If you were in an accident caused by an Uber® or Lyft® driver, you have the right to sue the Uber driver for your injuries and losses. Every driver on Florida roads has an obligation to drive safely and will be liable for any injuries caused by his or her negligent driving, whether driving for a rideshare company at the time of the accident or not. However, whether Uber or Lyft can be held liable for injuries caused by one of its drivers or whether the insurance they provide for their drivers will be available to provide compensation for your injuries is a bit more complicated. Here's what you should know about who you can sue if you have been in an accident caused by an Uber or Lyft driver.
Uber or Lyft Will Likely Claim They Are Not Liable Because Their Drivers Are Independent Contractors
Uber and Lyft classify their drivers as “independent contractors” rather than “employees” to insulate themselves both from liability for accidents and injuries their drivers cause as well as labor and employment laws that require they provide their drivers with certain benefits, rights, and compensation. An independent contractor is a self-employed individual who is hired to provide a specific service to a business or organization. They are not considered an employee, but instead are paid for a specific job or project and have control over how the job is completed.
An employee, on the other hand, is someone who is hired and paid a salary or wage to work for a business or organization on a regular basis. Employees are entitled to certain rights and benefits, such as minimum wage, overtime pay, and other protections. Rideshare companies have been entangled in a good deal of litigation over this issue—to the point of a recent $8.4 million settlement in California paid by Uber to avoid a ruling on the issue. Other courts have ruled in favor of Uberfinding their drivers are independent contractors rather than employees.
How the “Independent Contractor” Classification Could Affect Your Lawsuit
While you can sue Uber or Lyft for an accident caused by one of their drivers, the employee versus independent contractor classification can make it difficult to affix liability on the rideshare company. As we have discussed previously, Uber and Lyft provide $1 million in liability insurance for their drivers if they are online (using the app) and have: 1) accepted a ride request; or 2) are enroute with a rider in the vehicle. That amount is often sufficient to cover the damages in a case for a single rider injured in an accident. However, that amount may not be sufficient if a passenger or third party is severely injured or there are several passengers in the rideshare vehicle or other vehicle involved in the accident who are seriously hurt.
Outside of the liability insurance rideshare companies provide to cover their drivers, whether Uber and Lyft can be held directly responsible for an accident generally hinges on whether the driver is considered an independent contractor. If the driver is an independent contractor (as opposed to an employee) liability is more difficult to establish and generally requires a showing that the employer (Uber or Lyft) was negligent in hiring the driver or the driver was performing duties of such importance or that were so dangerous the employer should still be held liable even for the conduct of an independent contractor. These are complicated legal issues that require years of skill and knowledge to sort out.
The Bottom Line: Liability is Complicated, You Need an Experienced Attorney to Help
The law of whether Uber or Lyft drivers are independent contractors or employees has a significant impact on whether you can pursue Uber or Lyft directly for injuries caused in an accident by one of their drivers. Also, the classification of Uber or Lyft drivers as independent contractors versus employees could change in time. The takeaway: establishing direct liability against rideshare companies for accidents caused by their drivers is complicated. In addition, recovering the full amount you may be owed under the insurance policies rideshare companies provide to cover their drivers requires a skillset most ordinary drivers on the road do not possess.
If you have been injured by the negligent driving of an Uber or Lyft driver, you should hire an experienced insurance attorney, like our attorneys at Taylor, Warren, Weidner & Hancock, to assist you in pursuing compensation for your injuries. Our attorneys have been representing car accident victims for decades and we know how to gather the necessary evidence and build the best case possible for your recovery. We also never charge any fee or cost or require any obligation on your part, to simply review your claim, answer any questions you may have, and advise you of your rights. Contact us.