If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with an individual driving for a ridesharing company, like Uber or Lyft, contact the Chandler, Arizona personal injury attorneys at Thompson Law Firm today by calling (480)-634-7480. Being involved in a car accident is a traumatic experience for both the victim and their family. Often the victim is left to deal with injuries for which they may need medical attention.
While many people use Uber/Lyft and enjoy the convenience they offer, studies suggest that since Uber/Lyft have emerged and become popular there are more accidents on roadways. This is not necessarily because the Uber/Lyft drivers are bad drivers, in fact studies suggest they may actually be more alert and cautious drivers, but rather this may be a result of more cars being on the road, causing more congestion and giving greater opportunity for accidents to occur.
In general, dealing with the aftermath of a car accident and being compensated for resulting damages can be complicated and frustrating, when a Uber/Lyft driver is involved the legal complexities increase and determining who may be financially liable for damage can become more challenging. Having an experienced attorney represent the victims’ interests will allow victims to focus on healing, not worry about legalities. That is why the experienced and compassionate Arizona rideshare accident attorneys at Thompson Law Firm are here to help you. Our experienced attorneys will aggressively fight to ensure that your rights are preserved and justice is served. To speak with us regarding your legal rights call us today at (480)-634-7480.
“Ridesharing” services are companies that operate a transportation service for individuals and groups. Popular ridesharing companies in Arizona that may share in accident liability if an individual is harmed in an accident involving one of their active drivers include, Uber, Lyft, and Veyo. Unlike a traditional taxi or car service where an individual can wave a car down for a ride while standing on the street, these ride services are booked via a downloadable cell phone application, or in the case of Veyo a ride can be scheduled beforehand via the phone.
However, similar to traditional taxi companies, people who drive for Uber/Lyft are deemed independent contractors, not employees. The independent contractor and employee distinction is important because it limits when the actual company may be held liable for an accident.
In some cases, maybe the Uber/Lyft driver will be held liable, in other instances maybe the company should share in some of the liability. In other situations where the Uber/Lyft driver is found not to be at fault for causing the accident or another individual is deemed to be at least partially at fault for causing the accident, then the may share in some of the liability as well. This is important because whether the rideshare driver is liable, the company is liable, another driver or individual is liable, or multiple parties are responsible will determine whose is obligated to pay accident victims for the damages they incurred and whose insurance will likely make payments to the victims.
In order to gain income, many people choose to drive Uber or Lyft vehicles through using the software from, and sharing an association with popular rideshare companies, such as Uber, Lyft, and Veyo. The minimum requirements for these companies is that drivers must be of driving age and licensed in their city, have at least one year of driving experience or three years if the driver is under 23, and use an eligible 4-door vehicle. There are other requirements beyond this first stage, but not many.
Significantly, the people who drive for companies, such as Lyft, Uber, and Veyo are contract workers and not employees of the company. (See, Arizona Revised Statute 23-1603.) This distinction is important because while employers may, in many cases, be held liable for the torts of their employees and the consequential damage while the employees are working, employers are generally not liable for the torts of their contract workers. This is important because it complicates and arguably limits who, such as Uber, Lyft, and Veyo, and in what situations, they may be held liable for damages and injuries resulting from an accident when a Uber/Lyft driver is involved.
Notably, even though rideshare drivers are independent contract workers, Uber, Lyft, and Veyo all advertise on their websites that they carry insurance, in some form, to cover accident victims who may be involved in an accident with one of their drivers. Although, Uber/Lyft drivers are contract workers and it may therefore be argued that the company for which they contract may not be liable for their accidents, the fact that the rideshare companies like Uber/Lyft carry extra insurance indicate that there is a need for Uber/Lyft to indeed share in some of the undue financial burden of accident victims. However, in some instances it may be difficult to collect compensation from an Uber or Lyft and their insurance for a variety of reasons discussed below. Due to the novelty nature of the ridesharing business model the legalities of who may be held liable to accident victims are still developing.
Car accidents involving Uber or Lyft drivers can occur in a variety of ways. An individual may be the victim in a car accident with an Uber or Lyft driver if they are:
A victim can be anyone who suffers bodily injury, and, or damage to property as the consequence of being in an accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver.
