Petrov Law Firm | January 17, 2023 | Uber & Lyft Accidents
All 50 states regulate rideshare operators like Uber and Lyft. California was the first state to pass these laws. In 2013, California issued rules covering transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft. In 2014, the California legislature passed laws to establish the baseline requirements for vehicles and drivers.
These laws addressed a serious problem with rideshare safety. Drivers had been accused of a range of criminal and civil offenses, including negligence in causing Uber and Lyft accidents.
By regulating rideshare companies, California hopes to prevent crimes against rideshare passengers and give accident victims a way to get compensation.
Sources for Vehicle and Driver Requirements
Requirements for vehicles and drivers start with California’s TNC statutes. These laws set the minimum requirements for:
- Tax and wage reporting
But these laws simply set the floor for these aspects of operating a TNC in California. Additional sources for rules come from two sources:
- California’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) passes rules to implement the TNC statutes
- TNCs set company policies that are more restrictive than the laws and rules
The age limits for drivers provide an example of this multi-source rulemaking. California law does not set a minimum age for drivers. However, the PUC requires drivers to be at least 21 years old. Lyft only enrolls drivers who are at least 25 years old.
Driver Requirements for Uber and Lyft in California
California has three safety requirements for drivers:
Criminal Background Check
The TNC or a third party contracted by the TNC must perform a criminal background check. The TNC cannot enroll a driver who:
- Appears on the sex offender registry
- Was convicted of any violent felony, such as murder, assault, rape, robbery, burglary, or terrorism
- Was convicted within the most recent seven years of misdemeanor assault or battery, domestic violence, DUI, or felony identity theft
The law does not allow a TNC to waive these requirements. However, TNCs can impose greater restrictions.
Uber and Lyft do not list the criminal offenses you cannot have to work as a driver. But, at a minimum, they cannot hire any driver that falls into the statutory categories.
Driving History Check
Under California regulations, drivers must:
- Have a valid California driver’s license
- Have at least one year of driving history
- Be at least 21 years old
The regulations do not explicitly require a certain amount of driving experience. But the driving history requirement implies that drivers must have been licensed for at least one year before they are able to apply to the rideshare company.
Drivers must have a relatively clean driving history with:
- No more than three points on their driving record within the most recent three years
- No major violations — including reckless driving, hit and run, or driving on a suspended license — within the most recent three years
- No DUIs within the most recent seven years
Again, Uber and Lyft do not specify what they expect from your driving history to allow you to drive for them. But they must, at a minimum, follow the requirements set out in the PUC’s regulations.
The state requires drivers and rideshare companies to purchase liability insurance to protect both passengers and other road users in the event of an Uber or Lyft accident.
The insurance policies must include:
- $1,000,000 in liability insurance from the time the driver accepts a ride request
- $1,000,000 in uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance from the point at which the passenger enters the vehicle
- $50,000 per person up to $100,000 per accident in liability insurance from the time the driver logs into the app until the driver accepts a ride request
This coverage can be provided by a combination of policies bought by the driver and the TNC.
Additionally, the TNC must buy $200,000 in excess liability insurance beyond the required coverage. These policies ensure compensation for rideshare passengers as well as motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists injured in accidents caused by the rideshare driver.
Vehicle Requirements in California
California statutes do not set out the vehicle requirements for Uber and Lyft. But the PUC issued rules that require all rideshare vehicles to display the TNC’s sticker on the front and rear windows. The vehicles must also undergo a safety inspection at a licensed repair shop.
This inspection must occur before the driver starts using the vehicle to carry rideshare passengers. The driver must have the vehicle re-inspected annually or every 50,000 miles after the first inspection.
The inspection covers:
- Windshield and all windows
- Windshield wipers
- Exterior lights, including headlights, brake lights, and turn signals
The TNC must maintain inspection records for all vehicles used by all drivers for the past three years.
Uber and Lyft follow these requirements and impose an additional rule about the age of the vehicle. For Lyft, drivers must use a vehicle with the model year 2001 or newer. For Uber, the vehicle must be 15 years old or newer.
Effects of Violating Driver and Vehicle Requirements
TNCs that violate the driver and vehicle requirements face a range of consequences.
Civil and Criminal Penalties
The PUC can fine a TNC that violates the rules up to $5,000 per day that the company remains non-compliant. If a driver knowingly violates the rules, prosecutors can charge the driver with a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, a court could fine the driver up to $2,000 and sentence them to up to three months in jail.
When a TNC violates California regulations or laws, it may bear civil liability in a lawsuit above and beyond the driver’s negligence.
For example, suppose that a driver caused an Uber or Lyft accident by driving drunk while carrying passengers. Also, suppose that the rideshare operator enrolled the driver in spite of a history of DUIs.
In this example, the rideshare driver might bear liability for negligent driving, while the rideshare company might bear liability for negligent hiring. The insurance policies would cover the rideshare driver’s liability. But if a victim hit the policy limits, the rideshare company could get hit for any additional losses due to their non-compliant hiring.
Using the Vehicle and Driver Requirements in an Injury Case
The rideshare regulations keep passengers and other road users safe. But they also provide a path for imposing liability on the rideshare operator to cover any uncompensated expenses. As a result, these requirements provide extra assurance that you will receive full injury compensation.
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