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Personal Injury Blog

4 Ways to be Safe when Using Uber & Lyft Rideshare Companies

Thursday, December 12, 2019

It sounds like a great idea. Use your smartphone, wherever you may be, and get a ride to wherever you want to go. But many individuals have concluded that "all that glitters is not gold." What started as a fresh idea for getting a ride when you need it, has now gone sour for many.  The "ease factor" is excellent. The downsides can be downright dangerous.

1. Be Extra-Safe when you Drive

In Seattle, 90,000 Uber or Lyft rides a day take place, which is more than the number of people that are transported by Seattle's light rail system. At the University of California Los Angeles, 11,000 Uber or Lyft trips occur within the boundaries of the university's boundaries. Walking seems no longer in fashion.

Of the cities with the highest Uber, Lyft, and rideshare users, driving has risen approximately 3 percent compared to cities that have a lower rate of Uber and Lyft usage. The overall effect is that more vehicles are on the roads that have too many vehicles already. Over-crowded streets set the perfect scene for accidents. This fact means when you are driving your personally-owned car, you must remain aware, cautious, and sensible.

2. Be Cognizant that Uber and Lyft Drivers may be Stressed or Anxious

Edward Escobar, a Denver Lyft and Uber driver, is the founder of the Alliance for Independent Workers. Escobar noted, in an interview this year, that:

The ride-hailing companies "are squeezing drivers into poverty, despair, suicide," Escobar said, pointing to a reported suicide by a Lyft driver in New York City last week, the ninth known suicide of a taxi or ride-hailing driver there since 2017.

Drivers are disturbed by the manner and amount they receive as payment. Escobar says he is making 80 percent less than he made last year.

Stressed drivers can make for bad drivers. If the driver of a vehicle is distracted or having anxiety-based difficulties, it is best to exit the car quickly.

3. Know that Not all Uber and Lyft Drivers are Who they Say they Are

In 2019, Samantha Josephson, a 21-year-old South Carolina student, was kidnapped and killed by a man impersonating an Uber driver. In the past, there have been up to two dozen such attacks. This type of crime includes driver suspects who have attacked multiple women. In Connecticut, Chicago, South Carolina, and other cities, these rare, but nightmarish crimes have occurred. From this particularly heinous crime comes a measure of hope. South Carolina has proposed a law that would require all Uber, rideshare, or Lyft drivers to display a lighted sign from their company.

The University of South Carolina started a new safety campaign that urges riders to ask the driver, "What is my name?" The valid driver will know his party's name due to his or her electronic mail sent to hail the driver.

4. Bring Your Car Seat

If an infant or toddler is riding with you, you must ensure the young one has a proper car seat for his or her age. It is not the driver's responsibility to have this equipment. Along with that, Lyft and Uber require that a parent accompanies children under the age of 18.  Drivers can get in trouble for allowing children to ride with no accompaniment. Parents need to be vigilant and never let a child call a Lyft or an Uber on his or her own.

Uber, Lyft, and Rideshare Safety

Here at Freeman and Freeman, we are delighted when accidents do not take place and our community remains safe. But call us if you need help with any issues that may arise due to the negligence of Uber, Lyft, or other rideshare business. Contact us at our Los Angeles offices today.


What to Do If You're Involved in a Boating Accident

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Boating accidents can be as minor as little fender-scuffs or they can be devastating vessel-sinking collisions that put every passenger in harm's way. It all depends on the relative speeds and point of impact for both boats. Experiencing a boat accident can be surprising, devastating, and even tragic. But when one happens, the best thing you can do is know how to respond quickly and correctly.

Someone will need to keep their head in order to handle the situation and help others involved to deal with the disaster. If you are well enough to make decisions after a boat accident, it can help to know exactly the right steps to take. Let's dive into the correct process for dealing with a boating accident both ethically and legally.

Rescue Everyone from the Water

According to the US coast guard, over 70% of boating accident fatalities are caused by drowning. If not rescued quickly, they may not have the strength, ability, or wherewithal to stay above water. The accident could become an even greater tragedy if someone was lost during the post-accident chaos.

This is why the first priority in any boating accident is to get everyone out of the water. If either vessel is still afloat, they must render aid to all survivors. Do your best to get everyone in life jackets or hanging onto a sturdily floating piece of debris. Do a headcount immediately to ensure that everyone has been found and rescued from drowning. Remember to include boat staff in your count as well.

Move the Vessels to Safety

In many boating accidents, the collision occurred in an aquatic thoroughfare where water vehicles pass frequently at high speeds. Just like pulling off the highway in a car, you will need to get your vessels out of the direct path of boat traffic. It's best if the damaged vessels can dock to move on to the next steps. But floating in a low-traffic section of the water is often as much as damaged boats can manage.

