The popularity of rideshare services like Uber and Lyft has exploded in recent years. They have become widespread across the country and are particularly prevalent in cities like Charlotte, North Carolina.
What happens if you are injured in a car accident in Charlotte, North Carolina while an Uber or Lyft passenger? What happens if you are in a car accident and are hit by an Uber or Lyft driver? Do the traditional rules about car accidents apply to rideshare services? Who do you sue, the driver or Uber or Lyft?
North Carolina law, specifically “An Act to Regulate Transportation Network Companies,” regulates rideshare companies, including Uber and Lyft. It was enacted to provide accountability to a previously unregulated area of the transportation industry and protect North Carolina citizens injured by the drivers of rideshare services. The regulations include the following protections:
Background checks. North Carolina law makes it mandatory for Uber and Lyft drivers to pass a background check before being hired. Under N.C. Gen. Statute §20-280.6(c), potential drivers will be denied employment if:
- They have 3 or more moving violations, or 1 major violation, in the past 3 years,
- In the past 7 years, they were convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, fraud, sexual offenses, use of a motor vehicle to commit a felony, or a crime involving property damage, theft, acts of violence, or acts of terror;
- They are a registered sex offender;
- They do not have a valid driver’s license;
- They do not have proof of registration or insurance for the car to be used; and
- They are not at least 19 years or older.
Safety. All Uber or Lyft vehicles must meet minimum safety standards, their vehicles must pass inspection annually. In addition, passengers must be provided with a photo of the driver, license plate number, vehicle description, and location of the vehicle on a map.
Permit. Uber and Lyft are required to obtain a permit from the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. They must pay a $5,000 fee annually for the permit.
Insurance. North Carolina law requires that both drivers and Uber and Lyft have varying levels of insurance in the case of a car accident.
Drivers Insurance. North Carolina laws requires that anyone who owns and operates a vehicle have bodily injury insurance. Drivers must have coverage of a minimum of $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident. A driver’s personal insurance would be used if the driver caused a car accident or hit a pedestrian or another car while using their vehicle for personal use and not working. A driver who is not actively transporting passengers or who is not logged into either the Uber or Lyft app is considered to be on their own time and not working.
Uber or Lyft Must Have Insurance. Uber and Lyft, and anyone who provides transportation services in North Carolina, must have liability insurance that covers its drivers who are “on the clock.” Uber and Lyft are required to carry a minimum of $1.5million in liability coverage to be utilized in the event that an Uber or Lyft driver causes an accident while working. There are two scenarios in which Uber or Lyft insurance may apply:
Driving a Passenger. If you were injured while a passenger in an Uber or Lyft, then in the majority of cases the driver will be found to be working, and Uber or Lyft’s insurance would apply. North Carolina law requires that Uber and Lyft have insurance of at least $1.5 million per incident which is a higher requirement then many other states. N.C. Gen. Statute §20-280.4(3)a.
Waiting for a Passenger. If a driver is logged into the Uber or Lyft app and waiting for a passenger to request a ride, but does not yet have a passenger, they are also considered to working. Any injury caused by an Uber or Lyft driver during that time period should also be covered by Uber or Lyft’s required insurance. Uber and Lyft are required to have insurance of at least $50,000 per person or $100,000 per person, $100,000 for two or more persons, and at least $25,000 in for property destruction resulting from the accident. N.C. Gen. Statute §20-280.4(2)b.
If the driver of the Uber or Lyft was not at fault for the accident, it was caused by another driver, then the insurance of the person who caused the injury (or your own private insurance if that person is uninsured) should apply. Uber, Lyft and/or the driver would likely have no liability in this scenario.
As with all car accidents in North Carolina, there must be a compensable injury and fault on the part of the Uber or Lyft driver for there to be a claim. Assuming that both of these exist, one of the next questions when dealing with a car accident caused by an Uber or Lyft driver will be- was the driver working or not working? If the driver was working then Uber or Lyft’s insurance should apply. If the driver was not working then his/her private insurance should apply. Since North Carolina state law requires Uber and Lyft to have a higher level of insurance coverage then it does individuals, this question could become extremely important depending on the level of damages involved. Damages could include: medical bills, lost wages, future medical expenses, pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Should I Call an Attorney?
All car accident cases are fact specific and complicated. Those involving a rideshare company are no different. A Charlotte, North Carolina attorney can help you determine if you have a claim by looking at the specific facts of your case, your injuries, who was at fault and help you determine what laws apply. An attorney can guide you through the process and file a claim in court if necessary.
Our Charlotte, North Carolina Attorneys Can Help
The Charlotte, NC based lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced attorneys who can help you understand your rights and whether or you have damages and should proceed with a claim. If you were injured in a car accident involving an Uber of Lyft driver, please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation.