Ridesharing Crashes and Device Distraction

Ridesharing Crashes and Device Distraction

The number of ridesharing trips, mostly because of Uber and Lyft, has exploded since 2015. The number of distracted driving accidents has increased significantly as well. These two developments are not coincidental. Many observers believe that increased ridesharing has fueled the rise in distracted driving crashes.

As outlined below, device distraction is usually negligence in California. As a result, a San Jose car accident attorney can usually obtain needed compensation for these victims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

First Party Liability

Many ridesharing operators over-rely on GPS navigation devices. That’s especially true in the coronavirus era, as many of these drivers find themselves in unfamiliar parts of the Bay Area.

California has one of the broadest cell phone bans in the country. It is generally illegal to hold and use a cell phone while driving. In civil court, because of the negligence per se rule, tortfeasors (negligent drivers) who violate this law and cause crashes could be responsible for damages as a matter of law.

As broad as the law is, it has a number of exceptions and exclusions. Perhaps most notably, the law does not apply to hands-free use. There is considerable evidence that hands-free devices are more dangerous than hand-held gadgets. Hands-free cell phones prompt drivers to take their eyes off the road and also give many operators a false sense of security.

Furthermore, many emergency responders do not issue citations in these situations. If they respond to accident scenes, they probably did not see the tortfeasor illegally using a device. Additionally, many police officers see car crashes as civil disputes. They do not want to write tickets and get involved.

The ordinary negligence doctrine is available in these situations. These victims must prove negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. Evidence includes device use logs and the tortfeasor’s statements about device use.

Third Party Liability

Generally, private automobile insurance policies do not cover commercial losses. Frequently, companies like Uber and Lyft require drivers to buy commercial riders, but the companies do not enforce these requirements very diligently. So, if a distracted Uber or Lyft driver causes a crash, there is a good chance the insurance company might deny coverage.

These victims could still obtain compensation, because of the respondeat superior doctrine. Uber, Lyft, and other employers are financially responsible for car wreck damages if:

  • Employee: Ridesharing operators are independent contractors in California for tax purposes. However, these drivers are employees for negligence purposes. The ridesharing company controls some driver behaviors.
  • Scope of Employment: Even if a ridesharing operator is deadheading (waiting for a fare), that operator is acting within the scope of employment. This practice benefits the employer, partly due to the free advertising it generates and partly due to the fact that passengers have rides available.
  • Foreseeable: A car wreck is always a foreseeable result of vehicle operation. A wreck is not possible or even likely, but it is possible. That possibility is all that’s required in California.

Driver assaults and false imprisonment, which usually involves locking car doors and keeping passengers inside against their will, could be covered by the respondeat superior doctrine. Other possible theories in this area include negligent supervision and negligent hiring. 

Connect with an Experienced Lawyer

Distracted ridesharing operators often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in San Jose, contact Solution Now Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Santa Clara County and nearby jurisdictions.



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