Making use of rideshare companies like Uber or Lyft can provide you with a convenient way to travel throughout Colorado. Despite the benefits that come with ridesharing, the risks that come with a potential vehicle collision are no different than if you were operating your own vehicle.
Suffering an injury in a rideshare crash can bring with it certain complications that are not present when the accident involves your personal vehicle. If you have a personal injury claim, you must not only consider your options against the driver but against the rideshare company itself. Additionally, there are multiple insurance policies in play, with all of the insurers seeking to avoid paying your claim.
If this sounds complicated, you can take comfort in knowing that experienced Colorado rideshare injury attorneys can guide you through the litigation process. This process typically begins with identifying the duty of care the at-fault parties owed you. To move forward with your injury claim, contact accidentdenver.com right away at 304-642-8888.
What is the Duty of Care?
To recover monetary compensation from a collision with a rideshare driver, you must establish that the other party to the crash was negligent. Negligence typically involves a careless, reckless, or intentional act that results in your injury. Proving negligence requires that you establish four elements. These elements include:
- That the at-fault driver owed you a duty of care
- That the at-fault driver breached their duty
- That the injuries you suffered occurred as a result of the breached duty
- That your injuries resulted in compensable damages
The first step in this process is determining whether the party that injured you owed you a duty of care. This is important, as you are only entitled to recover compensation if you can show the at-fault party had a duty to act reasonably towards you. In some cases like slip and fall accidents, it is not always clear if the property owner holds a duty of care to the injured party or not.
In car accidents, the existence of the duty of care is usually less at issue. In Colorado, all drivers hold a duty to operate their vehicle safely. They owe this obligation to any driver, cyclist, or pedestrian they share the road with. Given how broad this duty is, the existence of the duty of care is often not at issue in car accident cases.
Why Does the Duty of Care Matter in a Rideshare Accident?
The duty of care might be clear when it comes to a negligent rideshare driver, but it is still a vital part of any injury claim. That said, the addition of a rideshare company to an accident can complicate the issue. Given that rideshare companies are relatively new, there has been little case law identifying whether or not they might also owe a duty to other drivers.
A Rideshare Driver's Duty of Care
The duty of care held by a rideshare driver is no different than any other personal injury claim involving a vehicle crash. Like all motorists, a rideshare operator is held to the same standards as anyone else behind the wheel. Due to that, it is fairly straightforward to understand how to apply the duty of care to the driver of a rideshare vehicle.
Ultimately, a rideshare driver must operate their vehicle in a way most reasonable drivers would. If their failure to do so leads to a collision with another driver, it could constitute a breach of their duty of care.
There are countless ways a rideshare driver could breach their duty of care. The most common is through a violation of the rules of the road. While these traffic infractions can lead to a ticket, they can also be used as evidence of negligence in a personal injury case. Some common moving violations that could result in a breach of a driver's duty of care include:
- Changing lanes without signaling
- Running a stop sign
- Following too closely
- Running a traffic light
- Driving the wrong way down a one-way street
- Illegal passing
- Aggressive driving
- Fatigued driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Any of these acts could result in a viable personal injury claim should an accident occur.
The Rideshare Company's Duty of Care
Where the duty of a rideshare driver is clear, the same cannot be said for rideshare companies. The reality is that the courts have yet to determine what role – if any – the rideshare companies play in a negligence claim.
Whether or not the rideshare company could owe a duty of care to other drivers involved in a crash depends on how rideshare drivers are classified under the law. Companies like Uber and Lyft hold their drivers out as independent contractors. The companies claim that they are merely matching independent contractors with riders for a fee, which would make the drivers not employees of the rideshare company.
This is an important distinction. If rideshare drivers are independent contractors, the companies do not owe a duty of care to other drivers injured in a crash. But if those drivers are employees, a doctrine known as respondeat superior will apply.
Under respondeat superior, any employer can face civil liability for the negligent acts of their employers if they occurred within the scope of their employment. For example, a bread delivery driver that runs a red light and injures another motorist could face civil liability for their injuries. Under respondeat superior, the bread company could also be on the hook for damages if the driver was in the process of making a delivery for their employer at the time of the crash.
Under Colorado law, the debate between independent contractors and employees remains unsettled. Given the uncertainty, it is vital that you speak with experienced Colorado rideshare accident lawyers immediately after a crash.
If you sustain injuries as a passenger in a rideshare vehicle, you might have additional options for hold the careless driver and rideshare company accountable depending on the circumstances. Regardless of whether your driver was an employee or independent contractor, these rideshare companies have a legal duty to ensure their drivers are not a safety risk.
To that end, there are strict restrictions under state law on who rideshare companies may hire. Criminal background and driving history reports are mandatory, and these companies are barred from hiring anyone with certain previous criminal convictions.
However, mistakes happen during the hiring process. If Lyft or Uber violates their duty to screen their drivers and hires someone they should have known was dangerous, you could have a viable claim against them if you are injured during your trip. This could involve a ride with a driver with prior DWI convictions or a convicted sex offender. You have the right to hold rideshare companies accountable if they fail to uphold their duty to you.
Finally, there is another option for holding rideshare companies accountable regardless of whether or not they owed you a duty of care. Colorado law requires these companies to carry robust insurance policies for all of their drivers. If you are injured by a careless Uber or Lyft driver, you could pursue an injury claim against the rideshare company's policy.
The amount of compensation available through these policies varies depending on the circumstances. In cases where a rideshare driver is carrying a rider, the policies will cover up to $1 million in liability, uninsured motorist, and comprehensive collision claims. That said, the policy limits drop dramatically if the rideshare operator is actively seeking a rider but has not yet picked one up. If a rideshare operator does not have their app active, the company will not provide any insurance coverage. In that case, it is treated like any other accident. The driver will be responsible for using their own liability coverage on their personal vehicle to address the injury claim.
Like any insurance company, the insurers for Uber and Lyft will take extreme measures to avoid paying benefits on a liability claim. They will often claim that the driver's personal insurance policy should cover your damages. In some cases, they will claim your injuries are far less severe than you claim. Despite these efforts, it is possible to succeed in your injury claims with the right legal counsel by your side.
Seek Compensation You Deserve with the Help of a Colorado Rideshare Accident Attorney
Understanding the duty of care in an Uber or Lyft accident is only the first step in facing a personal injury claim. To hold rideshare drivers and companies accountable, you will need to establish every element of negligence under the law. While the process of pursuing rideshare companies directly might seem murky, your attorney could advise you on your legal options. At the very least, your attorneys can work to obtain compensation from the insurance policies they provide to their drivers.
Whether you were a passenger or driving another vehicle at the time of the crash, you deserve compensation for your injuries caused by a rideshare driver's negligence. To pursue that compensation, schedule a free consultation with accidentdenver.com right away.