Whether an accident victim is a passenger, another driver, a pedestrian, or cyclist may affect who is liable for compensating the victim for their injuries. For example, a passenger/customer in an Uber or Lyft vehicle who is injured in an accident involving another vehicle may potentially have claims against the rideshare driver and rideshare company, and against the other driver involved in the accident. Whereas a pedestrian or cyclist involved in an accident with the Uber or Lyft driver may only have a claim against the driver, or may also have a claim against the rideshare company depending on whether the driver was “working” and in what capacity, as discussed below.
Additionally, an Uber/Lyft driver who is involved in an accident while working may have claims against the rideshare insurance company’s insurance, against the other driver or person if they are at fault, and under their own insurance policy.
While these avenues of recovery are supposed to be available to accident victims whether they are the Uber/Lyft driver, passenger, or another injured involving a car accident with a rideshare, determining liability and assessing financial responsibility can be challenging, and although Uber or Lyft companies are supposed to carry insurance for accident victims, their insurance companies are getting away with not paying out on accident claims due to loopholes in the laws, as discussed further below. However, that does not mean there are not a variety of avenues for accident victims when they are involved in an accident with an Uber or Lyft driver.
First, do not leave the scene of an accident.
Second, it is crucial to ensure that all individuals involved in the accident are safe or that they are receiving the necessary medical treatment as quickly as possible. After safety is established it is prudent to contact the police and let them know you have been in an accident with an Uber or Lyft driver. This will prompt the police to investigate the accident and generate a report, which may be helpful in determining who was at-fault for causing the accident, proving liability, and thereby helping to determine who is accountable for compensating victims for damage to their person and property.
Third, if you are physically and safely able to to so, get the names, contact information, and insurance information from all parties involved.
Fourth, it is important to get the names and contact information from witnesses, if possible.
Fifth, take pictures of the accident from multiple angles.
Sixth, make an accurate record of the event by recording the date and time of the accident, and by writing down how the events occurred from your perspective, this can include things such as perceptions, speeds, weather, traffic, etc.
Seventh, contact an attorney within a reasonable amount of time to discuss your legal rights and learn about the types of compensation to which you may be entitled.
Gathering information, informing the police of the accident, and making accurate records are all important because they can help clear up questions of facts and be useful in determining who is liable to victims for the resulting damage from the accident. Contacting an experienced Chandler, Arizona attorney will help ensure your rights and interests are protected.
Victims of a car accident may collect monetary compensation for consequential bodily injures and for property damage. Examples of for what a car accident victim may receive payment include:
These are the types of damages car accident victims may generally collect, and are meant to compensate the victim for actual losses and suffering.
Arizona is a fault state for auto accidents. This means that when individuals are involved in a car accident in Arizona, the people responsible for causing the car accident are financially liable for any resulting damage, including personal injury, and property damage. Importantly, more than one person may be at fault in an accident, and liability can be shared between multiple parties.
As such, an accident victim in Arizona has greater avenues of recourse to pursue when seeking to be compensated for their resulting harm, than accident victims in states that follow the no fault rule. A car accident victim in Arizona may:
For accidents involving Uber or Lyft drivers, the accident victims may also want to file a claim against the Uber or Lyft as a company and their insurance company.
In at-fault states, determining liability, or who was at-fault for causing the accident, will help dictate who is responsible for compensating victims of the accident for any bodily injury and, or property damage they suffered as a result of the accident.
Generally in order to show that a driver was at-fault for causing a car accident it must be shown that the driver acted negligently, such as by breaking some traffic law or behaving in a fashion that illustrates they were not driving with the same care as a reasonable and similarly situated driver would. To have negligently caused an accident it must be shown that the driver failed to adhere to the standard of care a reasonable person in the same position would have adhered to, thereby actually causing foreseeable damage to another person.
Examples of driving negligently can include, but is not limited to, speeding, talking or texting on a cell phone, running a stop sign or a traffic light, etc. In cases where a driver has been negligent, they will likely be found to be at fault for causing the accident, and they will be held financially responsible for compensating victims for the physical harm they caused, and for any resulting damage to property. The driver’s insurance, if they have it, will likely have handled the claim and will pay the victims.