Seek Medical Attention for All Involved

Every single person who was involved should go see their doctor and get inspected for signs of long-term damage. Injuries can appear overtime after an experience like the body-displacing whiplash caused by a boating accident. 

For anyone overtly injured, call 911 and ask them to meet you at whatever dock you tied up after the accident. Then, for everyone who feels alright, be sure to visit the doctor and have a few tests in the week following the accident. 

Do Not Apologize

No matter how rattled you feel or whether you think the accident might be your fault -- Do Not Apologize. Saying a sympathetic "I'm so sorry" can be legally construed as accepting fault in the accident which can hurt your chances of a fair insurance claim. No one who has received legal advice will make the mistake of accidentally accepting blame. Keep yourself out of trouble by watching what you say carefully. Help everyone get medical attention, but do not apologize for the accident.

Trade Operator and Insurance Information

Liability is also an immediate concern. Each party should trade the names of their boat operators and their insurance data so the other can make a claim. The drivers will also be held liable but each case will determine whether the fault lies with a boat operator or the company that employs them.

Make sure to give your operator's card and insurance information to the other boaters and get theirs in return.

Get Contact Info from Witnesses

Witnesses are incredibly useful in describing what they saw and determining who is truly at fault. If there were any witnesses of the accident, especially those that stuck around during the medical assistance, they should not be reached out to. Collect their names and contact info to get started and worry about using them as reference witnesses later.

In the meantime, just be friendly. Locals and vacationers who witness a boating accident are usually not shy about sharing what they saw from their perspective.

Take Photographs

Photographs tend to be quite powerful in both insurance and civil court cases. Photographs taken immediately after the accident can also serve as proof and a confirmation of what happened after the evidence and gone and wounds have started to heal. 

Report the Accident to Authorities

If anyone or any bot got seriously hurt, you'll need to report the boat accident to the coast guard. You may also need to make a report to local authorities. You will need to submit a Recreational Boating Accident Report form if anyone was injured, killed, if a boat was lost, or if property damage equals $2,000 in value or more.

Consult a Boating Accident Lawyer

Once you have taken care of your duties to yourself and others to begin post-accident recovery, it's time to reach out to a boating accident lawyer. If there are no great disputes, then a lawyer can help you get a fair assessment from the insurance companies who may be hesitant to pay your fair share. And if the accident was pointedly caused by another, a lawyer can help you build a strong civil case. Whether you're filing an insurance claim or a lawsuit after your boating accident, the Freeman & Freeman team can help you. Contact us today for a consultation on your post-boating-accident needs.


When Should You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Thursday, November 28, 2019

When someone you love dies, it can be challenging to see the next steps forward. If the death was a freak accident or caused by something other than personal recklessness, you are probably wondering if there is any way in the world to make things right. Do you go to the police, or have the police already been and gone? Do you file a complaint? Can you file a civil lawsuit against the cause of your loved one's death if the legal system won't prosecute?

Today, we're here to answer that question. For anyone wondering if they can or should file a wrongful death suit in response to the death of their loved one, the criteria are fairly clear. Follow along with us as we explore the basics of wrongful death and you will find the answer to whether a wrongful death suit is right for your situation.

What is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is the legal term for a death that should not have occurred. A death that, if everyone was doing their jobs and being responsible, would not have occurred. In other words, it's a death for which blame lies somewhere. And that blame can be applied legally, if not criminally. The police will only open a criminal trial if the death was caused by blatant criminal action - like intentional murder or drunk driving. For all other types of incidental but not faultless deaths, the victims are responsible for taking the case to civil court to find justice.

Therefore, a wrongful death suit is the pursuit of justice. Holding the party responsible for the death accountable, even if their actions were not officially criminal. The result is almost always a money award to the surviving family members to help ease the pain and financial suffering of the loss of the deceased.

Determining Liability After a Death

The next question is one of liability. Liability means "legal responsibility" and is how the law determines if someone's death was just an accident or if someone else was legally responsible in a way that could have prevented the death. Here's a quick run-down of the most common forms of wrongful death liability.

Death Caused by Another's Actions

If someone else did something that caused the death, but their action wasn't criminal, then you may be able to sue them based on personal liability. A distracted driver pulled into the intersection while texting and hit the deceased. A motorboat cuts off a jet-ski in violation of the marina rules, a commuter opens their parked car door and 'doors' a cyclist, killing them. These are examples of personal liability where the defendant will be held accountable for absent-minded, irresponsible, or reckless behavior that caused the death.

