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Ridesharing Accidents - The Pros and Cons and Everything You Need to Know

Friday, January 22, 2021

Pros and Cons of Ridesharing

Everybody knows that Los Angeles is a city built around cars, with freeways and multi-lane highways taking us wherever we need to be. There are so many cars, but not a lot of places to park. Ridesharing has become a cottage industry in recent years that many of us not only find to be a major convenience but have also come to rely on. Typically in years past, mass transit and taxi services were what we relied on when it came to getting from place to place, especially if you didn't have your own vehicle. Not all cities have the resources to accommodate a taxi or reliable mass transit, and timetables and schedules can be confusing. Taxis are also notoriously expensive and not always available depending on the size of your city.

When rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft came around, it opened up all sorts of possibilities. Not only did it mean that you could call for a ride in just about any city where rideshare apps were active, but just about anyone with a vehicle and a clean motor vehicle record could run their own business from their own car. Risks also come with convenience and opportunity, and ridesharing is no different. Bus drivers, taxi drivers, and other licensed chauffeurs undergo background checks, training, and have to meet the requirements necessary to be professional drivers.  

Rideshare drivers don't have these sorts of requirements. They are mainly required to have a safe, properly working vehicle, a valid driver's license, and they are insured by the company they are driving for. Often, rideshare drivers drive for multiple rideshare services. Other than a bright sign in their window, it isn't much different than calling up someone you know to drive you across town.

Injuries

Vehicle accidents are common, and when you are trusting a stranger with your safety and well-being, that is a very large leap when it comes to trust. Without training or sufficient vetting, you don't know your driver's skill level until you are on the road. There have been quite a few reports of rideshare drivers being erratic or dangerous on the roads. A driver's rating won't always reflect that, especially if their rating of the passenger could be retaliatory. Oftentimes a poor rating goes unreported, leaving you to take a chance with whoever pulls up.

Some vehicles have higher safety standards than others, which is why taxi companies and car/limo services invest in specific models that are built to withstand an impact. Their safety devices such as airbags and seatbelts are also routinely inspected, which is much more than can be said of a lot of rideshare vehicles. 

With a stranger's car, you might also be injured in other ways that aren't just vehicle impacts. Broken glass, sharp pieces of metal, or debris left in the seats can also cause harm. Biohazards such as bodily fluids or other hazards might also go unnoticed or are not properly cleaned, which could make passengers very sick. For that, a driver should also be held liable, but this is not always the case when it comes to the insurance the rideshare services supply.

Injuries to pedestrians, bicycle riders, and other drivers have happened and are often due to the negligence of a badly prepared driver. Though you might not have been injured directly, witnessing an accident of this kind could be very traumatic.  

Insurance 

Most rideshare services provide insurance for their drivers, but there are some limitations to this. Many rideshare services offer insurance on a tiered scale. Depending on how much investment the driver has in the rideshare service determines how much insurance they carry on their vehicle.

Most rideshares, such as Lyft or Uber, provide full coverage insurance for the vehicle, which will cover collision as well as limited liability to medical bills/emergency services for passengers and/or anyone who has been hurt by the vehicle in an accident. This is usually only activated while the app is in service. Just like a cab driver or a limo chauffeur, they are only "hired" when you have sat down in their vehicle and travel is being tracked by the app.

Any time before or after actually riding in their vehicle is covered only by additional insurance they have purchased themselves or through the rideshare service. This leaves you vulnerable to no coverage or being under-covered by insurance if you are injured. Through the tiers of the insurance coverage, a driver might consider a lower level of insurance as to not cut into their profit margin. Remember that you are only covered by the rideshare's insurance while you are actively hiring the driver. As for potential drivers, you are only covered by that insurance while you are driving, not while you are on your way to pick up a fare or on your way home.

This could pose a major problem if for some reason the app malfunctions or the driver simply forgets to start the clock on the app. Be sure to check your own device to see if the ride is being properly recorded.