This is generally the case in situations where someone is driving for personal reasons and negligently causes an accident. When a driver is transporting people, or working for a company transporting people, the company may share in the liability when their driver is negligent and causes an accident resulting in damages. This is because the driver was doing something for the benefit of the company, in the case of Uber or Lyft, increase revenue. Although, the issue with Uber or Lyft companies can be that the drivers are contract workers and they own their vehicles.
With Uber or Lyft drivers one of the biggest factors in determining who is liable for damages will be whether the driver was “working” for the Uber or Lyft company at the time of the accident – i.e. giving a ride to a “rideshare” customer, looking for customers, or en route to pick up a customer – or whether the driver was not “working” at the time of the accident, but rather was driving for personal reasons. The determination of whether the Uber or Lyft driver was “working”, and in what capacity, may factor into whether the Uber or Lyft company, and their insurance possibly, are liable to the accident victims for their injuries and damages, or whether the driver, and potentially their insurance coverage, bear the liability.
Another issue that may come in to play is whether any other drivers were involved in the accident and whether they were in any way at-fault for causing the accident. This is important because Arizona law recognizes comparative fault in car accidents. This means that when multiple drivers are at fault for causing the accident they all share in the responsibility of compensating victims for their resulting injuries and property damage in the percentage for which they are deemed to have been at fault. Of consequence for other drivers who are involved in an accident with an Uber or Lyft driver, Arizona’s comparative negligence law allows drivers to collect compensation for damages even if they were partially at fault. So if driver one is found to be 50% at fault for causing an accident and the Uber or Lyft driver is found to be 50% at fault for causing the accident, driver one can still receive compensation, but the amount of compensation will be reduced by the percentage that they were found to be at fault, so in this case the Uber or Lyft driver would be liable for paying driving one 50% of driver one’s damages. Who pays the Uber or Lyft driver’s portion – the company and their insurance, the Uber or Lyft driver and their insurance – this will be determined by other factors.
Rideshare companies, such as Uber, Lyft, and Veyo all require that drivers who contract with them carry their own car insurance policies, which must meet the state’s minimum requirements for car insurance. However, very importantly, most car insurance policies have exemptions that relieve them for liability if a policyholder is involved in an accident while driving for a company like Uber or Lyft. There is insurance available through their private insurance for individuals who are going to be engaging in work as an Uber or Lyft driver, but it is not in a typical policy and something that is added at the request of the insured. Notably, insurance agents are not required to offer this extra insurance to drivers. Since the number of Uber or Lyft drivers is increasing, mandating that agents offer this extra insurance to drivers may be something to consider, but would take legislative action.
Consequently, Uber, Lyft, and Veyo all carry insurance to protect victims of accidents. They have different policies for when a driver is deemed to be on the clock, and carry varying amounts of insurance for different injuries and situations.
Importantly, however, when Uber or Lyft passengers and drivers are making claims with the driver’s company and company’s insurance carrier to get compensated from Uber or Lyft driver related accidents, their claims are being denied in many instances regardless of whether the victim is making an outright accident claim or a claim under the UIM/UM polices.
According to Uber, when an individual who contracts as a driver with Uber is involved in a car accident when they are not “working” for Uber, i.e. the are offline and, or not connected to the Uber application, then Uber will not share in the responsibility for compensating victims for the harm they suffered. Rather any legal claim will be against the driver and their personal insurance, and who will be responsible for the damage if it is found that they were at-fault for causing the accident.
On the other hand, if the driver was “working” for Uber at the time of the accident, then Uber says that it will also be responsible for damage and their insurance may help to cover the resulting damage. However, Uber has set out specific guidelines for determining when a driver is “working” and in what capacity, which effects to what degree Uber may be liable. How much insurance coverage they carry to compensate victims for varying situations, as outlined below.
When an Uber driver is connected to the Uber app and is waiting for a ride request then Uber carries accident insurance for the driver which covers:
When an Uber driver is on their way to pick up a passenger or is active on a trip, then Uber carries accident insurance for the driver which covers:
Similar to Uber, the liability Lyft states it covers when one of it’s drivers is involved in an accident will depend upon whether the driver was “working” at the time of the accident and in what capacity. When a driver’s Lyft application is turned off or they are not online, Lyft is not liable for damages that result from accidents during this time. Instead the driver is responsible and their own insurance may cover the resulting damages.
When a driver is connected to the Lyft app and is waiting for a fare but has not yet received a ride request, then Lyft provides contingent insurance if the driver’s own insurance does not cover accidents during this time. Lyft’s contingent insurance covers:
When a driver has accepted a ride through the time when the ride ends, Lyft’s primary liability insurance is active. Under this policy there is a $1,000,000 limit per accident.
Notably, if you are a passenger riding in a vehicle driven by a Lyft driver and you are in an accident in which the Lyft driver was not at fault and the at fault driver is underinsured or uninsured, then Lyft’s underinsured/uninsured liability coverage should help to compensate the driver and the passenger for bodily harm and property damage suffered as a result of the accident.
In addition, to the accident insurance Lyft carries for its drivers, it also encourages its drivers to carry their own rideshare insurance and gives drivers incentive to do so by giving them additional money on eligible fares.
Veyo is a ridesharing company that operates on a limited basis to serve certain individuals. Specifically, Veyo is a Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) broker that contracts with governments to provide and manage rides for Medicare and Medicaid patients visiting their doctors. Like Lyft and Uber, Veyo’s drivers are independent contractors who get paid by the ride. Also, similar to Lyft and Uber, whether Veyo is liable for damages resulting from a driver’s accidents depends upon whether the driver was “working” and in what capacity.
When an individual who is a contract driver for Veyo is offline, then they and their insurance are liable for damages resulting for any accidents they cause.
For times when a driver is online but not actively giving a ride to a customer, drivers are required to carry their own additional insurance under their own policy. This is commonly known as a rideshare endorsement. For this Primary Auto Liability Insurance Veyo requires a driver to carry coverage of at least:
When a driver is on the way to get a customer or is giving a customer a ride, then Veyo’s Primary Commercial Insurance will cover any damages resulting from an accident. This insurance policy will cover:
These insurance policies carried by rideshare companies are suppose to cover damages resulting from an accident when an Uber or Lyft driver is involved in an accident.
Notably, accident victims, passengers and drivers, are finding that when they make a claim under the company’s policy their claims are being denied because the insurance says that they are not covered by the policies. This can happen because the insurance company may claim that the driver was not “working” at the time of the accident so the insurance policy is not applicable, although with technology when a driver is logged in to an app looking for fare and when they are in the middle of giving a ride so more often the issue is that the insurance companies claim that the policy does not cover the victims, whether they are drivers or passenger because it is the Uber of Lyft driver who owns the car and the company is therefore not responsible as it is the driver who by law must insure the car, and the it is the driver, not the company, who operates the car. Arizona law stipulates that insurance policies “shall insure the person named in the policy as the insured and any other person, as insured, using the motor vehicle or motor vehicles with the express or implied permission of the named insured.” (Arizona Revised Statute § 28-4009(A)(2).) This is known as the omnibus clause and is meant to protect the public from bearing the burden of the financially irresponsible.
Although rideshare companies carry insurance that they say, or at least imply on their respective websites, is meant to help pay for damages to victims passengers and victim drivers of accidents while the driver is engage in providing services through the Uber or Lyft company, a common issue for passengers who are victims of an accident while riding in an Uber or Lyft vehicle, and for drivers of Uber or Lyft cars when they are involved in an accident is actually getting the companies respective insurance policy to cover damages resulting from the accident.
This can happen because the insurance company states that the type of vehicle, the driver, or the type of activity the driver was engaging in was not covered under the policy according to the express language of the contract, the insurance policy. Indeed, courts have found that excluding certain coverage is okay in certain situations, while it is not okay in others. How all the laws and exclusions will be applied to rideshare companies, like Uber or Lyft, is still being determined and some issues may have to be litigated through the courts, and, or addressed by the Arizona state legislature before the law gets clearer.
