Rideshare apps have revolutionized the way we get around. Many of us rely on ride-sharing services to get us where we need to go safely. Nearly 40 percent of Americans have used a ridesharing app, a staggering figure considering both Uber and Lyft have only existed for about a decade. Use of Uber and Lyft have skyrocketed in New Orleans in particular since the apps arrived in the city in 2015. A 2018 Arizona State University study found that New Orleans had the second highest rideshare use per capita of any major U.S. metropolitan area, with a whopping 30 percent of residents using a rideshare app in the last 30 days.
Ridesharing comes with its own dangers, however, for everyone on the road, and it can create legal complications when an accident occurs. For example, a new study by the University of Chicago and Rice University suggests that ridesharing services may actually increase traffic accidents and fatalities, especially in larger cities, by putting more cars on the road and creating more stop-start traffic. And poorly vetted rideshare drivers can increase the risk to passengers’ personal safety. In fact, an internal investigation by Uber found the company received nearly 6,000 reports from passengers alleging serious sexual assault in the U.S. during 2017 and 2018.
If you have been injured as a passenger or the operator of another vehicle in an auto accident involving an Uber or Lyft vehicle in New Orleans, protect your legal rights by speaking with an attorney experienced with rideshare accidents today. Below is an overview of how insurance and settlements work when an Uber or Lyft driver is at fault.
Uber and Lyft Driver Classification & Insurance
Uber and Lyft don’t own or operate the cars hailed by their rideshare app. Both of these billion-dollar corporations go to great lengths to avoid classifying their drivers as employees. Instead, they prefer to treat drivers as independent contractors. This allows both companies to avoid responsibility for accidents or damage that happen when drivers are working. Under Louisiana law an employer is usually liable for damages caused by an employee. Independent contractors, however, are normally responsible for damages caused by their own negligence.
Legal challenges and legislative efforts are underway to challenge rideshare driver classification in various states across the country. And it remains to be seen if rideshare companies will continue to shield themselves with the “independent contractor” argument.
Very few Uber and Lyft drivers carry commercial auto insurance policies because they are not required to under Louisiana law and commercial policies tend to be prohibitively expensive. This can create problems because, while premiums are higher for commercial policies, their coverage is better and more appropriate for drivers using their vehicles to earn money.
Rideshare drivers in Louisiana are only required to carry the minimum auto insurance required by the state for personal vehicles:
Insurance and Ridesharing
In addition to a driver’s personal auto insurance, ridesharing apps carry insurance. For insurance purposes, a driver’s time is divided into three phases and which insurance covers an accident and at what amount depends on which phase the driver is in.
Uber and Lyft maintain third-party liability insurance for all drivers with the following limits:
In 2015, Louisiana passed the Transportation Network Company Motor Vehicle Responsibility Law which was designed to fill gaps in insurance coverage requirements for rideshare app drivers. The law requires specific amounts of insurance for Phases 2 and 3 above. Basically, codifying as a requirement the practice outlined above. It does not change the level of personal auto insurance required for rideshare drivers however.
In general, if you are injured in an accident as a passenger in a rideshare vehicle, and the driver of the rideshare vehicle was at fault, the rideshare company’s third-party liability insurance will cover your damages. If you are involved in an accident with an at-fault rideshare vehicle driver and you are a driver or passenger in another vehicle, the rideshare company’s third-party liability insurance will cover your damages. Lastly, if you are a rideshare driver or a passenger in a rideshare vehicle involved in an accident in which the other vehicle was at fault, the rideshare company’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage may apply to your case.
Of course, all insurance companies and corporations have teams of lawyers and adjusters that work around the clock to limit their liability and protect their bottom line. For instance, insurance companies may pressure you to admit that you are somewhat at fault for the accident. This is because, under Louisiana’s “comparative negligence” law, an award for damages can be reduced by a percentage equal to the percentage that a victim is found to be at fault for the accident. For example, if you are leaving work after an overnight shift and your vehicle is struck by an Uber driver making a dangerous left turn, the driver’s insurance company or the rideshare app’s insurer could claim you are partially at fault because you were driving while fatigued.
This is why it is so important to seek out a skilled attorney if you’ve been injured in a rideshare app accident. You deserve a legal team on your side with strong knowledge of Louisiana civil law and decades of experience winning for victims of Louisiana auto accidents.
If you are a rideshare passenger who has been injured in a crash, other complicating factors may exist. For example, Uber and Lyft both require users to agree to “terms of service” that both companies have used to deny passengers the right to a jury trial. “Arbitration” is a common way companies use to try to limit the compensation that victims receive in the event of grave injuries or wrongful death.
Call the Charbonnet Law Firm Today
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a rideshare driver in Louisiana, call the dedicated team of attorneys at the Charbonnet Law Firm right away. We have been winning for our personal injury clients in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes for more than five decades.
At Charbonnet Law Firm, we will help you understand your case and your options for compensation. If you choose to pursue your case, we will be there with you every step of the way, standing up to the insurance companies, so you receive the best possible compensation for your injuries. Call today for a free consultation.