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Responsibility for Injuries in a Rideshare Accident in Texas: Things You Need to Know

Anyone injured in a car crash caused by another person can seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering, and more. But it doesn’t always make sense to sue the driver who hit you. Sometimes, the victim is better off suing someone else—like the owner of the vehicle. Or even the manufacturer of the vehicle.

In many cases, the driver of the vehicle involved in the accident isn’t necessarily the one liable for damages. Asking yourself whether you want to pursue legal action against the driver who hit you can help you determine whether you have a case worth pursuing.

But there are exceptions. For example, if the driver who hit you is insured, he or she will likely pay out on behalf of his insurance provider. And if you are hurt while riding in a Lyft or Uber, you might be able to bring a claim against the ride-sharing companies themselves.

You shouldn’t assume that just because the driver who hit you wasn’t negligent, he won’t be held accountable for your injuries. You still have options.

Liable Parties in a Rideshare Crash

In most states, it is up to you to determine whether you want to sue another person over a car accident. This includes anyone involved in causing the crash, such as the driver who hit you, the owner of the vehicle that hit you, or even the insurance company.

If the driver caused the accident by being negligent, he or she could be held liable for any injuries you suffered. You could also try to hold the driver personally responsible for any medical bills related to the injury.

However, if the accident happened while you were driving for work, you might not have much recourse. Most states consider you an independent contractor, rather than an employee. As such, you wouldn't be able to recover lost wages or benefits from the company that hired you.

Instead, you're limited to recovering damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and property damage.

The Driver Is Transporting a Rider

Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft are now providing a safety net for passengers who don't want to pay extra for car insurance. These companies allow drivers to use their personal vehicles to transport people for free. However, there are some catches. Drivers must meet certain requirements, including having a clean driving record and passing a background check. They also must carry commercial auto insurance, which provides protection against accidents involving third parties.

The issue here is that the person being transported doesn't purchase additional insurance coverage. This leaves everyone else exposed. So, if someone gets into an accident while riding with a rideshare driver, he or she can sue the driver under his or her own policy. But the driver isn't covered because he or she wasn't carrying commercial auto insurance. And since the rideshare company didn't provide it either, no one else is protected.

In many states, however, rideshare companies do provide liability coverage for accidents involving riders. For example, Texas requires rideshare companies to cover the costs associated with injuries sustained by passengers. As long as the rider files a claim within six months of the incident, the company will cover up to $50,000 per person.

The Driver Is Actively Seeking a Rider

Uber and Lyft drivers must carry commercial auto insurance while operating under the ridesharing apps. However, it appears that there is no requirement that those drivers actually transport riders. If you are driving around looking for someone to pick up, you may want to consider carrying some liability insurance just in case something happens.

The coverage applies to both the driver and the rider. For example, if a passenger is injured in an accident caused by the driver, they can pursue claims against the driver’s personal insurer. Likewise, the passenger might sue the driver’s employer if he’s hurt while working.

This coverage is only available if the driver is using the app to actively look for passengers. So, if you see a car parked somewhere without anyone inside, don’t assume that the owner isn’t waiting for someone to come along. You never know what kind of insurance policy they have.

Driver Is Not Using Rideshare App

Uber and Lyft claim that when an Uber or Lyft driver uses their vehicle for personal use, it does not count toward the number of hours the driver must work per week under federal law. In some states, such as California and Massachusetts, drivers are required to log every hour worked. If the driver fails to do so, he or she could face penalties.

In response to a recent lawsuit filed against Uber, the ride-hail giant claims that drivers who operate their vehicles for personal use are not considered employees because they are not performing tasks "incidental to and within the scope of the principal purpose of the trip."

The term "incidental to" refers to activities that are necessary to accomplish the primary purpose of a trip. For example, driving a car for a friend to pick up groceries is incidental to the main reason why someone might take a ride. However, if a person takes a ride home solely to smoke marijuana, that activity would not be incidental to the primary purpose of the trip.

According to Uber, the company does not consider drivers who use their vehicles for personal purposes to be employees. Instead, riders pay the cost of operating the vehicle. This means that the company is not responsible for paying workers' compensation premiums or providing benefits like health care coverage.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. Drivers who are doing something else while working for the company — such as picking up a passenger — are considered employees.

If a driver operates his or her vehicle for personal use, the driver cannot be considered an employee unless the company knows about it. As long as the company does not know about the driver's actions, the company cannot be held liable for those actions.

Furthermore, the employer's knowledge of the driver's personal use is important. A driver who works for multiple ride-hailing companies over the course of several months without informing the company of his or her personal use is likely to lose the protection of the "personal use" exception.

If the driver was injured while engaged in personal use, he or she may still be able to sue the driver's personal auto insurer.

Discuss Your Rideshare Accident With an Attorney

If you are injured in an Uber/Lyft ride accident, you might want to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Harris County, Galveston County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Houston, Sugar Land, Missouri City, and Stafford, Texas at Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, about what happened, how much money you are entitled to receive, and whether there are legal grounds to file a lawsuit against the driver. A good lawyer can tell you whether you have grounds to sue and whether you are eligible for compensation. Contact us today at www.thorntonesquirelawgroup.com  for a free consultation.

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