Death Caused by Unsafe Property

A property owner is liable for injuries and deaths that occur on their property, to varying degrees of responsibility. The primary form of property-based negligence is if the property was somehow unsafe for it's intended use. An un-salted parking lot where someone slips and cracks their head. An unsafely stacked pile of merchandise that falls and crushes someone. Or a cracked unrepaired step that causes someones' foot to slip as the step down the stairs. These are all examples where property owners have created a potentially deadly situation through negligence.

Death Caused by Negligence of Responsibility

Another form of negligence liability is one where death is caused by the failure of responsibility. A four-wheeler rental that fails to inform customers on the safe use of the vehicle, a driving instructor who does not take an ailing student back up to the surface, or a daycare worker who failed to keep an eye on the children.

Death Caused by Breach of Contract

Then there are situations where the deceased had every reason to believe the liable party would ensure their safety through a contractual agreement. They may have needed certain safety equipment installed before a stunt, equipment that was not installed by the time of the event, for example.

Death on the Job

Then there's death that occurs on the job. In some states, your family may be eligible for death benefits through worker's comp. But these top out, don't pay emotional damages and close the door on suing the employer for harm-causing decisions. Instead, you may want to file a wrongful death suit where you could have a strong case that the employer was responsible for the circumstances of your loved' one's death.

Close Family Member Eligibility

Finally, there's the question of who can file a wrongful death suit. Most people don't know this, but only very close relatives can file the suit and be the recipient of any monetary rewards. The first tier is the surviving spouse or children. If they decline or are unavailable to file, parents may file. If they decline, siblings may file. And if they decline, domestic partners and more distant relatives may file. But the right to file goes in that order. 

If you are a friend and want to file on behalf of distant relatives, that is also a legal responsibility. But you will not be awarded the damages, those go to the family.

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Should you file a wrongful death suit? Here at Freeman & Freeman, we believe in finding justice for deaths that the criminal court can't address. If the case of your dead loved one is within these circumstances, then filing a wrongful death is the best way to get that justice. For more information, contact us today!


Will the Rideshare Million-Dollar Insurance Policy Cover My Uber or Lyft Accident?

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Much has been said about the one-million-dollar insurance policies carried by the leading rideshare companies of Uber and Lyft. These million-dollar policies are extended to protect every vehicle working on the clock for these ridesharing giants and the insurance coverage is even mandatory in several states. While a million-dollar policy sounds pretty extravagant, it's also absolutely necessary.

The insurance policy is how ridesharing brands take responsibility for their driver's actions, attention, and even intoxication. If a driver is on the clock, they and anyone who might be injured in a wreck with them is covered by the policy. Of course, there are also some pretty strict rules. Today, we're here to highlight just what the million-dollar policy covers in a real-world context. As an experienced rideshare attorney's office, we're here to help.

 

When is the Million-Dollar Rideshare Insurance Policy Active?

The Moment a Driver Accepts the Assignment

The million-dollar insurance policy is not covering all Uber or Lyft drivers all the time. Rather, it only covers drivers when they are officially on the job. Hanging around waiting for jobs does not count. This means that there is a specific moment when the insurance policy does become active. That moment is when the driver accepts the assignment to pick someone up. If they are hit or if they hit someone on the way to the pick-up, that incident is covered. And if an accident occurs involving the rideshare vehicle while ferrying the client, the damages to all will potentially be covered.

 

Who Does The Insurance Policy Cover?

The Passengers, and Any Additional Injured Parties, and Sometimes the Driver

Uber and Lyft's main goals with the insurance policy are to cover liability and damages for passengers and anyone who might be damaged by their drivers. This means that once your trip is accepted and you are on the policy, you are covered, Other drivers on the road are also covered if the accident is deemed the Uber driver's fault. An Uber or Lyft driver may make a claim on the company policy, but first, their claim has to be rejected by their personal policy with rideshare commercial endorsement.

So again: If you are a rideshare passenger or if you are in another vehicle hit by a rideshare driver, then the Uber or Lyft policies will cover injuries and damages if a strong claim is made. Drivers, however, must jump through hoops to have their injuries or vehicle damages covered by the policy.

 

My Uber/Lyft Got Into an Accident. Am I Covered by Their Insurance Policy?

Yes, Most Likely

You may be wondering what happens if you sign up for an Uber or Lyft ride, climb into the backseat, and then the vehicle experiences an accident. Are you covered? As mentioned above, the answer is most likely, yes. You are covered by the million-dollar insurance policy and able to make a claim against the rideshare company's insurance rather than against the driver themselves. You may have no problem with your driver and, in fact, it might not even be their fault.