Contact us

If you have been injured in an accident while using a rideshare app in the Los Angeles area, you need the support of an expert Uber accident attorney or Lyft accident or rideshare accident attorney to protect your rights. The law is a tricky landscape to navigate, and going about it on your own can be confusing, frustrating, and even limit your ability to successfully argue a case. 

Contact us today and let us help you.


Can a Police Report For an Auto Accident Be Changed?

Monday, November 23, 2020

If you have been in an auto accidents, one of your first steps after making sure everyone is okay is to contact the police and inform them of the accident. This isn't to make an arrest for some sort of illegality, but rather so the police can examine the accident scene and make and official report about it. The police report can be crucial in making an accident claim and getting the compensation that you deserve. It is a trusted and irrefutable document that details the events as they happened.

Unfortunately, an accident can often be chaos. You are disoriented from the event and may not be thinking clearly, struggling to recall events that happened even an hour ago. It may be the same for the other party as well. Finally, even witnesses to the event may not have seen it properly enough to know how it went down. This can lead to errors in the police report as the officer looks at the scene as a neutral party and pieces together how the accident went down based on the evidence presented and the accounts. Yet, as a trusted official document, it can be difficult to change what is in the police report, but not impossible.

Can You Ask an Officer to Modify a Police Report

If a police report was easily changed, it would not be such a trusted official document of an accident. However, if you got a copy of a police report for your case and notice there are errors, you can request a correction. In fact, it is best you request this as soon as possible. One of your biggest enemies in any action you take during an auto accident case is time. It can lead to further mistrust in your memory of events.

Who Should Contact the Police Officer to Modify the Report?

If you notice errors in your police report, it is best to leave contacting the officer for a modification to your personal injury lawyer. Your attorney represents your interests and it looks more official to the police officer in question. Furthermore, personal injury attorneys know what evidence needs to be presented to force them to modify the report. As they say, presented facts don't lie. Even if the evidence isn't particularly rock-solid, your lawyer can often make it seem more persuasive.

What Evidence is Needed to Change the Police Report?

If your lawyer is still in the process of contacting the police officer, you can and should be proactive in gathering the evidence that you need. Depending on the error, your lawyer may task you with finding specific documents or evidence in your case, but it typically includes:

  • Video of the accident or accident scene

  • Medical records that prove a contradiction in the police report

  • New witness statements

  • Any necessary documentation that was missing

  • Timelines of the accident that do not fit the official report

You will want to make sure that these pieces of evidence are as official as possible. This also means limited tampering, such as cropping images or altering video to only show the applicable moments. Any amount of tampering with it can call it into question and may hurt your request.

Need Help?

The potential need to change the police report as it is written is only just one potentially problematic piece of your auto accident case. If you have been in a serious accident and need help, contact us today. The Law Office of Freeman & Freeman can help you get the compensation that you deserve to make sure your medical bills and other damages are covered.

New Cyclist in Los Angeles? Safety Tips and Accident Advice

Thursday, October 29, 2020

If you're one of the many Los Angeles residents who are turning to your bike to get around during the pandemic, you're not alone. While all methods of transportation declined this past spring as many people began staying home, Los Angeles' bike share program reported a much smaller decline than other transportation options, including cars and buses. It makes sense that as riding on a crowded bus became less safe, essential workers and others who still needed to get out and about might choose to ride a bicycle instead.  

Bike riding has many benefits, like increasing your physical activity and reducing your carbon footprint. The weather in Los Angeles is usually perfect for a bike commute, and you can save money on gas or transit costs. And of course, during the pandemic, biking is a great way to maintain social distancing. However, Los Angeles isn't the most bike-friendly city and as a new cyclist, you may be worried about your safety.  

