Your Uber or Lyft Driver Got Into an Accident: Do You Sue the Rideshare Company?
Will Good does not remember much about that early April morning last year. He remembers requesting an Uber to take him home from the restaurant where he worked as a chef in Boston, Massachusetts. After working a 14-hour shift, he was exhausted. He recalls the Uber driver, Jonas Yohou, speeding down the street, swerving through turns. After that, his memory goes black.
Just a few blocks away from Good’s destination, Yohou smashed into a parked car. His body was thrown around the backseat. His head slammed into a headrest, breaking his neck.
The wreck rerouted his life. Instead of returning to the job he loved as a chef, he was left paralyzed. Over the past year, he struggled, adapting to life as a quadriplegic.
Yohou had a long record of driving violations, and Uber fell into the hot seat again. Repeatedly, Uber has claimed that they are not responsible for the actions of their drivers because the drivers are independent contractors. By not referring to drivers as employees, it creates a protective partition between the ridesharing company and legal liability.
Will Good is not accepting Uber’s excuse and has filed a lawsuit against the rideshare company, alleging their drivers are not appropriately screened or supervised. He is seeking $63 million in damages, hoping it will result in increased and improved oversight for all the ridesharing companies.
The Rules and Regulations of Ridesharing in Louisiana
Previously, the operations of ridesharing companies were limited to Louisiana’s larger cities – New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette. But in July of 2019, new legislation was passed that addressed the issue.
Louisiana’s Act. No. 286 established a regulatory framework so app-based rideshare services could expand statewide. Falling under the oversight of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), this act opens new ridesharing markets in smaller towns and rural areas.
Because Uber and Lyft are the largest of these ridesharing companies, this legislation installs safeguarding requirements, including:
- Performing state and national background checks on newly hired drivers
- Regulating the insurance minimums held by drivers
- Ensuring drivers have clean driving records
- Guaranteeing the drivers’ vehicles adhere to specific safety standards
Uber and Lyft are the largest ridesharing companies in the country, and when it comes to their individual operations throughout Louisiana, their standard operating procedures are similar but do differ slightly.
The minimum requirements for Uber drivers in New Orleans are a bit looser than Lyft in terms of drivers and vehicles. Uber drivers need:
- To have a valid driver’s license
- To be the minimum age to drive in New Orleans and have at least one year of licensed driving experience. It requires three years of experience if you are under 25 years old
- To complete an online driver screening process which reviews the driving record and criminal history
- Proof of city, state, or province residency
- A profile photo for the app
Uber requires their drivers’ vehicles:
- To be no older than 15 years old
- To be a four-door vehicle
- To have no cosmetic damage and be in good condition
- To have either an official or temporary registration – It does not need to be registered in the driver’s name or in the same state
The driver must also have their name on an auto insurance policy. The vehicle’s VIN number on the policy must match the one on the vehicle. Uber also provides automobile liability insurance for all its drivers in the U.S.
What the insurance covers depends on when and how an accident occurs. If a driver is listed as available in the app, or if they are waiting for a ride request. It also depends on if a personal third-party liability insurance policy is at play. The insurance Uber maintains on behalf of the driver includes:
- $25,000 for property damage per accident.
- $50,000 for bodily injury per person
- $100,000 for bodily injury per accident
If a driver is on the way to pick up passengers or taking them to a destination, the insurance policy includes:
- $1 million for third-party liability
- Various protections for the driver and the vehicle
Lyft’s insurance policies are the same, but the driver and vehicle requirements differ from Uber’s. To operate a Lyft vehicle in the City of New Orleans, they require:
- Vehicles no older than 2011 models
- Vehicles with four doors and five-eight seats (including the driver’s)
- Vehicles with Louisiana license plates
- Vehicles that are not on their list of ineligible subcompact vehicles
Drivers are required to:
- Have a smartphone that can download and run the Lyft Driver app
- Possess a valid (not temporary) Louisiana driver’s license
- Be 25 years old or older
- Be able to pass the driver screening for driving history and criminal background check
In addition, drivers will also need to provide several documents, including:
- Louisiana vehicle registration
- Louisiana vehicle insurance
- Proof of a brake tag inspection sticker from Louisiana or the City of New Orleans
- A profile photo for the app
Liability is in the Details
After an auto accident involving a Louisiana Uber or Lyft driver, the passenger should be cognizant of three key details:
- Was the Uber or Lyft driver at-fault? The circumstances of liability should be made clear and there should be documentation that documents who is at fault, so the appropriate insurance coverage can be held accountable.
- When did the crash occur? Was the driver actively engaged with the ridesharing app? Were they waiting for a ride request, en-route to a pickup, or transporting a passenger to a destination?
- Did the ridesharing company’s negligence contribute to an injury?
The answer to this question usually emerges later in an investigation, determining if the company:
- Ignored issues or warning signs in a driver’s record or background check
- Followed all their regulations for drivers and vehicles
- Provided the driver with any necessary training
- Monitored drivers to ensure their vehicle was inspected, repaired, and received maintenance
These details can determine who the injured party can seek liability damages from and whether the claim can be escalated beyond the driver to the company that negligently insured and promoted an at-fault driver.