How a Fatally Injured Rideshare User’s Family Landed a $6M Judgment Against Lyft from a California Jury
According to statistics published by Forbes, the number of Uber rides exploded from 140 million in 2014 to nearly seven billion in 2019. Lyft is not far behind, possessing roughly 32% of the market share. A safety report that Lyft released last year showed that 105 people died in crashes involving Lyft drivers. What this tells you is that a lot of people have been hurt or died in Uber or Lyft crashes and, in a significant portion of those, the rideshare driver was the one to blame. Although these companies generally try to classify their drivers as "independent contractors" as a way to avoid liability, an injured person may still be able to succeed against the rideshare giants. Achieving success often starts with retaining a knowledgeable California auto accident lawyer.
As noted above, recent Lyft accident
cases have shown that success is possible. One such lawsuit took place right here in northern California.
Lyft Accident Victims
The victims were W.Z., a 22-year-old man from Loomis, and his uncle. Unable to drive due to his Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), W.Z. used rideshare services to get around. In late December 2017, for the trip home from a Sacramento tattoo establishment, he and his uncle hailed a ride using Lyft. Although Loomis was about 30 minutes northeast of the tattoo parlor, the Lyft driver inexplicably traveled northwest on Interstate 5, then north on Highway 99.
Perhaps realizing his error, the driver pulled into the center turn median and then, for unexplained reasons, pulled slowly onto the southbound lanes of 99... and in front of a Toyota 4 Runner moving at freeway speeds. Specifically, the Lyft was going about 16 mph and the Toyota driver was going over 80 mph. (The speed limit in that area was 65 mph.)
The crash seriously injured the Lyft driver, but fatally injured both W.Z. (who died within a half-hour) and his uncle (who died two months later.)
The Fatal Crash
This fatal crash
is a prime example of a case where the completion of the right pre-trial steps was essential. The plaintiffs' legal team discovered that the Lyft driver had only been a licensed California driver for seven months and an authorized Lyft driver for one day. The fatal crash was, in fact, his first Lyft ride. The plaintiffs' pretrial discovery also revealed that Lyft "provided no training of any kind" to its driver, including no "training related to the safe operation of motor vehicles."
In this family's case, a key goal was holding Lyft responsible. The company tried to assert that the blame for the crash fell upon the speeding southbound driver. This is where another successful pretrial step paid dividends, which was the retention of a good expert witness.
An engineer (who served as an accident reconstruction expert) opined that the wreck would have still happened -- and would have been just as damaging -- if the Toyota driver had been going the speed limit (65 mph,) as opposed to 81 mph. That meant that, although the woman was speeding, her speeding was not a proximate cause of the injuries the crash caused.
In the end, that persuaded the jury to award $6 million in damages and to find Lyft and its driver 100% liable for the harm caused.
Contact a San Mateo Car Accident Lawyer
Any auto accident case
is challenging. A case where you have to take on a large entity like Uber or Lyft is especially so. Make sure you are properly protected with skillful legal representation. Count on the knowledgeable San Mateo auto accident attorneys
at Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, LLP to be the diligent and skillful advocate you and your family deserve. To set up a free consultation, contact
us at 650-345-8484
or through our website.