Uber, Lyft or other rideshare vehicles are individually owned and operated by the drivers who are generally not required to have a commerical license and are regulated differently from taxi cabs. So if you are injured in a car accident while in an Uber or Lyft, there are some things to consider in how you pursue compensation.
The following are some suggestions for you to take if you are injured in an Uber of Lyft as a passenger or driver:
If injured, remain in the vehicle until medical assistance arrives.
Do not refuse medical help even if you only feel slightly injured since symptoms for some conditions like a concussion may not appear for several hours or even days later
.If you can, take photos of the cars involved and the accident scene with your cell phone camera.
Take a screenshot of your phone since your ride will likely still be in progress unless the driver canceled it. This will prove that you were in transit before the ride was terminated or canceled.
Advise the investigating officer what you recall in the moments leading up to the accident such as where you were picked up, your destination, speed of your vehicle and how the vehicles collided. You can give a more detailed statement to your own attorney
Do not give a statement to an investigator or insurance adjuster until you have talked to an attorney about your accident claim.
Contact Uber or Lyft about the accident
Contact your own auto insurance provider about the accident
Contact a personal injury or car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Since you were being transported and the driver’s app was on, then Uber or Lyft’s policy will cover your injuries if it was the fault of the ride-sharing driver. Both companies are required to have at least a $1M policy for all accidents. Their policies will also cover you should the other driver have been at fault but was uninsured (UM) or was underinsured (UIM).
Otherwise, if the non-Uber or Lyft driver was at fault, then you can make a claim against that driver and his/her insurer.
If you are a ride-share driver and were injured by the fault of another motorist and were on your way to pick up a passenger in response to a ride request, then you would look to that driver’s insurer to make a claim for compensation. If that driver was uninsured, then Uber or Lyft’s UM policy will cover you as will its UIM if that driver’s policy was minimal and insufficient to cover your damages.
Uber and Lyft provide third party as well as UM and UIM protection for $1M as required by state regulations. All drivers must be covered by their personal policies of at least $50,000/$100,000 and have comprehensive collision damage.
Uber and Lyft policies also are applicable in hit-and-run accidents where the liable party remains unidentified. All riders in your car are covered by the ride-share company’s policy as are pedestrians who are injured by a ride-share driver while they are en route to pick up a passenger or who have riders in their vehicle.
Damages in a ride-sharing accident are no different that those recoverable in any other motor vehicle accident. Your damages may include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income loss
- Lost earning capacity
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Punitive damages
Lost earning capacity is recoverable if your injuries prevent you from pursuing your current employment and you can only find work that pays less. In other words, it is compensation for your loss of the ability to earn at least as much as you were earning or could have earned. Being impaired or losing the capacity or power to work is a separate injury from actual loss of earnings3. There is no requirement that you prove by expert testimony that you lost the ability to earn money in the future, though few attorneys would present such evidence without an expert testifying to this so as to obtain a reasonable award4.
Pain and suffering and emotional distress are intertwined in many cases. There is no cap on an award for pain and suffering for an injury sustained in a car accident unless you were convicted of DUI or you did not have auto liability insurance. In such cases, you cannot recover any non-economic damages5.
You may also be able to recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress. For this cause of action, you must be able to prove that the defendant was negligent and that you suffered emotional distress as a direct consequence. Also, the defendant must have breached a preexisting duty of care to you6. Your emotional distress must also be significant7.
You could also bring a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress in cases where your severe emotional distress was caused by the defendant’s intentional, reckless and outrageous conduct8. This might be applicable in cases where a passenger was sexually assaulted by an Uber or Lyft driver.
For punitive damages awards in an Uber or Lyft accident, the defendant’s conduct must have been especially egregious or despicable. California law only allows an award in cases of malice, oppression or fraud9. Driving while under the influence could qualify as malicious conduct since the driver was acting with willful disregard for the rights or safety of others10.