Specific challenges include: 
  • Lack of bike lanes: bike lanes in Los Angeles are sparse and not connected, leaving few safe routes through the city 
  • Aggressive driving: driver behavior toward bike riders in Los Angeles is often dangerous 
  • Road hazards are widespread, from potholes to uneven surfaces 
Here are a few of the most important safety tips, as well as our advice on what to do in the unfortunate case of a bike accident

Use Bike Lanes (With Caution)

Los Angeles does have some bike lanes, though not as many as other, more bike-friendly cities like New York City or Amsterdam. When planning your route, check for streets that have a bike lane. Be aware, though, that bike lanes don't guarantee your safety, and some aren't very well-designed, leaving you essentially biking among heavy traffic. Use your best judgment to evaluate whether a street is safe, and stay alert even when you're in a bike lane. 

Follow the Rules of the Road

As a cyclist, you have responsibilities on the road, just like drivers do. Bike riders in Los Angeles must: 
  • Stay to the right of the road or in the bike lane (if there is one) 
  • Ride a bike equipped with brakes, lights, and reflectors 
  • Avoid riding on sidewalks 
  • Ride in the direction of traffic
Other ways to stay safe include wearing a helmet, using hand signals, avoiding distractions, and paying close attention to cars and potential road hazards.   

What About Bike Accidents?

No matter how safely you ride, bike accidents are always a risk. Whether due to bicycle manufacturing defects, automobile drivers, or road hazards, a bike accident can cause injuries, damage to your bike, and lost income. If you do get into a bike accident, know your rights. A qualified bicycle accident lawyer can help you get compensation for your injuries. Many cyclists don't seek or get the full compensation they're entitled to after an accident--don't let that happen to you. Record all possible details of your accident and contact an attorney as soon as you can. 
While it might seem daunting to bike on the streets of Los Angeles, don't despair: the benefits of biking have been shown to outweigh the risks. With some precautions, you can enjoy the health and environmental benefits of bicycling, and make use of a great alternative way to get to work and other activities. 
If you've been in a bicycle accident in Los Angeles, contact us today to learn about how our bicycle accident lawyers can help you.

Los Angeles Bicycle Ridership Increases Due to COVID-19: What Does That Mean for You?

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Thanks to COVID-19, more people than ever are riding their bicycles through Los Angeles to get to work and school or to enjoy leisure activities. Riding a bicycle is a great solitary activity that allows you to get in some much-needed exercise and see more of Los Angeles. Not only that, bus use is down throughout the Los Angeles area as people try to avoid high-traffic areas and close quarters.  If you've chosen to ride your bicycle to help reduce potential COVID-19 exposure or to enjoy a little exercise during this unprecedented period, it offers a number of advantages. 

You may find that using your bicycle allows you to:
  • Get in more exercise--a great answer to gym closures or avoiding the gym due to COVID-19
  • Get to your destination faster than walking
  • Improve your familiarity with the city and everything it has to offer through a rolling tour
At the same time, if you're using your bicycle during this time, there are several things you need to know. 
As more people ride their bicycles, bicycle accidents increase.
In part, accidents increase because there are simply more people riding their bikes and, with more people riding, accident risk increases substantially. Accident risk can also increase as bicycles become a more familiar sight on Los Angeles streets. Drivers may not yield as readily, or they might not take into consideration the needs of the cyclists around them, especially if they have been slowed down by bicycles as they hurry to work. 
You must also follow the rules of the road.
Just as drivers have specific rules that they must follow on the road, bicyclists must also follow those rules. You should not ride on sidewalks and other walking areas, but should ride in bike lanes when available. You should also follow traffic signals, yield to oncoming traffic, and follow any posted signs and limitations. 
Be aware at all times.
As a bicycle rider, you have little protection from the ground, the cars around you, and any obstacles in your way. Wearing a helmet can significantly decrease TBI risk, but it does not eliminate it entirely, nor does it protect the rest of your body from injury. You are also smaller than the large vehicles driving around you. Many drivers fail to notice the presence of bicycle riders in their lanes because bicycles do not fit the pattern they look for: instead of a large vehicle, you have a much smaller profile and travel at a different rate of speed. Some drivers may find you hard to spot. As a result, you must remain aware of your surroundings at all times and take steps to protect yourself as needed. 
Know what to do if you have an accident.
Many people are using their bicycles, not just for leisure or exercise, but to get to work and school: important destinations they need to reach in a timely manner. Nevertheless, you must take the right steps if you have an accident, even a minor accident. You should:
  • Report the accident and wait for the police to arrive, even if you believe you did not suffer serious injury. 
  • Collect insurance information for the other driver.
  • Seek medical attention, even if you believe you did not suffer serious injury.
A full evaluation from a medical professional can help ensure that you did not miss an injury that could cause serious problems later and serve as valuable evidence if you need to file a personal injury claim. 
Did You Suffer Injuries in a Bicycle Accident in Los Angeles?
If you suffered injuries in a Los Angeles bicycle accident, contact Freeman & Freeman today to learn more about your legal rights and how we can help you seek compensation for your injuries. 

