Use of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft has grown in popularity over the past couple years. More and more passengers rely on these services for quick, safe, and easy transportation when they are traveling out of town or after a night of drinking. But, what most people do not think about when they call and use an Uber or a Lyft car is what happens if the Uber or Lyft driver gets into an accident? After all, Uber and Lyft drivers are just as, if not more, susceptible to getting into a car accident with other drivers or pedestrians. In certain situations, New Jersey law allows passengers and sometimes even rideshare drivers to bring successful personal injury cases against the at-fault party.
Passengers and Holding the Rideshare Driver Accountable
Just as in most car accident scenarios, if a rideshare driver caused the car accident to occur, the rideshare passenger and the other vehicle’s occupants may have a viable personal injury case against the driver. If the injuries sustained in the accident are relatively minor or if there is only one passenger that was injured in the accident, then the injured person may file a personal injury claim with the driver’s automobile insurance and the insurance company will then work with the injured person to arrive at a monetary settlement for the injuries.
If the extent of the injury is more than the policy limit of the driver’s insurance coverage or if the insurance company does not offer a reasonable settlement, the injured passenger or occupant may file a personal injury lawsuit against the rideshare driver in a New Jersey court. To be successful in this lawsuit, the injured person will have to prove that the rideshare driver’s negligence in operating his or her vehicle caused the person’s injuries to occur.
Stated differently, the injured person must:
- Show that the rideshare driver owed him or her a duty of care
- Show that the rideshare driver breached this duty in some way
- Show that the breach caused his or her injuries
- Show that actual damage resulted
In all situations, rideshare drivers owed their passengers, drivers of other cars, and occupants of other cars to operate their vehicle in a reasonably prudent manner under the circumstances. Consequently, if the driver acts unreasonably by ignoring traffic signs or driving while distracted by his or her cell phone, then the duty of care is breached and the injured person may win his or her case if they prove the breach caused them actual injuries.
Passengers and Holding Rideshare Companies Accountable
Because of the nature of the employment relationship between rideshare companies and rideshare drivers, i.e. rideshare drivers are considered independent contractors and not employees, it is typically difficult to bring a viable personal injury claim against the rideshare company itself when there is an accident involving a rideshare driver. However, there are certain instances in which an injured passenger or vehicle occupant can recover from the rideshare company.
For instance, when Uber “hires” a new driver, it takes out a $1 million automobile insurance policy to cover the costs of any injuries or other damage occurs to passengers while engaged in an Uber ride. This means that, theoretically, a passenger injured by an accident caused by the Uber driver may recover monetary compensation from Uber for his or her injuries. However, it is important to note that, the Uber driver’s personal insurance policy will first cover the costs of any injuries suffered. If the costs of making the passenger whole because of the accident exceeds the driver’s personal policy limit, then injured passengers may file a personal injury claim against the $1 million Uber policy to cover the remaining costs.
Also, in 2017, Governor Chris Christie signed into law the Transportation Network Company Safety and Regulatory Act. This Act mandates that all all rideshare services conduct driving record checks and criminal background checks of prospective drivers to ensure that the prospective driver will not pose a risk of harm to the public if “employed” by the rideshare service. Further, the Acts prohibits the employment of drivers who have previously been convicted of DUI, sexual assault, homicide, and drug possession. With respect to liability insurance, this new Act also requires all rideshare services to carry a $1.5 million liability policy for all drivers driving in New Jersey. This amount is higher than the minimum policy limit that Uber ordinarily uses when taking out automobile insurance policies on its drivers.
If the rideshare company either fails to perform a driving record check or criminal background check or misses a violation that should have been on these checks, subsequently “hires” the new driver, and a passenger is injured, the passenger will likely have a valid personal injury case against the rideshare service for negligent hiring. Still, when a rideshare driver gets convicted of one of the enumerated crimes and the company fails to relieve him or her of her duties, then an injured passenger may have a valid personal injury case against the rideshare company for negligent retention. Finally, because New Jersey law requires all rideshare companies to hold insurance policies with a $1.5 million limit, those badly injured in a car accident involving the rideshare service will likely be able to recover more money for their injuries than under Uber’s traditional $1 million policy limit.
Contact an Atlantic City Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Rideshare Car Accident Case in New Jersey
Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries due to an Uber or Lyft accident in New Jersey? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Brown Law represent clients injured because of car accidents caused by rideshare drivers in Atlantic City, Ventnor City, Pleasantville, Hamilton, and throughout New Jersey. Call (609) 344-8270 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 3123 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 201, Atlantic City, NJ 08401.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.