Liability and Insurance Protection For South Carolina Ridesharing Accidents

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The popularity of  ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft has seen a drastic increase over the past few years.  A 2016 USA Today article found that Uber enjoyed a 400 percent increase in rides between 2014 and 2015, while Lyft experienced a 700 percent jump in rides. Unfortunately, with these large jumps in rides, there is an increased chance of car accidents for people while using these ridesharing services.  If you are in a car accident while using a ridesharing service, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to help you understand who is potentially liable for your injuries.  
 

Insurance and Car Requirements for Rideshare Drivers

 
In June 2015, the South Carolina legislature passed a bill into law updating insurance requirements for ridesharing companies. Specifically, the new law requires all rideshare drivers to:
 

  1. Have insurance coverage of at least $1 million for death, bodily injury, and property damage when on a prearranged ride;  
  2. Have primary auto liability of at least $50,000 for death and bodily injury per person, $150,000 for death and bodily injury per incident, and $25,000 for property damage when the driver is logged into the ridesharing program;
  3. Have uninsured motorist insurance coverage at all times; and
  4. Drive a car that has met a 19-point safety inspection and has a removable emblem to identify their vehicles when they are available to riders.

 

Will the Ridesharing Company’s Insurance Company Cover My Injuries?

 
If you are injured while riding in a rideshare vehicle, the ridesharing company’s commercial insurance policy may cover your injuries if the rideshare driver meets all the requirements to be covered by that company’s insurance policy.  The different types of insurance coverage provided for rideshare drivers depends on the company.  For example, Uber has a commercial insurance policy covering one million dollars per accident, which covers driver liability from the time a driver accepts its trip through the trip’s completion.  Similarly, Lyft offers its drivers both liability insurance during rides for up to one million dollars per accident, as well as contingent insurance policies before a driver receives a ride request.  Because of the variations in ridesharing insurance policies, you will want to work closely with your attorney to review the timing and circumstances of your accident and determine whether you have the ability to recover from the ridesharing company’s insurance coverage.  It should be noted that even if a ridesharing company like Uber and Lyft’s employer insurance will not cover your injuries, you may still be able to recover from that driver’s personal insurance.  
 

Is the Ridesharing Company Vicariously Liable For My Injuries?

 
It is unlikely that the ridesharing company will be vicariously liable for your injuries.  Vicarious liability is the legal theory under which an employer is liable for tortious actions committed by their employees within the scope of their employment.  This means that an employer may be liable even if they themselves have not committed a tortious action.  However, employers cannot be held vicariously liable if their employees are merely independent contractors.  Recently, Uber employees in California and Massachusetts brought a class action lawsuit against Uber to change their employment status, but in April 2016, Uber settled the suit and for now, their employees will remain independent contractors.  
 
Irrespective of their employee’s employment status, ridesharing companies may still potentially be held liable for your injuries under alternative theories such as wrongful death or negligent hiring.  By way of example, in the 2005 case of Doe v. ATC, Inc., 367 S.C.199 (S.C. Ct. App. 2005), the South Carolina Court of Appeals found a plaintiff may recover under a theory of negligent hiring if they can prove the employer knew the employee was “in the habit of misconducting themselves in a manner dangerous to others.”
 

Can I Sue the Rideshare Driver Personally or Their Insurance Company For My Injuries?

 
Yes, and you should.  Although you are unlikely to prevail under a theory of vicarious liability, you can still hold the rideshare driver or their insurance company liable for your injuries.  You have the option of filing a claim against your own insurance carrier (who will in turn seek reimbursement from the driver), filing a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, and filing a claim against the driver’s insurance policy.  South Carolina has adopted a “fault” system for accidents, wherein a person who is at fault for causing the accident is liable for any damages.  To determine fault in a car accident case, an insurance adjuster will use all available evidence as it relates to the accident.  This evidence may include testimony of witnesses who saw the accident, police reports regarding the incident, medical records, and photographs of the accident scene or property damage.
 
If you decide to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, South Carolina also follows a “modified comparative negligence” approach for fault.  This means that if a judge or jury finds you were more than 50 percent at fault for your accident, you will be barred from recovering anything. However, if you are found to be 50 percent or less at fault, then you will still be able to recover damages for your lawsuit.
 

Is There a Statute of Limitations For Car Accident Liability?

 
If you are injured in a ridesharing accident, you will want to make sure you bring your lawsuit within the statute of limitations so it is not barred in the court.  Under S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-530(5), the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is three years after the accident occurs.  Under the same statute, the statute of limitations for filing a property damage suit is three years after the accident.  
 

Contact Our Experienced Greenville, South Carolina Car Accident Attorneys Today!

 
If you are injured in a ridesharing car accident in Greenville, South Carolina, you should hire a dedicated Greenville personal injury lawyer who can help you evaluate your potential recovery from the ridesharing company and/or the car driver. The skilled personal injury attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A. will help you go through your case, gather evidence, and understand your potential liability.  Contact us today to get started with your personal injury claim.

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