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Who is Responsible for Uber or Lyft Accidents in California?

Posted by Siamak Vaziri | Dec 11, 2023 | 0 Comments

Ever wondered about who is responsible after a rideshare accident?

You'd think it's clear cut, right? But there are layers to peel back and navigate.

In this post, we'll shed light on how driver statuses affect liability and the role negligence plays. We'll also dive into insurance coverage aspects that can impact your claims. How do damages work after such accidents?

Table Of Contents:

Understanding Rideshare Accidents in California

If you've ever used Uber or Lyft, you might wonder who's responsible if a rideshare accident happens. In sunny California, understanding the ins and outs of these accidents is crucial to get the help you need.

Differentiating Between Uber and Lyft Drivers' Status

Rideshare drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft have different statuses which can impact an accident claim. These statuses include being logged into the app but not having accepted a ride yet, having accepted a ride but not picked up the passenger(s), and finally transporting passengers to their destination.

The driver's position at the time of an accident can be a deciding factor in ascertaining responsibility under California legislation. For instance, when drivers are waiting for a fare request (logged into the app but no ride accepted), they're covered by their personal insurance policy along with limited backup from rideshare companies if needed.

The Role of Negligence in Rideshare Accidents

In any motor vehicle accident involving Uber or Lyft drivers - whether it's distracted driving or ignoring traffic laws - negligence must be established before anyone can seek damages under California law.

Negligence occurs when someone fails to exercise reasonable care towards others on roadways.

This concept extends beyond just car crashes; bicycle accidents also fall within its scope.

To make matters more complex, since most rideshare drivers are considered independent contractors rather than employees under state laws, "who pays?" becomes even murkier. The good news? If an Uber driver caused your injuries involved during transportation network services, both Uber and Lyft carry a $1 million liability insurance policy that can cover damages.

Remember though, every accident is unique. If you are involved in an accident with a rideshare vehicle, it is advisable to contact a knowledgeable rideshare attorney to ensure that your rights are safeguarded and any complexities related to driver statuses, negligence issues, and insurance policies are navigated. They'll guide you through the complex web of driver's statuses, negligence issues, and tangled insurance policies - making sure your rights are protected.

Key Takeaway: 

In California, Uber or Lyft accidents can be a maze of complexities. Driver's status during the incident and proving negligence play vital roles in liability coverage under state law. But don't worry. If you're caught up in such an accident, experienced attorneys are ready to help.

Insurance Coverage in Rideshare Accidents

If you're caught up in a Lyft or Uber accident, understanding insurance coverage is critical. Both personal and commercial policies play distinct roles.

Understanding the Driver's Personal Insurance Coverage

The driver's personal insurance kicks into gear when they use their car for personal reasons, not while logged into the rideshare app. This policy often has minimum level liability coverages to handle accidents during this period.

Rideshare drivers are classified as independent contractors, so it can be complex if an accident happens on-duty but without passengers. At times like these, we enter what some call 'insurance limbo'. The question becomes whether the driver's personal insurance or the company's policy should kick in.

The Role of Rideshare Company's Commercial Liability Coverage

In California law regarding rideshares such as Uber and Lyft; there exist different periods affecting liability coverage. We'll label them Period 1: App off (personal vehicle usage), Period 2: App on & no passenger request (looking for fares), and Period 3: Passenger request accepted till drop-off completed.

In case of an accident during period one - your claim will fall under the driver's private auto-insurance. During periods two and three though - things get more interesting.

  • If you face a situation where you're hit by a rideshare vehicle with its app turned on but no passenger yet assigned (Period 2) - both companies offer contingent liability coverage that includes $50k per person/$100k max per incident for bodily injury, and $25k for property damage. But this coverage is secondary to the driver's personal policy.
  • In Period 3 - when a passenger request has been accepted or a passenger is in the car, both Uber and Lyft offer $1 million in liability insurance per accident. This will cover damages exceed beyond what's available from an at-fault driver's insurance.

But let's not forget that...

Key Takeaway: 

During the third period when the app is active and a ride has been requested, that's when things can get really tricky. You need to understand how insurance coverage changes during these periods if you're involved in an accident. In California specifically, there are distinct liability coverages for each of these rideshare periods which could impact your claim.

Damages in Rideshare Accidents

After a rideshare accident, victims may find themselves facing significant costs. These can range from medical bills to lost wages due to time off work.

Recovering Lost Wages and Medical Bills

If you've been injured in an Uber or Lyft accident, it's crucial that you understand how to recover your losses. One of the main areas of compensation is for personal injury, which includes both physical harm and related expenses like medical bills and rehabilitation costs.

