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Personal Injury Blog

Injured Rideshare Drivers: Who Is Responsible?

Monday, June 22, 2020

Injured Rideshare Drivers: Who Is Responsible?

Americans are increasingly relying on drivers for rideshare companies like Uber or Lyft to get them to their destination. While these drivers serve an important function, they also put themselves at high risk of injury. In 2018, there were over 3,000 fatalities due to motor vehicle crashes in California.

The results of a rideshare accident can be devastating to the driver. Injuries will mean lost wages, and damage to a vehicle could take away their only means of providing support for themselves or family. Rideshare drivers need to understand their rights for recovery if they are injured while driving for a company like Uber or Lyft.

Determining Fault

When there is a car accident, a party is considered at fault if they acted negligently in a way that caused injury to another person or property. Common actions that can lead to a finding of fault include any violation of a traffic ordinance, such as speeding or running a red light. If a driver received a traffic citation from the police, this is compelling evidence that they acted negligently.

Insurance companies will also use fault as a basis for determining which driver's insurance should pay any claims. In order to limit coverage obligations, insurance companies are strongly incentivized to demonstrate that their insured was not at fault.

To make sure you can establish a strong case against the other party, be sure to secure a police report, document the scene of the accident, and secure contact information for any witnesses.

Seeking Recovery

Rideshare drivers face a complicated web or responsibility when determining how to recover for their injuries after an accident. While the driver might feel that they are employed by Uber or Lyft, they will considered an independent contractor.

Independent Contractors

Whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor is a determination made by analyzing the relationship between the individual and the company for which they are providing services. The following factors indicate that an individual is an independent contractor rather than an employee:

  • They control the work that is performed and how it is done;
  • They manage the business components of their job;
  • They do not receive any employee benefits; and
  • There is no formal employee contract

The National Labor Relations Board has advised that rideshare drivers are independent contractors. This finding excludes Uber and Lyft drivers from pursuing a workers' compensation claim. This finding, however, could be up for debate in California where recent legislation looks to limit the use of independent contractors in the state's gig economy.

Because an independent contractor cannot recover under workers' compensation, they will need to depend on insurance providers to compensate them for their injuries.

Navigating Insurance Policies

There are several insurance policies that might come into play after a rideshare accident:

  • The driver's personal policy;
  • The rideshare company's insurance policy; and
  • The policy of the other driver

Your first step should be to review the rideshare company's protocol when an accident occurs. Both Uber and Lyft require drivers to submit a report to access the company's insurance policies. The Uber crash report is here, and the Lyft crash report is here. If it is unclear whether you were operating in the course of your duties at the time of the accident, this will serve to complicate recovery even further and may require you to involve your personal insurance company.

If you are a rideshare driver who has been involved in an accident, you may be overwhelmed with the stress of managing injuries while considering the financial impacts. Navigating the complexities of determining fault and contacting insurance companies is an unnecessary additional stress.  Contact our firm today to understand the strength of your case and your options for recovery.

The Uber Safety Report - What Isn't In It

Thursday, March 05, 2020

In March of 2018, a woman was killed when a self-driving Uber vehicle ran over her as she was crossing the street one night in Tempe, Arizona. Uber had foreseen the dangers of self-driving vehicles, and installed a "safety driver" in case of sudden emergencies; but on this night, the safety driver was busy streaming a show on her cellphone.

Because of this, and many other incidents involving Uber drivers—including thefts, alleged assaults, and overlong treks around cities—Uber launched a program called "RideCheck" in 2018. RideCheck is a GPS based program, which is intended to provide real-time tracking of Uber vehicles.

Did It Work?

At the end of 2019, Uber released the first of its US Safety Reports, summarizing the data gathered by its RideCheck program, detailing the number of deaths, accidents, assaults, robberies, and "non-consensual sexual contacts" that took place in Uber vehicles over the past two years. However, since this is the first such report, it is difficult to assess whether or not Uber has successfully reduced the number of such incidents in their vehicles since the inception of the program.

