If you’re in an accident with a commercial vehicle, the liability is fairly straightforward. But if you get injured in an accident with a ridesharing vehicle, the rules may not be the same. Wondering about the differences? Then, keep reading to learn more about the liability differences and nuances in these types of accidents.
The Respondeat Superior Principle
Generally, when you’re in an accident caused by a commercial driver, the respondeat superior principle comes into play. ‘Respondeat superior’ is a Latin phrase that translates to “let the superior answer”. In other words, the employer of the driver is liable for the accident. However, this rule usually only applies when the driver is an employee.
Employers may be generally liable for any accidents caused by their drivers, and employers may face additional liability if they fail to train or screen their drivers adequately. Your lawyer can help you find the right angle to establish liability in these accidents.
People who drive for ridesharing companies are independent contractors, not employees, and as a result, the ridesharing company may not be liable for the accident. However, most ridesharing companies carry liability coverage anyway, and they have been held liable in personal injury cases despite the driver being an independent contractor. This is one of the major differences between the liabilities in ridesharing cases compared to cases involving other types of commercial drivers.
Acting in the Scope of Employment
Usually, for a commercial driver’s employer to be liable, the driver has to be acting in the scope of employment. To explain, imagine a driver is making a delivery for their employer. In this situation, the driver is acting in the scope of employment, so their employer is likely to be liable. In contrast, if the driver leaves work, goes to meet friends, and gets in an accident on the way, the driver’s employer may not be liable.
With Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing services, the driver is never acting in the scope of employment simply because they are not an employee. Again, however, the ridesharing company may be held liable if the driver has passengers or if they are driving to pick up a fare when the accident occurs.
In both situations, you need a quality accident attorney in your corner. Companies will almost always try to deny their liability in these cases. If someone offers you a settlement, that is a sign that they know they are liable, and before accepting the settlement, you should consult with an attorney to make sure that you’re not taking a lowball offer.
Sometimes, with both commercial and ridesharing accidents, the manufacturer of the vehicle or some of its components may be liable for the damages. For instance, if someone is injured in a ridesharing vehicle with defective airbags, the airbag manufacturer may be held liable. Similarly, if the cargo falls out of the back of a commercial vehicle due to a defective pulley system, the manufacturer of the pulley system may be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur.
If you can’t hold the employer, the ridesharing service, or the manufacturer liable for the injuries, the driver may face liability. Commercial drivers may be liable for accidents if they were under the influence of drugs and alcohol, if they forgot to update their logbook, if they were driving while drowsy, or in a variety of other situations. Similarly, ridesharing drivers may be liable for the same reasons. Of course, in both situations, the other driver must have caused the accident. If you caused the accident, you are liable for the injuries.
In that same vein, employers are generally not liable when their drivers engage in intentional tort. This refers to injuries caused by actions such as assault, battery, and kidnapping. In contrast, most accidents aren’t intentional— even if the driver is negligent, they didn’t necessarily mean to cause the injuries.
If you have been in an accident with a commercial vehicle or with a ridesharing driver, you need to work with an attorney who can help you identify the liable party, negotiate with their insurer for the best settlement possible, and take the case to court if necessary. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we can offer you the support you need when dealing with the aftermath of an accident. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us today.
We can talk with you about your accident, the damages you have suffered, and help you explore liability.