In addition, you may be eligible to receive financial compensation for lost wages due to an inability to work resulting from the injury. Calculating this involves figuring out not just what you've already missed but projecting future earnings as well if the injury affects long-term job prospects.

Understanding Punitive Damages in Rideshare Accidents

Punitive damages are a different type of remuneration that may be attainable under California law, unlike compensatory damages which aim to recompense losses such as medical bills or property destruction. While those aim at making the victim whole again by covering their losses, punitive damages serve more as a penalty - meant to punish particularly egregious behavior on part of the at-fault driver.

To be awarded these types of damages though requires showing that there was malicious intent or gross negligence involved – something much harder than proving ordinary carelessness often found behind most car accidents. In other words, don't count on getting punitive unless circumstances were extreme (think drunk driving).

Special Considerations in Rideshare Accidents

When it comes to rideshare accidents, some factors make them unique. These include seat belt usage and the impact on damage recovery, as well as the role of vehicle codes.

The Importance of Seat Belt Usage in Rideshare Vehicles

Always ensure you are buckled up when riding in an Uber or Lyft car; this is important as your use (or lack) of a seat belt could affect the amount of compensation for any injuries sustained during an accident. Why? If you're in an Uber or Lyft and don't buckle up, it could influence the amount of recompense for any injuries sustained since not wearing a seat belt can be considered contributory negligence under California law.

In California, failing to wear a seat belt can be seen as contributory negligence. This means that if you weren't wearing one at the time of the crash and got injured because of it, then any damages awarded to you might be reduced by whatever percentage was determined to be your fault.

Rideshares and Vehicle Code Violations

Moving onto another critical aspect: violation of vehicle codes by Uber or Lyft drivers. It's important because these violations often serve as solid evidence proving driver liability during claims related to personal injury caused by rideshare vehicles.

If we take running red lights or stop signs for example – these are common causes leading up towards motor vehicle accidents involving both pedestrians and other cars alike. And trust me; nothing speaks louder than broken laws when trying to establish who's really at fault.

The Impact on Damage Recovery from Insurance Policies

A crucial factor is understanding insurance policy coverage after an accident involving a rideshare company like Uber or Lyft. Typically speaking though most companies have commercial liability insurance which covers their drivers while they're working but not always - there are exceptions based upon status too such as whether they were actively picking someone up. 

Moreover, it's also worth mentioning that sometimes, the driver's personal insurance policy may not cover damages caused while they are driving for a rideshare company. 

The Role of Independent Contractors

Finally, let's dive into understanding how Uber and Lyft drivers are actually seen as independent contractors.

Key Takeaway: 

If the driver violates traffic laws, who is at fault (driver) may be clearly defined. This is crucial for anyone involved in an accident while using rideshare services like Uber or Lyft, as this could significantly impact any potential compensation claims.

FAQs in Relation to Responsibility for Uber or Lyft Accidents in California

Is the owner of a car liable for an accident in California?

In California, typically it's the driver not the owner who is held responsible. But there are exceptions like negligent entrustment.

What is the new law for Uber in California?

The new law, AB5, classifies rideshare drivers as employees rather than independent contractors under certain conditions.

Who is held liable in case of collision?

Liable parties can be drivers, vehicle owners or even companies like Uber and Lyft depending on negligence determination and other factors.

What is the liability of an Uber driver?

An Uber driver's liability depends on their status at accident time: app off, available but no passenger yet or during a trip.


Navigating the road of responsibility for Uber or Lyft accidents in California isn't a straightforward journey. It's layered, complex and often hazy.

Firstly, understanding driver statuses is crucial. Independent contractor or not? This can steer the direction of liability.

Secondly, knowing negligence plays its part too. Distracted driving might land you at fault.

The twists don't stop there. Insurance coverage complexities loom large with different levels of liability limits for drivers affecting accident claims.

Lastly but importantly: Damages from lost wages to punitive ones need careful consideration in your claim aftermaths.

For those who have been injured in an Uber or Lyft accident, contact Vaziri Law Group, APC for a free consultation today. Our Uber and Lyft attorneys have helped injury victims obtain more than $1 Billion in compensation since 2006 and have a 98% success rate. Call or fill out or form for assistance.

About the Author

Siamak Vaziri

Attorney Siamak Vaziri’s mission is to help make his clients whole by obtaining maximum physical, emotional, and financial recovery. Mr. Vaziri’s clients' needs come first, evidenced by his 98% success rate, more than $1 Billion in client settlements and verdicts, as well as 100+ 5-star reviews. Mr. Vaziri invests every resource to nurture his client and partner relationships and does so with integrity and a relentless work ethic.


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