You could be hurt by an Uber or Lyft rideshare driver in any number of ways. You might be a passenger in a rideshare at the time of the accident. Or you might be in another car involved in the accident. You could be a pedestrian or cyclist struck by the driver. Here’s more about what this means for purposes of your ability to file a claim or otherwise recover compensation in a lawsuit over your injuries.
Why It’s Hard to Sue Rideshare Companies
Under normal circumstances, if you are injured in an accident that is the fault of another driver who was working at the time, you can sue his employer. The law treats an employer as liable for negligence that occurs when the driver is within the scope of his employment. That is to say, the driver can make his employer liable if he was doing what he was hired to do at a time and in a place that was consistent with his job and at least part of what he was doing on the road was for the benefit of his employer.
That’s the usual rule. Rideshare companies like Lyft or Uber use a business model that among other things provides them a way around this rule. These companies treat the people who work under their name as independent contractors, not employees. An employer is generally not liable for the negligence of an independent contractor.
A company usually cannot escape liability simply by giving a new label to the people who work for it. There are rules for when someone is an employee and when they are a contractor. Generally, the more control a company has over how someone does their job, the more likely that someone is going to be treated as an employee by the law.
The rideshare companies avoid the usual rules about workers and contractors by creating app-based platforms that match customers with the people they call contractors. If you start driving for Uber, then you will log onto the app when you are ready to start a work shift and look for people in your area who need rides. Once you find one, you claim it and arrange to pick up the customer. Uber’s position is that it does not direct you to a particular pick-up, but instead acts as a matching service between you and customers.
In the event of an accident, this affects how much insurance is available to cover your injuries. Large companies are more likely to carry insurance than individual drivers, and their policies tend to have higher limits. So, if you are seriously injured by an Uber driver, who pays?
Georgia’s Rideshare Regulations
In Georgia, only the state has the power to regulate transportation providers including taxis and rideshare networks. The law allows some local regulation of transportation providers that service airports but for the most part, state law, not local law, controls how rideshare companies are regulated.
Georgia’s definition of a “rideshare network service” includes any business “that uses a digital network or internet network to connect passengers to rideshare drivers for the purpose of prearranged transportation for hire or for donation.” Rideshare drivers are defined as those who use their own cars to provide transportation services. Other parts of the statute exclude services like a company-sponsored vanpool. In short, Georgia law regulates Uber, Lyft, and any other company that follows the same business model.
Georgia’s regulations on rideshare companies include a requirement that the company provides insurance to its drivers. The amount of insurance varies depending on what the driver is doing at the time of the accident. The company must provide insurance with limits of $50,000 to cover injuries for each person and $100,000 total per accident for any time that the driver is logged onto the network and ready to accept rides. From the time the driver accepts a ride over the network to the time that the driver drops off the rider, the limits must be $1 million per person injured and $1 million total per accident.
Note that for a regular, noncommercial driver, Georgia only requires a minimum of $25,000 per injured person and $50,000 per incident. Suppose a rideshare driver is off the clock and carries the state minimum insurance, the money available to cover your injuries is substantially less. If you were injured as a passenger, obviously the highest insurance limits apply. If you were in another car or were a pedestrian or cyclist, you will need to know more.
Since it matters what the driver was doing at the time you were injured, it’s important to start investigating right away. Georgia law also requires that rideshare drivers display a sign or emblem indicating the company that the driver drives for, so you should know right away if you were injured by a rideshare driver. If the driver displays a sign that can be illuminated and it is, then that generally means that at the least the driver was logged onto the network. If it’s just a sticker, then you will need some additional investigation to know if the driver was logged on. The company will have records, but Georgia law doesn’t regulate how long they are kept.
In addition to knowing whether the driver was on the app at the time of the accident, you will need to know if they were on their way to pick up a rider. The higher insurance coverage kicks in as soon as the driver accepts a ride. So again, you will need some investigation into the electronic records of the driver’s activity.
Can Uber Ever Be Sued?
In addition to insurance, Georgia law requires rideshare companies to make sure drivers have either a background check or license to drive for hire (which requires a background check) and to maintain a zero-tolerance policy for drug or alcohol use while on duty. While Georgia law is not explicit on the matter, violating those requirements could arguably give rise to a lawsuit.
Hiring A Georgia Uber, Lyft Accident Attorney
Determining liability in ridesharing cases can be a complex process especially when there are multiple people or insurance companies involved. It is important to remember that you generally only have two years from the date of your injury to file suit. Also, insurance companies’ lawyers are hired for the purposes of ensuring that these companies pay out as little as possible. For this reason, trying to get the best result possible in your ridesharing accident case often necessitates hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer.
If you sustained an injury in a ridesharing incident, then you should get in touch with an experienced Georgia rideshare accident attorney who knows how to prosecute these cases to the fullest extent. At Dozier Law, our skilled attorneys excel at holding bad drivers and their companies accountable and making them compensate you fully for the harm that they have caused you. For a free consultation, get in touch with Dozier Law by calling (888) 239-2129 or by contacting us online.