While Arizona law does require people operating motor vehicles on Arizona roadways to carry a certain amount of minimum insurance coverage, Arizona courts have also read the statutes to allow insurance companies to write some exclusions, or things they will not be liable for in the event of an accident. In some cases the exclusions have been held valid by the courts, so long as the exclusion does not outright contradict the law, and furthers the interest of the public policies supporting traffic and roadway laws, and does not leaving accident victims to bear undue financial burden.
Insurance companies can exclude coverage to certain individuals or groups in a policy while still providing coverage to others for the same thing within a given policy. In some instances, exceptions to the legally mandated insurance coverage is allowable as provided by statute, such as when Arizona Revised Statute § 20-259.01(C) provides that insurance writers are not required to offer UIM/UM insurance to livery and commercial vehicles, but that they may do so on a permissive basis. However, as the court noted in Gambrell, the exception in subsection C does not permit a policy “exclusion” or “limitation” on properly-purchased UIM coverage, but permits insurance companies to write policies that simply do not include commercial vehicle UIM coverage”, while other exclusions are intentionally written out of policies, and have been deemed valid because they are supported by law and or public policy. (See, Gambrell v. IDS Prop. Cas. Ins. Co., 238 Ariz. 165, 357 P.3d 1221, 721 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 24 (Ariz. App., 2015).) In other instances the courts have found valid exclusions that do not conflict with the legislative intent of the law, and that are not in discord with the pubic interest.
Insurance companies for rideshare companies, like Uber and Lyft, may also try to evade making payments by saying that certain people are excluded from coverage. To do this they rely on what as referred to as the omnibus clause from A.R.S. § 28-4009(A)(2), which stipulates that insurance policies “shall insure the person named in the policy as the insured and any other person, as insured, using the motor vehicle or motor vehicles with the express or implied permission of the named insured.” (Arizona Revised Statute § 28-4009(A)(2).) Arguably, the rideshare company would have to carry a policy for each individual driver to be in compliance with A.R.S. § 28-4009(A)(2) and therefore the driver’s insurance is responsible.
Arizona courts have repeatedly held that exclusions will only be held valid if they further the purpose of protecting the driving public from the financial burdens of those who drive and are financially irresponsible. (See, Principal Cas. Ins. Co. v. Progressive Cas. Ins. Co., 172 Ariz. 545, 838 P.2d 1306 (Ariz. App., 1992).) The court in Principal Cas. Ins. Co. notes that when exclusions are contrary to this purpose, they will be invalidated.
Arizona courts have found invalid exclusions that exclude:
Some examples of instances where the courts have found exclusions valid include:
Under what circumstances exclusions are valid is important because in some instances Uber, Lyft, Veyo, and their respective insurance companies have evaded paying accident victims who were injured even while their drivers were supposed to be covered by the company’s insurance policy. One issue is that the owners of the car are the drivers, not the Uber or Lyft companies themselves that connect the drivers with their passengers. As such the drivers all carry their own insurance, but it may not cover when the driver is engaged in working as an independent contractor for an Uber or Lyft company, and the company’s insurance is denying claims saying that the company does not own the cars and therefore are not covered under the company’s insurance.
One issue an accident victim may face when trying to make a claim against an Uber or Lyft driver and, or an UBer/Lyft company for Underinsured Motorist Coverage is that according to Arizona Revised Statute § 20-259.01(E), the underinsured motorist coverage is meant to compensate accident victims for bodily injury or death if the motor vehicle causing such injury “is not insured by a motor vehicle liability policy that contains at least the limits prescribed in section 28-4009.”
This can be an issue if the Uber or Lyft company driver was at fault for the accident while working since Uber and Lyft mandate that drivers carry their own insurance policies in accordance with state law, and therefore each should, theoretically, have a policy that does contain at least the limits prescribed in A.R.S. § 28-4009. Although, the Uber or Lyft driver’s UIM policy may not actually cover any damage in this situation or any situation where they are contracting to give rides.
However, if the accident was caused by another driver who did not have the minimum insurance required by state law, then the Uber or Lyft driver may be able to file a claim with their insurance company and an accident victim may be able to submit a claim to the Uber or Lyft driver’s insurance company and their insurance company under their own UIM policy if they carry one.
