Before you once again ride with Uber or Lyft, what should you know? These rideshare services have grown so rapidly that many consumers – and even many of the rideshare service drivers – do not know the extent of the legal risks when drivers transport passengers commercially.
What are your rights as a passenger with Uber or Lyft? In the worst-case scenario – if you lose your life in a traffic accident because an Uber or Lyft driver was negligent – will your surviving family members have any legal recourse? Can a Boston wrongful death law firm help?
Uber has been a spectacular success. Launched in 2009, a decade later Uber’s value has surpassed $70 billion, and globally, Uber claims to carry more than two million passengers a day.
CAN YOU SUE A RIDESHARE SERVICE FOR NEGLIGENCE?
Because rideshare services were new, the first accidents involving rideshare vehicles were legally complicated and confusing, but auto insurance companies and state legislatures have subsequently established rules and procedures for dealing with rideshare vehicle accidents.
If an Uber or Lyft driver’s negligence causes an accident while the driver is working, you can sue Uber or Lyft for your personal injury or injuries. If you lose a loved one because of a rideshare driver’s negligence, you can sue for wrongful death.
However, just because an Uber or Lyft driver is negligent and causes injury or death, it doesn’t mean that you can sue Lyft or Uber. If you read the previous paragraph again, you’ll see that the key phrase is “while the driver is working.”
WHEN DOES A RIDESHARE COMPANY HAVE LIABILITY FOR AN ACCIDENT?
In other words, if a negligent Uber or Lyft driver injures or kills someone, the driver is liable, but the liability only transfers to the rideshare service if the driver was working when the accident occurred.
If a rideshare driver was at-fault, it won’t matter if the personal injury or wrongful death victim was a rideshare passenger, a driver or passenger in another vehicle, or a pedestrian. The driver is liable. The question is: Is the rideshare company also liable?
Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors – freelance drivers, essentially – rather than employees.
WHEN DOES UBER’S INSURANCE COVERAGE TAKE EFFECT?
You may have read that Uber carries a $1 million policy for liability and property damage coverage. That’s true, but because the drivers are independent contractors, that policy only “kicks in” when a driver is actually driving for Uber.
If you’re confused, maybe this will help. If you are injured by a negligent Uber driver while that driver is carrying a passenger, or if you are an Uber passenger, the company becomes potentially liable for personal injury and wrongful death, and the $1 million in coverage may apply.
But if there’s no passenger, there’s no million-dollar coverage. A personal injury or wrongful death claim can be filed against the driver, but without a passenger, liability may not extend to the company. It’s like any other traffic accident between two drivers in their private vehicles.
IS ANY OTHER COVERAGE AVAILABLE IN ACCIDENTS INVOLVING UBER?
If a rideshare driver has no passenger but is “on duty” and waiting for a passenger, Uber will supplement the driver’s own auto insurance policy with another $50,000 of coverage – not $1 million.
If you are injured in any accident with an Uber or Lyft driver in Massachusetts, seek medical attention at once, and then discuss your legal options and rights – as quickly as possible – with a Massachusetts personal injury lawyer.
WHO MAY FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM IN MASSACHUSETTS?
In some states, only a spouse or another immediate family member may bring a wrongful death claim. Massachusetts law specifies that in this state, only an administrator or an executor of a deceased person’s estate can bring a wrongful death action.
An administrator or executor is responsible for paying a decedent’s debts and for eventually closing the estate. Compensation from a wrongful death claim is paid to the decedent’s estate, and in most cases, distributed to heirs or used to pay outstanding debts.
IN WRONGFUL DEATH CASES, WHAT DAMAGES MAY BE AVAILABLE?
In Massachusetts, a successful wrongful death claim may compensate a wrongful death victim’s estate for:
- loss of future earnings, the income that the decedent would reasonably be expected to earn in his or her remaining working years
- loss of consortium, including the marital relationship and the decedent’s companionship with other family members
- reasonable burial and funeral costs
Punitive damages – punishment for egregious conduct – are awarded in a wrongful death case in Massachusetts only if “malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct” was involved.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A WRONGFUL DEATH LAW FIRM IN BOSTON?
If you lose a loved one in a Lyft or Uber accident – or if you are the administrator or executor of a wrongful death victim’s estate – discuss your rights and options with an experienced Boston wrongful death attorney as quickly as possible.
Under Massachusetts law, personal injury and wrongful death actions must be launched within three years of the date of the personal injury or wrongful death, but you need to put an attorney on the case at once.
If you wait three years and scramble to take legal action at the last minute, your chances of prevailing will be slim.
If you’re injured or if you lose a loved one in an accident involving a rideshare vehicle, you’ll need an attorney’s help at once to prove which driver was at-fault and to negotiate a settlement claim with that driver’s insurance company.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU KNOW ABOUT UBER AND LYFT ACCIDENTS?
You should know that because Massachusetts is a no-fault auto insurance state, you can file a personal injury claim arising from an accident with an Uber or Lyft vehicle only if your injuries:
- surpass $2,000 in reasonable medical costs
- are severe, permanent, and negatively impact your quality of life
If you are injured by negligence or if you lose a loved one to any negligent driver in Massachusetts, speak to a Boston wrongful death attorney or personal injury attorney at once.
WHAT WILL IT COST TO LEARN MORE – AND SEEK JUSTICE?
Most personal injury and wrongful death claims in Massachusetts are settled out-of-court and in less than a year. A more complicated case may take longer and/or require a jury trial.
It costs nothing to learn more. Your first meeting with a personal injury or wrongful death attorney is free and entails no obligation. You pay no attorney’s fee until and unless the compensation you seek is recovered.
If you’ve been injured by negligence in Massachusetts, or if someone you love becomes a wrongful death victim, seeking an attorney’s help – and standing up for your rights – is the right thing to do.