Whether you are a passenger in an Uber or Lyft vehicle, or were hit by one of their drivers, there are small distinctions that can determine the value of a case and what we can recover for a client. If an injured person was hit by one of their drivers, sometimes it's not even clear if the case even involves a ride-share driver. There are clues we look for including but not limited to, looking at the passenger designations on the police report, viewing body cam and squad car footage, speaking with witnesses, etc.
After we have established our injured client's wreck was caused by a ride-share driver, the next variables we are concerned with are:
- The seriousness of my client's injuries
- The ride-share app status of the driver that determines how much insurance coverage is available
If my client has very minor injuries and not a lot if medical expenses, then the app status of the driver will probably be irrelevant. Any minimum auto insurance coverage should cover their injuries, pain and suffering, and other damages. Conversely if injuries are serious, then the status of the driver in the Uber or Lyft app has everything to do with how much we can collect on behalf of our client. In Georgia, Uber and Lyft ride-share insurance is governed by O.C.G.A. §33-1-24.
We want to know whether a driver's personal insurance coverage (usually low or state minimum policy limits) or their commercial Uber or Lyft insurance policies will cover the wreck.
Ride Share App Status: Disengaged, Waiting for a Ride, or On Your Way to Pick Up Rider
Disengaged or Driver Mode Off
If the Uber or Lyft driver causes a wreck while his app is not activated or his driver mode is off, then his personal insurance will cover the wreck and the injuries endured by the people he hurts. Just because they drive around with that well-lit sign in their window, doesn't mean they are actually on duty and covered by Uber or Lyft. On a personal insurance policy, this coverage is likely to be $25,000 per person, and $50,000 per accident.
Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Situations (UM) – If a ride sharing driver is disengaged from his network or not logged on to the app, then he's just another driver for personal reasons and his own UM insurance policy limits will cover him.
Driver Mode On / Waiting for a Ride Request
If the driver causes a wreck when the driver's app is on, but no match has been made to a rider, then the Uber or Lyft liability policy will cover up to $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Situations - What if it's not the ride share driver's fault? If someone hits the Uber or Lyft driver, and that at-fault person is underinsured or uninsured, then O.C.G.A. §33-1-24 states that Lyft or Uber shall be responsible for $50,000 per person of bodily injury claims and $100,000 per accident if the driver has a non-ride sharing passenger in the car.
On Way to Pick Up Driver / Match Notification Made or Dropped Off Passenger
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. §33-1-24, If an Uber or Lyft driver causes a wreck during the period of time a driver accepts a ride request on the ride share company's digital network until the driver completes the transaction or the ride is complete, whichever is later, the Uber or Lyft policies will kick in and pay up to $1,000,000 for the bodily injuries they cause (to pedestrians, occupants of other vehicles, or ride share passengers).
Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Situations – If another car other than the Uber or Lyft driver causes a wreck and injuries to the ride share driver or his passengers from the moment a match notification is made and until that passenger's ride is completed, Lyft or Uber policies will cover up to $1,000,000 of bodily injury damages per accident to the driver or his passengers.
Can I Sue the Uber or Lyft?
For this I would imagine situations where the driver is so poorly skilled or intoxicated, and has a terrible driving record with significant safety violations and causes serious injuries or death; or where there are multiple offenses and public complaints on the app about the driver's terrible skills; or even where the driver assaults or commits some other intentional tort against his passenger. In any of these situations, is it possible to sue the Uber or Lyft Corporation?
Not likely, but yet to be seen as ride sharing is still relatively new in the US and Georgia. Most of the case law in Georgia asserted by ride share defense lawyers claim the same law that should apply to them is what applies to taxi cab companies. It is well settled that the drivers for taxi cab companies are independent contractors. So far, no higher court in Georgia has made a distinction between ride shares and taxi cab companies.
Uber and Lyft disclaim any semblance of being a transportation company and refer to themselves as mere communication companies that pair drivers with passengers. We know this is a flawed argument because there is a safety and background check when a driver applies to Uber, passengers and drivers have rating systems that people depend on, and both companies both have certain claims to quality depending on the type vehicle you order. At some point there will be a case that goes on appeal with relevant facts and I would hope that if Uber or Lyft shows that they undertook screening, yet failed to take action with a knowingly dangerous driver, that they will be held at least somewhat responsible.
General Steps We Follow in Ride Share Cases:
- Establish liability of the at-fault driver
- Establish proof we are in a ride share involved accident
- Prove the App status of the driver and passenger (whether disengaged, “waiting for ride request,” or “on their way.”)
- Pursue the full value of the client's case against Lyft/Uber policies
If you have been injured in a wreck involving Uber or Lyft, having an attorney that understands the law, its applications, and ability to recover for injuries, lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and future medical expenses is critical. Attorney James Paisley has successfully litigated and settled cases against Lyft and Uber ever since they have been available in Georgia. Call or email James Paisley now at (404) 618-0960 / [email protected].
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