Uber Backup Driver Charged in Fatal Autonomous Vehicle Crash

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

On August 27, 2018, the first self-driving vehicle fatality occurred in Tempe, Arizona. More than two years later, Rafaela Vasquez, the backup Uber driver who was monitoring the autonomous vehicle at the time of the crash, has been charged with negligent homicide. She is accused of being distracted and failing to monitor the safety of the Uber vehicle, resulting in the death of Elaine Herzberg, 49, of Phoenix, AZ. 

Uber driver claims she didn't use cell phone

Uber backup driver Vasquez, 46, pleaded not guilty at a September 15, 2020 hearing. She told investigators that she was not using her cell phone before the crash. However, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, she was watching "The Voice" on her cell phone at the moment of the accident and failed to monitor the road. As a result, the autonomous Uber SUV struck and killed Hertzberg.

The National Transportation Safety Board also cited several contributing factors to the crash. These included:

  • Uber's inadequate safety procedures
  • Uber's ineffective driver oversight
  • The victim being outside the crosswalk
  • The Arizona Department of Transportation's lack of oversight of autonomous vehicles and testing

In addition, the NTSB said Uber's decision to deactivate it's automatic emergency braking system and instead rely on human backup drivers was a contributing factor to the accident. 

Details of the Uber vehicle accident

Uber's system did detect Herzberg 5.6 seconds before she was struck. However, it did not determine if she was a pedestrian, bicyclist, or unknown object. It also did not detect that she was headed into the vehicle's path.

According to court records, Vasquez has a criminal history, having spent four years in prison. This was for making false statements to obtain unemployment benefits, and attempted armed robbery, both felony convictions.  According to a toxicology report, Herzberg had methamphetamine in her system. 

Uber was not criminally charged

In March of 2019, prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against the Uber rideshare corporation in the matter of Herzberg's death. This decision was made by Yavapai County attorney Sheila Polk. The prosecutor's office in Phoenix declined to be involved with the case, citing a possible conflict of interest. He had previously been involved in an Uber public safety campaign. 

After the decision was made to not criminally charge the Uber corporation, the case was returned to the Phoenix prosecutors office, since the lack of a charge eliminated the potential for conflict of interest. 

Autonomous Uber vehicles pulled after fatal crash

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has prohibited Uber from continuing their tests after the SUV ran over Herzberg.  Uber removed its self-driving cars from Arizona the day before the NTSB issued its first report on the accident. This eliminated about 300 jobs in Arizona for Uber backup drivers and others in the autonomous vehicle testing program. 

A trial when Vasquez will face the charges of negligent homicide is scheduled for Feb. 11, 2021.

Self-driving vehicle research and testing goes on

Although the fatality had a big impact on the auto and rideshare industries, autonomous vehicle research and development by Uber and Lyft continues. In Palo Alto, California, Lyft has a development lab for self-driving cars staffed with over 400 engineers.  Instead of developing a self-driving car from the ground up, it is developing systems to add to existing vehicles to act as the "brains". 

As of the end of 2019, Lyft has added these systems to Ford Fusions and Chrysler Pacificas. It has special permission from Palo Alto to test these autonomous vehicles, with human safety drivers in the cars, in a very limited area. 

For details on what to do if you're involved in a rideshare accident or injury, contact us here


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