What Happens If I’m in an Uber or Lyft Accident in California

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Transportation network companies (TNC) like Uber and Lyft connect passengers with independent drivers.  This is commonly known as ridesharing and these services are becoming more and more popular.  The first major company with their own phone app to arrange rides was Uber.  A slew of other companies followed including the also popular Lyft.  There were many legal disputes between cab companies, specific cities and the TNCs.  Actually, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) made these companies legitimate by coming up with the transportation network company category.  TNC’s must gain a license from the CPUC. They must criminal background check all their drivers and include a training program.  TNC’s also keep a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drugs and alcohol.  With these requirements, the TNC’s seem to be here for good.  The consumer base of these companies broadens each day.  With the ever-growing use and need of these companies’ services, accidents involving their vehicles are becoming more and more apparent.

Here is how to handle things if you are in a California Uber or Lyft accident.  If you were travelling in another car, and the TNC driver is at fault for the accident which took place then the case would go on as a normal car accident case.  However, there are a few specifics to look out for.  It is necessary to know whether the driver’s app was powered on, and if they had accepted a ride or were driving passengers.  If the driver failed to turn on their app, then their personal auto-insurance policy should be used.  If the TNC driver had their app on, but had not accepted a rider yet then their personal insurance policy should be used.  Also in this instance the TNC’s contingent coverage can come into effect.  Be aware that if you keep uninsured or underinsured coverage higher than TNC’s coverage that you may make a claim against your own policy once the TNC limits are used first.  The moment a driver accepts a ride on their app, the TNC’s policy begins, even if the passenger has not been picked up yet.  TNC’s are required to carry a million-dollar injury policy.

Now, if your driver causes an accident while you are riding in a Lyft or Uber vehicle then you may have a claim against the driver.  This also means that the TNC’s million-dollar policy limits are in effect since you are a passenger that has been picked up via the ridesharing app.  Passengers cannot hail a ride and be covered under the TNC policy.  This is one of the distinctions between cab services and TNC services.  TNC’s must pick up passengers that have gone through the proper channel via the company’s app to catch a ride.

If you are a California Lyft or Uber driver and another individual injures you in an accident, then usually the person who caused the accident will be held responsible for it.  The insurance policy that the at fault party has will be in effect.  If you were not logged on to your app and were not working yet, then your personal auto insurance policy will be in effect.  There is always a little grey area when your app is turned on but you haven’t accepted a ride yet.  This situation could go both ways.  The TNC’s policy and your policy could be used.

TNC’s in the state of California are not required to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage on their contingent policy.  This can become a problem for those whose injuries are major and the at fault driver is uninsured or carries a minimum policy.  If you are an Uber, Lyft or other TNC driver with your app turned on, but you have not accepted a ride yet, you could be stuck in a vulnerable situation.  This grey area begins where your personal policy is no longer in effect due to conducting business activities.  Yet the large policy from TNC is not quite active, because you haven’t accepted a ride.  Their uninsured or underinsured coverage is only active once you have accepted a ride or match, and runs until the ride is complete with the passenger dropped off.  This is a wide gap in coverage and can leave the drivers vulnerable.  Remember that if you do not purchase additional coverage do your best to find a safe parking spot to turn on your app before accepting a ride.  Never drive with the app turned on without having accepted a ride.

Drivers need to be extremely careful of picking up passengers that were not prearranged.  By picking up passengers not set up by their company’s app, their TNC’s policy will not cover them.  More than likely, their personal auto policy will not have them covered in this situation too.  In California, the civil code section 3333.4 limits the recovery in car accident cases if you do not carry legitimate insurance.  If you are injured by another individual in a car accident and you are not carrying insurance coverage at the time of the accident, then you can only recover medical expenses.  There will not be any rewarding for pain and suffering or other non-economic factors.  If you drive for a TNC, then it is important for you to review your specific policy and see what coverage you have.

There are many different insurance companies that provide TNC specific policies.  Metromile is an insurance company that offers insurance product to only Uber drivers.  Their exclusive deal with Uber keeps them from working with other TNC’s such as Lyft or Sidecar.  They charge by the mile which can help the driver keep up with tracking their mileage.

In 2015, Farmers Insurance was the first to offer a California policy to TNC and other ridesharing drivers.  This policy is an available option for its customers to have coverage that lasts from their personal driving, up until a driver turns on the app but has not accepted a ride.  This is meant to cover the grey area discussed earlier when the driver is logged on to the app yet the ride has not been arranged.  Farmers explains that this will only cost about 8% more than normal coverage.  If you are a TNC or ridesharing driver this type of coverage is highly recommended.

Having the proper insurance and knowing how your coverage works as a TNC driver or passenger is crucial in being prepared in the event of an accident.  Gaining knowledgeable and professional legal counsel is a must if involved in an Uber, Lyft or other ridesharing accident.  Let our team of skilled California auto accident attorneys guide you through the legal process of a TNC auto accident.  If you or a loved one has been involved in an Uber or other ridesharing accident do not hesitate to call our office for a free consultation.