Ridership in ride-sharing vehicles like Lyft has steadily increased since these taxi-cab alternatives came on the scene in the mid 2010’s. San Jose is close to ground zero for the startup of Lyft’s rival, Uber which began in San Francisco in 2009. Lyft started a few years later also in San Francisco offering travelers city to city rides at greatly reduced rates compared to taxi-cabs. Thus San Jose cyclists have been sharing the city’s streets with Lyft cars for over six years, and this close proximity has resulted in numerous collisions.
How it works: Lyft users can order a ride through an app downloaded on to a mobile device. They look for Lyft drivers, who are independent contractors, that have logged in the app signifying they are available for a pickup. The app allows the rider to see the location of the car and thus have an idea when it will show up or who’s closest to where they are. The rider pays for the ride when placing the order, and the rider can tip using the app as well.
Lyft Cars and Cyclists
San Jose has numerous Lyft cars on its city streets, and it also has over 300 miles of bike lanes which has driven cycling participation upward. This has resulted in many issues regarding safety.
Lyft drivers park as near as possible to the location requested by the rider for both pickups and drop-offs. Sometime this leads Lyft drivers to park on top of designated bike lanes which are almost always between the traffic lane the sidewalk. This causes havoc with the cyclists who have to stop abruptly or swerve to avoid the car in their path.
Even if the Lyft car parked in the street to avoid parking on the bike lane, there is still a danger from dooring. Dooring happens when a motorist or passenger opens his or her door right in front of a cyclist who doesn’t have time to react and then runs into the door. The injuries that accompany dooring can be severe and even cause death. Under California law, a driver is to use caution when opening the car door and is prohibited from opening in front of a moving cyclist. However, the fine is small, and most drivers and passengers don’t’ think about it until it’s too late.
When a cyclist is doored, common sense says it’s not the cyclist’s fault, rather it is the fault of whoever opened the door and the driver of the vehicle. Unfortunately, many passengers who door a cyclist think they’re not and fault and take off. This happens with drivers as well.
This is where it gets a bit complicated. As an independent contractor, the Lyft driver is not an employee, so when driving around not on duty his or her own insurance will pay for any damages. However, when the driver is doing business as a Lyft driver, then Lyft’s insurance will cover it. Doesn’t sound too bad, but legal issues arise trying to figure out when an Lyft driver is “on duty.” Once the passenger gets out, is the driver still on duty?
Generally, it works like this: if the passenger is in the car or has just gotten out, the Lyft driver is on duty and Lyft’s insurance covers the incident. However, if the driver isn’t working on a ride, then the driver’s own insurance will cover.
So what’s the big deal? Either way there’s insurance coverage, right? Many times, it doesn’t matter, but if the damages are significant or there is more than one person involved, then the cap on the driver’s personal insurance might end quickly whereas Lyft has a $1 million policy for every incident.
What Should I do if I get hit by an Lyft Driver?
If you are involved in an accident involving a Lyft driver or any ride-sharing service vehicle, call the attorneys at Bay Area Bicycle Law. Bay Area Bicycle Law is the only personal injury law firm that deals exclusively with bicycle crashes in the San Jose area as well as all of northern California.
Start putting someone on your side, call us at (415) 466 8717 or click here to contact us online. If you still wonder if we’re the right firm for you or even if you need an attorney, read this this for help answering these questions.