 

My Uber/Lyft Driver was Not At Fault. Can I Still Claim my Injuries on the Million-Dollar Insurance Policy?

Yes, They Have Under-insured and Un-insured driver coverage.

Speaking of it not being the driver's fault, there are plenty of instances where a rideshare vehicle is severely damaged in a crash, not of their own doing. They may fail to slow down too fast or get slammed into by another vehicle.

If you have been injured in a rideshare accident where the injuries were not the fault of your driver, can you still make a serious claim against the insurance? Yes. You can and should. The rideshare million-dollar policy includes coverage for uninsured and overinsured drivers so that passengers can get the settlements they need even when the drivers at fault cannot pay.

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Have you been injured in a rideshare accident, or do you know someone who has? If so, contact our office today. We would be proud to help you tackle the complex process of making your rightful claim on that million-dollar insurance policy in order to get the treatment and damages payments you deserve.


The 7 Safety Tips for Riding Alone with Uber or Lyft

Thursday, November 14, 2019

When using a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft, it's important to take a few necessary safety precautions, and not just to be safe in case of a car accident. Uber accidents can happen to anyone, and with a responsible rideshare driver, you are at just as much risk as driving yourself. But some of the most horrifying Uber and Lyft related disasters are what happens when a rider travels alone without taking precautions to keep themself safe from the driver themselves. Riders have been picked up by the wrong car and kidnapped or attacked by their registered Uber or Lyft drivers in extreme circumstances.

Men and women, young and old, riding alone means you should show the same kind of caution as accepting a ride home from a friend-of-a-friend who you don't know personally. Some things are just common sense, but there's also a procedure you can go through specifically for Uber and Lyft to make sure you are as safe as possible. 

 

Step 1: Text a Friend

Between ordering your ride and your driver arriving, text a friend. Text three friends if you're not sure your best friend is awake or checking their phone. Let them know that you're getting an Uber and how long to wait before expecting to hear from you again. This is sort of like the safe-date policy. If your friend doesn't hear that you've arrived safely in a reasonable amount of time, they'll know to alert the authorities.

This is a smart safety step just in case you run into a personal problem with the driver or your Uber car gets into an accident and you are unable to send your second text.

 

Step 2: Check the License Plate

When a car arrives that you think is your Uber, don't just get in. Your Uber order will tell you the license plate of the car you're expecting. Only get into a car with the exact same license plates. If the driver says they're using another car that day, cancel the ride and call a new one with matching plates.

 

Step 3: Check the Driver

Next, check the photo and name of the driver. Look at the driver and make sure it appears to be the same person. Then ask the driver's name. Do not say "Are you Steven?", ask their name. If they say the correct name and have the correct appearance, get in. If not, cancel the ride and order another.

 

Step 4: Get into the Backseat & Buckle Up

Don't get into the front seat. A surprising number of passengers have been assaulted by sitting too close to the driver. We advise riders alone get into the back passenger-side seat so that you are the furthest from the driver and secure in a real buckling seat. Then buckle up. The seatbelt will keep you safe in the event of an accident.

 

Step 5: Say You Are Expected at Your Destination

Don't share your personal information with the driver. Do tell the driver that someone is waiting for you at your destination. Even if you're going home to an empty house, being expected will make it less likely for a driver to be tempted to attack or kidnap you. It sounds dramatic, but it happens more often than anyone would care to admit.

 

Step 6: Share Your Trip with the Same Friend

In your app, there is an option to share your trip with a friend. Share. It doesn't matter with who, as long as they are awake and care about your safety. They can see your trip, your driver, and your ETA (estimated time of arrival) without downloading the app. This gives you an extra line of defense and makes being expected digitally real.

 

Step 7: Keep Your Phone Ready to Call 911

Finally, keep your phone in your hand and on the dial page. Be ready to call 911 at any moment. Whether you are in an accident or if the driver gives you a reason to be afraid, being ready to call 911 will ensure that the police will be on their way ASAP. If you start to get a bad feeling, quietly dial 911 and keep your thumb over the call button. 

 

 

Rideshare accidents happen, both car wrecks and disasters between drivers and riders. If you have been in an Uber or Lyft accident, whether or not it is related to a driver attacking you, please contact us today.



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From our offices in Woodland Hills, California, Freeman & Freeman, LLP, provides legal advice and representation for clients in communities throughout the state, including those in Burbank, Glendale, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, Tarzana, Santa Clarita, Agoura Hills, Reseda, Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Northridge, Granada Hills, Pacoima, Panorama City, North Hollywood, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Lancaster, Palmdale and Alhambra.