Six people were injured in a Hollywood crash on New Year’s Day when a suspected drunk driver barreled through a stop sign and struck an Uber. While no one was killed in the crash, at least three of the victims were reported to have sustained critical injuries.
The drunk driver, who attempted to run away from the scene of the crash, was apprehended by good samaritans and later arrested by police. The drunk driver will likely face both criminal and civil penalties for his conduct.
Criminal and Civil Charges After a DUI
The drunk driver in this case will face criminal DUI charges for his behavior. In addition to criminal charges, he will likely also be on the hook for the damages suffered by the accident victims. It is possible that the outcome of his criminal case will have a bearing on the civil charges against him. If he pleads guilty or is convicted of driving under the influence, the accident victims can use this as evidence in their civil claims.
Most personal injury claims are based on the assertion that one person’s negligence resulted in another person’s injury. In this case, the victims can use the fact that the man broke the law by driving drunk to establish that he was negligent per se. In California, a driver will be considered to be negligent per se when:
- He violates the law; and
- This violation was a substantial factor in causing the harm suffered by the victim(s).
Laws prohibiting drunk driving are intended to prevent accidents like this from happening. By driving drunk, the man’s behavior was a substantial factor in causing the victims’ injuries.
Injured As an Uber Passenger
Among the victims who suffered injuries in this Hollywood accident were Uber passengers and the Uber driver. What happens when passengers in a ridesharing service are injured in a car accident? Are they limited to seeking compensation from the drunk driver, or can they hold Uber responsible for their damages?
In California, ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft are legally required to carry insurance to cover passengers in the event of an accident. However, these companies will generally try to do everything in their power to limit the amounts they pay out to injured passengers. The primary tactic these companies will use to minimizing payouts is pushing liability onto the driver or a third party.
Here, Uber will probably not have any difficulty establishing that the drunk driver is entirely at fault for this accident. The reports indicate that the drunk driver blatantly ran a stop sign and broadsided the Uber. In order to protect themselves further, they may even try to push some responsibility onto the Uber driver himself. The passengers will only be able to recover compensation from Uber if they can prove that the Uber driver was partly to blame for the accident.
Can the Uber Driver Collect Workers’ Compensation?
In California, employers are required to have a workers’ compensation insurance policy. This policy is basically held to pay for the costs associated with work-related injuries that employees suffer on the job.
Since the Uber driver was injured while actively engaged in his capacity as a rideshare driver, can he collect workers’ compensation benefits? Can Uber be held responsible for the damages he has suffered because of the drunk driving accident? Until the law changes or becomes more clear in California, the answer is probably “no.”
There have been a lot of arguments across the country about whether Uber drivers should be classified as employees or independent contractors. Employers are only required to maintain and pay workers’ compensation benefits for employees of the company. Independent contractors are on their own and not covered by the insurance policy.
In California, Uber has fought tooth and nail to make sure that its drivers are classified as independent contractors. As a result, the drivers have next-to-no financial protection if they are injured while transporting a passenger.
In most cases, these drivers will be limited to collecting compensation from their own personal insurance policies or from at-fault third party drivers. In the New Year’s Day Hollywood DUI crash, the Uber driver will likely be most successful if he pursues compensation from the drunk driver.