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Los Angeles Uber Accident Attorney | Uber Liability

Rideshare companies are quickly turning into an essential part of commuter culture in California. Uber, one of the pioneers of ridesharing, has had a meteoric rise in popularity. It’s firmly established itself as a legitimate option for drivers fed up with traffic and a viable alternative to taxis for regular business commuters.

However, despite the rise in popularity, companies like Uber have come under fire for their lack of clarity regarding liability and responsibility in car accidents. When a passenger is involved in a car accident during an Uber ride, who is liable for any injuries incurred? At what point can you pursue Uber for any damages?

If you were involved in a serious Uber car accident and received serious injuries as a result, contact the law offices of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP to explore your legal options.  You and your family may be eligible for financial compensation.

The Prevalence of Uber: Statistics

Uber’s growth has been impressive, to say the least – their statistics show an incredibly large company with worldwide reach:

  • Uber is available in more than 674 cities across 83 countries worldwide.
  • Uber takes up 77% of the U.S. ridesharing market, accounting for over 40 million rides every month.
  • Uber completed 2 billion total rides by July 2016 – but completed 4 billion rides in 2017 alone.
  • In 2017, Uber was valued at $69 billion – despite a driver’s average income being just $364 per month.
  • At the end of 2014, Uber employed 160,000 drivers. By 2017, this number ballooned to over 1.5 million.

 

Despite its monumental growth over such a short period of time, Uber has had multiple difficulties in properly defining its services in the eyes of the court. In the state of California, this has led to the defining of separate periods in a driver’s day on the job.

The Three Periods of a Rideshare Driver

Rideshare companies like Uber are unprecedented, in that they share the characteristics of multiple, distinct businesses. As a result, it can be difficult to assign insurance requirements (and thus liability) to the drivers and the company. To remedy this, the state of California defines three distinct periods during an Uber driver’s time on the clock:

  • Period 1. The point at which the driver is active, has the app open, and is actively waiting for a passenger to match with him or her.
  • Period 2. The Uber driver has accepted a passenger match but has not yet picked up the passenger. This includes the time spent driving from his or her current location to the passenger’s location.
  • Period 3. The duration that the passenger has been picked up and is in the vehicle. This period lasts from the moment the passenger enters the vehicle, to the moment he or she exits the vehicle.

Separating an Uber driver’s roles and responsibilities into three distinct stages makes regulation and enforcement of liability and insurance more manageable in the eyes of the state.

Insurance Requirements for Uber Drivers in California

Until recently, rideshare companies such as Uber were not required by law to provide insurance to their drivers. However, incidents such as the 2013 wrongful death of 6-year-old Sofia Liu by an inattentive Uber driver ultimately influenced the state to enact thorough laws regarding strict insurance requirements for vehicles operating under Uber.

According to California law, coverage is required, but varies across the different periods:

  • 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.
  • Periods 2 and 3. Rideshare companies must provide primary commercial insurance coverage of $1 million.
  • Period 3. Companies must provide uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage of $1 million from the moment a passenger enters the vehicle until the passenger exits the vehicle.

Although this might seem like more than enough coverage in a serious accident, often insurance claims may be denied or settlements may come in significantly lower than expected for seemingly random reasons. In order to prevent this, it’s highly recommended to retain the counsel of an experienced car accident attorney from Panish, Shea & Boyle, LLP.

Determining Liability in a Rideshare Accident

In an Uber accident, liability is always the biggest question: who is at fault – the driver or the company? Ultimately, in California it comes down to whether Uber drivers are regarded as independent contractors or regular employees of the company. California liability law dictates that in cases where commercial drivers are independent contractors, they are commonly held liable for any accidents. However, if they are employees, then liability can also fall on the company themselves for any contributing acts of negligence. To skirt any questions of liability, Uber formally recognizes their drivers as independent contractors. However, this status has been frequently contested by drivers.

Uber Employees vs. Contractors: Setting a Legal Precedent

In California, the most significant case arguing for Uber drivers as employees occurred in 2014 in a wage complaint filed with the California Labor Commissioner. A driver sought compensation for business expenses such as bridge tolls and gas – and Uber summarily denied the reimbursement, arguing that, as an independent contractor, the driver incurred her own charges.

However, after a comprehensive analysis of the situation, the California Labor Commissioner disagreed, maintaining that Uber drivers were in fact employees. The main point of contention was that drivers were not separate and distinct from Uber’s core business – and that Uber had enough initiatives in place to have a strong, comprehensive hold on a driver’s overall productivity. As a result, the driver was awarded over $4,000 in expenses plus interest.

Despite this ruling, Uber still contends that its drivers are contractors. Recent lawsuits, including two class-action suits in California and Massachusetts in April 2016, were quietly settled for millions of dollars in order to avoid any more definitive rulings against them. In these cases, the drivers were awarded up to $100 million, in exchange for the drivers agreeing to be classified as independent contractors.

Why Should You Hire a Lawyer for an Uber Accident?

If you’ve been injured in an Uber accident, you may be able to get a settlement through the standard insurance claims process. However, in cases where a settlement may not be enough to cover your damages, such as a serious accident or wrongful death, it’s highly recommended to hire an experienced, knowledgeable lawyer.

Typically, insurance companies will quickly offer a settlement that is considerably lower than your desired amount. This low-ball offer is done to quickly settle the matter with little to no fuss. However, if you have been seriously injured and have to contend with hospital bills, lost wages, and prolonged disabilities that may permanently affect your career, a quick settlement may not be enough.

An experienced attorney has the ability to successfully navigate through the insurance negotiation process, seeking the compensation that you need to get your life back on track. Additionally, they can take care of the minute details of a case, such as completing paperwork, gathering evidence, and building a case to start the recovery process.

The Attorneys of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP Can Help You

Rideshare companies like Uber are notorious for quick settlements with amounts that are far below the requirements of accident victims. Additionally, their reputation as a large company can make negotiation for your desired compensation difficult, and litigation nearly impossible to win.

The attorneys of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP can fight for you in these situations. We have the experience, skill, and confidence to pursue large corporations and hold them accountable for their potentially negligent actions. As a champion of consumers rights, we fight to ensure you get the maximum recovery you deserve.

Our lawyers have a stellar reputation, obtaining record settlements in numerous personal injury cases, along with record multi-million-dollar verdicts in cases that have gone to trial. We have the experience to help you negotiate with Uber’s insurance companies, and the education to help you navigate the complex legal system, should you want to take the case to trial.

Best of all, we operate on a contingency fee basis: you don’t pay until we secure a settlement or a jury verdict in your favor. Contact us today to explore your legal options for maximum recovery.

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