Additionally, the victim of an accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver, whether they are the passenger or driver in the vehicle should be able to collect compensation for their injuries from the Uber or Lyft company’s insurance carrier, as they all state that they carry UIM/UM insurance, however, when making these claims, accident victims are finding that their claims are being denied. The idea behind Uber or Lyft carrying UIM/UM insurance is important and practical for passenger/victims of an accident because if an accident occurs that is not the fault of the Uber or Lyft driver, but rather is the fault of another driver and they do not have enough insurance and financial resources to compensate the passenger/victim, then the passenger victim may theoretically be compensated by Uber or Lyft’s UIM/UM policies.
This is especially important if the passenger/victim does not have their own UIM/UM policy, or their own policy does not provide enough monetary coverage to pay them for their resulting injuries, and because it supports the public policy of not leaving accident victims and the public to bear the financial burden of car accidents. (See, Principal Cas. Ins. Co. v. Progressive Cas. Ins. Co., 172 Ariz. 545, 838 P.2d 1306 (Ariz. App., 1992).)
Accident victims seeking compensation for their injuries from an insurance company is in essence calling upon the insurance company to fulfill its part of a contract, which an insurance company may avoid for various reasons, including statutory mandates and limitations, exclusionary provisions, discussed above, and contractual language and construction. However, an accident victim, including Uber and Lyft drivers and passengers may have a legal cause of action in negligence against, potentially, Uber or Lyft for failing to provide or offer adequate insurance.
It could be argued that the ridehsare companies, like Uber and Lyft, and their insurance companies are negligent for not providing adequate insurance to cover accidents their drivers are in, even though they are not employees, because the companies provide the software for the drivers to solicit business and give customers a way to find drivers, they monetarily benefit from the drivers services and the customers use of the service. Also an Uber or Lyft passenger, and, or driver victim could potentially make a claim against Uber or Lyft and their insurance arguing that based on the respective company’s website and the notes about insurance, they had a good faith belief that they would be financially compensated for injuries and property damage resulting from an accident with an Uber or Lyft driver.
In the 1998 Arizona Supreme Court case of Napier v. Bertram, the court held that taxicab companies are required to carry insurance to protect passengers from the financial hardships associated with being in an accident if they were in an accident while a cab passenger. (Napier v. Bertram, 954 P.2d 1389, 191 Ariz. 238 (Ariz., 1998).) Although the court in Napier was addressing whether taxi companies owed a duty to passengers to provide insurance, it may provide some support to the to protect accident victims, and that failure to provide adequate insurance may give, at least, a victim/passenger a viable claim in negligence against Uber or Lyft. (See, Napier v. Bertram, 954 P.2d 1389, 191 Ariz. 238 (Ariz., 1998).)
Further, if a victim makes a claim with their insurance carrier because the at-fault driver in their accident was underinsured or uninsured and the claim is denied because the express language of their policy did not account for such situations, a victim may still try to have their insurance pay the claim if they can show that they reasonably thought their insurance policy included underinsured/uninsured motorist claims, that they detrimentally relied on their belief, and had they known that their policy did not cover underinsured/uninsured accident claims they would have gotten supplemental insurance. (See, Napier v. Bertram, 954 P.2d 1389, 191 Ariz. 238 (Ariz., 1998).) Further, if a victim’s UIM/UM claim is denied and they can prove that the insurance provender did not offer the coverage then they may have legal recourse against the insurance provider.
Dealing with the aftermath of being in a car accident with an Uber or Lyft driver can be confusing and very complicated. Knowing who is responsible for compensating victims can be challenging and full of obstacles. Worrying about how medical bills are going to be paid, and getting compensating for lost wages are not issues a victim should have to worry about when they are trying to heal.
That is why the experienced and compassionate team of attorneys at Thompson Law Firm are here to help. With a record of helping car accident victims get compensation for their injuries, you can trust that we will diligently fight for you. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver, contact the Chandler, Arizona accident attorneys at Thompson Law Firm today by calling (480)-634-7480.
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