Rideshare services, like Uber and Lyft, have become explosively popular across the country, offering app users the ability to summon rides whenever and wherever they need them at competitive prices. The cost of using a rideshare service typically depends on the demand for the service in the area at the time of request, but they generally provide a safe and effective alternative to typical taxi services and public transportation.

Despite their vast popularity, many members of the legal field remain skeptical and critical of the rideshare industry due to the issue of liability for accidents. When these services first hit the consumer market, rideshare companies considered their drivers independent contractors and offered little in the way of training or official policy for the handling of accidents. Liability typically fell to drivers, who were left to handle accidents the same way they would handle accidents in their own personal vehicles for non-working purposes.

Today, Uber and Lyft operate differently. It’s vital for anyone who uses these services as either a driver or a passenger to understand a few things about how they operate and how they handle accidents.

Are Uber and Lyft Drivers Employees or Contractors?

Both Uber and Lyft have maintained that the drivers they hire are independent contractors, not employees. This not only allows these rideshare companies to avoid paying for employment benefits to their drivers, but also allows the companies to escape vicarious liability for accidents their drivers cause while on their routes. However, this definition depends on state law, and the California Public Utilities Commission recently announced that they recognize rideshare companies’ drivers as employees, not contractors.

Uber and Lyft plan to fight this decision by filing federal lawsuits seeking injunctive relief from California’s Bill AB 5, and it is uncertain where this fight will lead. However, it is vital that anyone who is thinking about taking up Uber or Lyft driving for extra income to understand that they may not have the rights due to employees and will need to carefully examine their work contracts so they fully understand their rights and responsibilities as independent contractors.

How Do Uber and Lyft Manage Accidents?

After the rise of rideshare apps led to serious legal questions about the liability of rideshare companies for their drivers’ accidents, the law now requires Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services to offer up to $1,000,000 in liability coverage while their drivers are transporting passengers to their destinations.

It is crucial to note that this million-dollar coverage only applies while a rideshare driver is transporting a paying passenger. Both Uber and Lyft require their drivers to maintain personal auto insurance policies. These policies take effect when drivers are “off the clock.” Both Uber and Lyft offer limited coverage while a driver is “ready” in the app but has yet to accept a fare and slightly more extensive coverage when a driver has accepted a fare and is en route to pick up the passenger.

How Do I Deal With a Car Accident as a Rideshare Passenger?

If you are involved in a crash while riding as a passenger with an Uber or Lyft driver, the process of determining liability for the crash is the same as it would be for any other accident. The party or parties responsible for causing the accident would absorb liability for your damages as well as the damages of anyone else hurt in the crash. The million-dollar coverage provided by Uber and Lyft should, in theory, provide more than enough compensation for your damages.

Dealing with insurance companies is never easy after a car accident, especially if you are dealing with severe injuries, lost income from time missed from work, and questions of liability concerning the accident. A rideshare accident personal injury attorney in Hermosa Beach, California can be a tremendous resource if you need assistance navigating a complicated legal claim following a rideshare accident in the Hermosa Beach area. A rideshare accident attorney can also be helpful to Uber and Lyft drivers who have questions about their liability for accidents caused by other drivers and who need help navigating the insurance claims processes following such accidents.