apportion fault. For example, an auto accident may involve two defendants who may potentially be at fault, each saying the other caused the accident. In these situations, the jury can find that both defendants are responsible, at least in part, for plaintiff’s injuries and that each of them bear some responsibility.
At trial, a defendant may ask the court to permit apportionment of liability even for someone who is not a defendant in the case or who settled prior to trial. If the jury finds that the other person’s actions, whether a defendant or not, were a substantial factor in causing your injuries, the jury will be able to apportion fault to this person. This is done by percentages. If both the defendant and the non-party are found to be equally at fault, then they will each be found 50% responsible.
In many situations, defendants are “jointly and severally” liable, which means that any defendant may be responsible for paying all of your damages, even if it is more than the percentage of fault allocated to that defendant. California limited joint and severally liability when it enacted Prop 51, which has been codified at Civil Code § 1431.2(a). This section states the following:
In any action for personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death, based upon principles of comparative fault, the liability of each defendant for non-economic damages shall be several only and shall not be joint. Each defendant shall be liable only for the amount of non-economic damages allocated to that defendant in direct proportion to that defendant’s percentage of fault, and a separate judgment shall be rendered against that defendant for that amount.
Under Prop 51, therefore, a defendant’s joint liability is limited only to economic damages. For non-economic damages, a defendant’s liability is limited to that particular defendant’s percentage of fault.
For example, a jury renders a verdict of $500,000 for economic damages and $500,000 for non-economic damages for a total verdict of $1,000,000. A defendant who was found only 1% at fault will still be responsible for paying all of your economic damages, or $500,000. But, that defendant will only be responsible for paying 1% of your non-economic damages, or $5,000.
In some cases, you may have also been negligent and contributed to cause the auto accident. In these situations, the law does not prohibit you from recovering damages. Instead, a jury will be asked to determine your comparative fault, or the percentage of fault to be placed on you. For example, if the jury finds that the defendant was 90% at fault, then you will be found to be 10% at fault.
If you are found to be at fault, your damages will be reduced by that percentage of fault. For example, if you are 10% at fault, your damages will be reduced by 10%. If the jury awards you $1,000,000, that amount will be reduced by 10% and you will only be entitled to recover $900,000.
A common tactic of defense counsel is to argue that an injured plaintiff’s injuries were not actually caused by the auto accident. For example, you may start having low back pain following an accident and eventually be told surgery is required. The defendant’s attorney will then argue that the accident did not cause the low back pain and/or the need for surgery is not due to the auto accident. In these situations, it is imperative that you have experienced and knowledgeable attorneys involved in your case. Expert testimony is usually required to establish the injuries were, in fact, caused by the auto injury.
In many situations, a plaintiff may have an underlying or preexisting condition that is exacerbated by an auto accident. If the plaintiff establishes that an underlying or preexisting condition was made worse by the auto accident, the plaintiff is entitled to damages that will reasonably compensate him or her for the effect on that condition.
If you have been injured due to the negligence of an Uber or Lyft driver, or if you are an Uber or Lyft driver who has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to recover your damages, both economic and non-economic.
Economic Losses or Special Damages
Economic damages are ascertainable monetary amounts, including lost wages and medical bills. If injuries are severe, you may not be able to return to work and therefore may be entitled to the loss of future wage-earning capacity for the remainder of your anticipated life expectancy. In addition, some people injured in an auto accident require medical treatment for the rest of their lives. To calculate the amount that this long-term care will cost, our firm may retain a specialist to prepare what is known as a “life care plan,” which is a plan that sets out medical and medically related care that will be needed over the remainder of the injured person’s life.
Non-Economic Losses or General Damages
Non-economic damages include items such as emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, physical pain and suffering, disfigurement, and humiliation.
In some situations, an auto accident can result in death. In such a case, the deceased’s family members, or wrongful death beneficiaries, may be entitled to recover the medical bills as well as the funeral and burial costs. The deceased’s loved ones can also recover for their own damages due to the loss of love and society of the deceased person.
TIME LIMITS FOR FILING CLAIMS FOR UBER OR LYFT ACCIDENTS
In California, the statute of limitations for filing most claims is two (2) years from the date of the injury. If, however, the claim is against a state or local governmental entity, the deadline to provide notice of your claim may be as little as six (6) months. For this reason, if you believe you or someone close to you may have a claim for damages as the result of an accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
 See CA Ins. Code § 5433(2).
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