Liability for Accidents Caused by Uber or Lyft Drivers
By Chuck Geerhart
In 2017, I am representing more and more people who have been struck and injured by drivers working for Lyft or Uber. Many of my clients are pedestrians. Both Uber and Lyft carry $1 million in insurance covering their drivers when they are logged into the Uber or Lyft platform (computer program); it doesn’t matter if they have a fare inside or not. If someone is so badly injured (or killed) such that the settlement value of the claim exceeds $1 million, Uber or Lyft will be responsible for excess damages under the doctrine of respondeat superior.
I have recently learned that Lyft sometime rents cars from Hertz for its drivers to use. In this scenario, Lyft should be responsible for any accident that occurs either while the driver is logged in or is commuting to or from home. In a case I am handling, although the driver was signed off the Lyft platform, he was returning home after driving a shift for Lyft. Although commuting by employees or agents of a company often exempts the employer from respondeat superior liability under the “coming and going rule,” there are many exceptions to the rule. The one that applies here is the “incidental benefit” exception where the employer either reimburses the employee for the vehicle or provides the vehicle for the employee’s use, as is the case here. In this case, Lyft benefits from Guarano having a car– he couldn’t drive for Lyft without it. Lyft benefits from Guarani’s being able to wake up in the morning and start driving for Lyft. See the cases of Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. v. Department of Transp. (2013) 220 CA4th 87, 96; Moradi v. Marsh USA, Inc. (2013) 219 CA4th 886, 895, 907-908; Lobo v. Tamco (2010) 182 CA4th 297, 301-303.
Unfortunately, these highly profitable “unicorn” companies do not take responsibility for accidents caused by their drivers. They will stall and delay on your claim. If you are injured, don’t count on being able to settle your claim without litigation. My practice is now to sue Uber immediately in order to force it to pay attention (and money) to the claim.