The increasing popularity of ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft have given rise to a burgeoning area of law and personal injury claims. Many of us rely on these companies to get us home safely, but sometimes Uber and Lyft drivers can cause automotive crashes. Other times, another driver negligently causes a collision with an Uber or Lyft vehicle. Regardless of fault, there are certain insurance and legal issues that you should be aware of if you are involved in a ride-sharing automotive crash.
Uber and Lyft both market that they have secured high-limit insurance policies for the protection of their passengers. Currently, these two companies advertise that they have $1 million in liability and uninsured motorist coverage per incident (see our website on why you need Uninsured Motorist coverage for your personal automobile policy). This means if you are in a ride-sharing vehicle and that drivers causes a crash, you and all other injured parties have up to $1 million combined in liability coverage for your damages. Likewise, if an uninsured or underinsured driver crashes into your Uber or Lyft vehicle, you (and the other injured persons) will be covered up to $1 million combined from the ride-sharing company.
While $1 million might sound like a lot coverage, what happens if an Uber or Lyft driver causes a crash where there are a multitude of injured people whose aggregate claims are above $1 million? A negligent ride-sharing driver can severely injure or kill passengers in his or her vehicle and other drivers and their passengers. If this tragic event occurs, the injured parties will certainly want to make a claim directly against the ride-sharing company to collect more than the $1 million in insurance coverage. Under the agency law, the ride-sharing companies will likely argue that their drivers are independent contractors and not employees. That would mean under agency law that Uber or Lyft might not be held responsible for the damages.
Of course, a good personal injury attorney will argue that the ride-sharing company should be legally responsible for the negligence of their drivers under a host of legal theories. First, it should be argued that the driver is an employee, not an independent agent. Under the theory of apparent agency, a ride-sharing company like Uber or Lyft can be held responsible for the negligence of its drivers for holding them out to the public as their employees, regardless of their technical legal status. Another legal theory, negligent hiring/retention, could put direct liability on Uber or Lyft if they knew at the time of hiring or during the course of their relationship that the driver was unfit for the position. If an Uber or Lyft driver has a history of DUIs, speeding or other traffic tickets, or causing car crashes, it can be successfully argued that the ride-sharing company should have terminated the driver well before the subject crash.
With the use of Uber and Lyft growing, so too shall this new area of law and personal injury car accident claims against these companies. If you are injured while a passenger in an Uber, Lyft or other ride-sharing vehicle, the personal injury attorneys at The Grife Law Firm are ready to help. We are experienced in this area of the law and equipped to provide you with aggressive legal representation. Call us toll-free at 855.998.0770 to schedule your free consultation.