If you are injured in a car or pedestrian accident that is caused by a ridesharing driver, it could leave you with a pile of medical bills, lost earnings from missing work for a while, and untold amounts of pain and aggravation. As painful and frustrating as the injury itself may be, pursuing a legal claim against the responsible party can also be a difficult and confusing process. There are actually a number of different parties that could be liable, and the amount of coverage available and who you file a claim against are questions that do not have easy answers.
The first point that is important to understand is that ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft do not officially accept any responsibility for the actions of their drivers. Their position is that all they do is provide a platform (more specifically, a smartphone app) that matches passengers with drivers who can take them where they need to go. These companies will also be quick to point out that their drivers are independent contractors and not employees.
On the latter point, there are some states and cities that have tried to change the designation of ridesharing drivers to employees or banned these services altogether because of the ridesharing companies’ refusal to make this change. For example, Uber and Lyft have been embroiled in a battle with California over the designation of their drivers, and a court recently ruled that these companies were not required to reclassify their drivers as employees.
Ridesharing driver status and liability
Although ridesharing companies say that they are not officially responsible for the actions of their drivers, in recent years, they have started providing insurance coverage for their drivers that kicks in under certain circumstances. So, if a ridesharing driver causes an accident, the question of whether or not the ridesharing company is liable depends on what the driver was doing at the time of the accident.
The level of coverage that the companies provide is separated into three different periods:
- Period 1: The driver’s Uber or Lyft app is turned off and he/she is considered to be off duty. If an accident occurs during this period, the injured person would most likely look to the driver’s personal auto policy for compensation.
- Period 2: The driver’s ridesharing app is on, but he/she has not yet accepted a ride or is in transit to pick up a passenger. For accidents that occur in this period, Uber and Lyft provide liability coverage of up to $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident (which is slightly above West Virginia mandatory minimums), as well as $25,000 in property damage.
- Period 3: The rideshare driver has accepted a ride and has at least one passenger in the vehicle. During this period, the ridesharing companies provide $1 million in total liability coverage for the accident.
Determining liability for a ridesharing accident
The ridesharing driver and the ridesharing company are not the only ones who could be held liable for an accident. Other parties that could hold some responsibility include:
- Other vehicle drivers that may have been involved in the crash
- An auto repair shop that performed negligent maintenance
- The vehicle manufacturer
- The manufacturer or supplier of faulty vehicle parts
- A government entity that is responsible for maintaining safe roadways
Determining liability can be a difficult and arduous process, and this is why it is always best to have an experienced attorney by your side with complicated cases like these. The process starts with a thorough examination of the pertinent facts and pieces of evidence in the case to get to the bottom of what happened and who was to blame. This may include the review of:
- Available photos and video footage of the accident and accident scene
- The testimony of eyewitnesses
- The official police report
- The damage present at the scene of the accident
- Tread marks on the road and/or on nearby property
- Medical reports
- Information about faulty products that may be under recall
Injured in a ridesharing accident in West Virginia? Contact The Masters Law Firm, L.C. for assistance.
If you or someone close to you got injured in a ridesharing accident, The Masters Law Firm, L.C. is here to help. We will meet with you to assess your case and advise you of your legal rights and options. To get started, message us online or call our office today at 304-342-3106 for a free consultation.