top of page

Rideshare Accidents

In California, Lyft and Uber are the most prominent ride-sharing companies. Ridesharing companies in California are technically known as "Transportation Network Companies" or "TNCs," and they are regulated by the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC). In addition to establishing minimum California auto insurance requirements for ride-sharing drivers (with limits of at least $1,000,000 while passengers are in the vehicle), the code also requires ride-sharing services to conduct background checks of their drivers.

If you have been a victim of an accident or crime involving an Uber or Lyft driver, there are a variety of options available including Uber and Lyft accident lawsuits, suits for assaults and battery against an Uber or Lyft driver, and suits for a sexual assault committed by an Uber or Lyft driver.

In addition, drivers who have been injured while driving for a TNC or believe their working conditions have been violated can file a wage and hour lawsuit against Uber or Lyft in California.

A consumer complaint can also be filed with the California Public Utilities Commission.


Transportation Network Companies

Transportation Network Companies

Companies like Uber and Lyft use cell phone applications to connect passengers with drivers in their area who will pick them up. The companies such as Uber and Lyft that are commonly called "ridesharing services" are technically called "Transportation Network Companies."

In California, 14 ride-sharing companies are licensed. Uber, Lyft, and nine other general ride-sharing services have been granted permits by the California Public Utilities Commission, as well as three services specifically for kids.

Taxi Companies V. Transportation

Taxi Companies V. Transportation Network Companies 

Taxi and limo companies are very different from Transportation Network Companies in several ways: Transportation Network Companies generally have less prominent display and signage, their drivers make their own schedules and aren't required to accept any specific ride or customer, and their drivers frequently drive their own cars and handle maintenance.

Moreover, taxis are required to carry 24-hour commercial insurance coverage, regardless of whether or not the driver is on duty.

Rider-sharing services are subject to a company's commercial policy only if there are occupants or if the driver signs into an app and is looking for passengers.

Only the driver's individual car insurance is valid when the driver is on his or her own time. A California 15/30/5 policy, for example, covers damages up to $15,000 for death or injury to one person in a single accident, $30,000 for injury to both people involved in the accident, and $5,000 for damage to other vehicles and property.

Suing a Ridesharing Driver

Suing a Ridesharing Driver

A California ride-sharing driver may be held responsible for accidents caused by a third party, a passenger of the ride-sharing service at the time of the accident, and the driver was on his or her own time, using a ride-sharing application, or driving a passenger referred by the TNC.

Regardless of whether they are driving for a TNC or not, drivers who cause accidents (and their insurers) are liable when the accidents happen on their own time. A ride-sharing company and its commercial insurer assume liability once a driver uses a ride-sharing app. These companies, along with the driver, may be responsible for giving damages to the driver's passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians.

Sharing Riding Driver Commits a Crime 

Sharing Riding Driver Commits a Crime 

It has occasionally been reported that Uber or Lyft drivers have sexually assaulted, attacked and battered, or committed other crimes against passengers. Depending on the circumstances, passengers may be able to sue the driver for damages such as medical bills, psychological counseling costs, lost wages, lost future earning capacity, pain and suffering, wrongful death, and possibly even punitive damages.

A lawsuit against the ride-sharing company is another possibility. An important question to investigate is whether the drivers working for a ridesharing company are employees or independent contractors.

Depending on whether the drivers are Uber or Lyft employees, a company may be liable for crimes committed by employees under California's doctrine of respondeat superior (vicarious employer liability), the law on negligent hiring, retention and supervision, or a non-delegable duty to conduct background checks.

Independent Contractors

Ride-Sharing Drivers are Independent Contractors

The drivers of Uber and Lyft claim they are independent contractors. These companies claim to connect drivers and passengers the way Craigslist and eBay connect buyers and sellers.

Up until now, ride-sharing services have settled claims based on this issue out of court in order to avoid going to court.

However, the California Labor Commission has ruled in wage and hour cases that drivers for ridesharing companies are employees. While the ruling is not binding on the court system, it indicates that some courts are at least considering this argument.

The California Department of Industrial Relations provides a useful guide to the distinction between an employee and an independent contractor.

California Wage And Hour Claims For Ride-Sharing Drivers 

California Wage And Hour

According to Uber and Lyft, their drivers are independent contractors. Unlike employees, independent contractors do not have the same legal protections as employees, including working hours, overtime pay, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and workers' compensation.

Companies that offer ride-sharing services usually require their drivers to sign contracts acknowledging that they are independent contractors. A settlement for Lyft's drivers was reached in early 2016 under which they agreed to become independent contractors. Similar proceedings regarding Uber drivers are ongoing in California.

For now, Uber's agreement with its drivers is not final. Relationships are governed by law, and the primary question is whether the company has the right to control the way and means by which the worker performs the job. An Uber driver has been deemed an employee by the California Labor Commission, at least in one case.

bottom of page