Punitive damages, however, are difficult to recover from private individuals since they are not covered by liability insurance and you have to collect an award out of the defendant’s personal assets. However, if the Lyft or Uber driver was under the influence and caused the accident and the ride-sharing company had not adequately vetted them before hiring them as a driver, then you could have a deep pocket source from which your attorney could more readily collect the award.
Personal injury case settlements and awards are based on the nature and extent of your injuries. In determining the value of a claim, there are some factors that are constant and typically explored:
- Is liability clear or are is there possible comparative negligence on your part? What needs to be proved? For instance, if you claim the other party ran a red light, can you prove it?
- Are there potentially other responsible parties? For instance, did an air bag fail to deploy or was there a defect in the car or in the roadway that was a factor in the accident?
- Do you have a preexisting injury or condition? Your medical records will show any prior injuries to the same area you are now claiming was injured in the current accident. If you made a past claim for an injury, it will also appear in your insurance records. If you omit or neglect to advise anyone of a prior existing injury or claim, it could seriously jeopardize the value of your case.
- Are your medical expenses reasonable? If you had chiropractic care for a strained back over a one-year period and were charged $10,000, it is likely a physician retained by the defense insurer will question its reasonableness. Can other medical care and services be reasonably related to your injury? How credible is your health care provider in justifying the care and services provided to you?
- What was the actual amount of medical expenses paid? If paid, this is considered to be reasonable. If a private insurer paid your medical expenses, you can only recover as economic damages no more than the amount paid by you or the private insurer for the medical services received or still owing at the time of trial11.
- Were you unable to work as a result of your injuries? If so, what is your wage loss? And if you cannot return to your regular work, can you perform other types of work? If so, are you or would you be earning less and in what amount? You will likely need a forensic economist to prove your damages.
- Did you sustain a permanent disability? How does your disability affect your lifestyle and enjoyment of life? Can you no longer run and you were a marathon runner? Can you no longer drive, play a certain sport you once enthusiastically enjoyed, drive, clean your house, or engage in any routine activities that you once did?
- Is there evidence of malingering? Is there a physician or other health care provider who is suspicious of your symptoms or feels that you should have recovered much sooner than you claim? Have you missed scheduled medical visits and then suddenly started up again with a new provider?
- Are you suffering emotional distress? Are you experiencing depression because of your injury, have symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and have you received psychological counseling? Has your mood and personality changed for the worst?
- What is the degree of your pain and suffering? Are you taking pain medication on a regular basis? How long did it take to recover from your surgery? How painful was your rehabilitation? Do you suffer back or other body pain on a daily basis?
- Can you prove your damages? Are there credible health care providers who can testify on your behalf or provide medical reports? Can you prove your wage losses, lost income capacity, delay in entering the job market, permanent disability, or any other alleged damages?
These are generally issues and questions that a defendant’s insurance adjuster or attorney will explore in determining if an offer of settlement should be made and in what amount. Your own personal injury lawyer will also review these issues with you in anticipation of presenting your claim.
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- Hanif v. Housing Authority of Yolo County (1988) 200 Cal.App.3d 635, 640 [↩]
- J.P. v. Carlsbad Unified School Dist. (2014) 232 Cal.App.4th 323, 341 [↩]
- Hilliard v. A.H. Robins Co. (1983) 148 Cal. App.3d 374, 412 [↩]
- Gargir v. B’Nei Akiva (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 1269, 1282 [↩]
- California Civil Code § 3333.4 [↩]
- Ragland v. U.S. Bank National Assn. (2012) 209 Cal.App. 4th 182, 205, McMahon v. Craig (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 1502, 1510 [↩]
- Molien v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals (1980) 27 Cal.3d 916, 927-928 [↩]
- Hughes v. Pair (2009) 46 Cal.4th 1035, 1050-1051 [↩]
- Civil Code § 3294(c). [↩]
- Taylor v. Superior Court of Los Angeles (1979) 24 Cal. App.3d 890 [↩]
- Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc. (2011) 52 Cal.4th 541, 566 [↩]