Some Concerns

Besides the mere accidents, where a Uber driver hit something (another vehicle, a fixed object) and injured a passenger, other disturbing findings include:

  • Substandard driving. Complaints about hard braking, swerving, abrupt lane changes.
  • Physical assault. This included yelling, assault, battery, and refusing to take the fare to the destination.
  • Sexual assault. Uber considered a sexual assault to include either an assault that happened during an Uber ride; or between two parties who met one another during an Uber ride. The assault itself could consist of everything from non-consensual kissing to rape.

What Isn't There

Uber's report did not include statistics on theft, robbery, non-fatal accidents; substance abuse or DUI among the drivers; mechanical failure or damage to the drivers' cars; reports of fraud; and other complaints that may be getting lost in the background of Uber use.

Uber is not, of course, a taxi company, but a transportation app. Their position had initially been that they provide a way to bring together people who want to drive and people who need a ride, and after that, the parties are on their own as to what happens next.  However, court cases in 2017 and 2018 made it clear that Uber drivers are employees, and Uber can be held liable for failing to screen out known felons and sex offenders, and for failing to terminate individuals who have displayed certain acts on the job—like watching live stream videos instead of watching the road.

So What Do I Do?

If you use Uber or Lyft and become the victim of a crime—any crime—or are involved in an accident, the first thing to do is contact the authorities. If you are injured, and the driver has not called 911, you should go at once to the emergency room. This will ensure that the insurance companies will pay for your treatment. If you have been the victim of any sort of crime, or even if you aren't really sure, call the police. Make sure a written report with the date and time of the incident exists.

Then call an attorney. Because of Uber's lackadaisical attitude until recently, the number of awful acts committed by their drivers is sadly high—and the number of attorneys handling them is not great. However, be sure you are in the correct jurisdiction. If you are in Los Angeles, or if the event took place in L.A., you will need an L.A. Uber accident attorney. Just because you're reading this in Des Moines doesn't mean you won't need the services of Freeman & Freeman if the Uber accident happened on your way out of LAX.


Who is Responsible for Tire Malfunctions in a Truck Accident?

Friday, February 14, 2020

The multiple tires on a semi-truck play an important role in increasing the stability of the ride for precious cargo. However, those multiple tires also spread out the weight of that cargo so that no one tire is under a high amount of pressure. Yet, more tires lead to the potential for more problems. If a tire on a truck blows out, it can have devastating consequences not just for the truck driver, but anyone that happens to be nearby.

Causes of Truck Tire Blowouts

When a tire on any vehicle blows out, it causes the vehicle to suddenly jerk to the side of the blowout. This often leads to loss of control of the vehicle as the driver tries to compensate. With maneuvering severely impeded, getting control of the vehicle at a high speed can be near impossible.

Tire blowout on a truck can be caused by a number of instances, including:

  • Road hazards
  • Overweight vehicles
  • Low-pressure tires
  • Tire defects

In cases of overweight vehicles and low-pressure tires, the fault of a tire blowout likely sits with the trucker or trucking company – whoever was responsible for maintenance of that truck. Once you ascertain who was at fault for not engaging in proper truck maintenance, then you can pursue a personal injury case against them. However, when it comes to tire defects, the fault can be a little more unclear and may come from places you don't suspect at first.

Who is at Fault for Defective Tires?

When a tire is defective and causes a serious accident due to a blowout or any other problem, you might first look to the truck driver or the truck company. While it is true that a trucker or their employer could hold the blame for willfully ignoring a defect, there might be others responsible that you can pursue legal action against.

Tire Manufacturer

If a tire is defective from the moment it left the factory, then the tire manufacturer may bear the responsibility for damages from defective tire accidents. However, if it is discovered that the manufacturer already issued a recall before the accident, and it was not followed, this can waive them of responsibility.

Tire Distributor

Even truck companies don't typically buy tires from a manufacturer. Instead, there is a middle man, a distributor, who handles the sale. However, this distributor can also have an effect on the tires. If they were not stored properly, checked regularly, or the tires they provided were not right for the customer, then they can be held responsible.

The Mechanic That Installed the Tires

Often covered by the trucking company, the last unexpected person you can hold responsible is the mechanic that installed the tires. They are the last line of defense for catching any defects in the tires before that truck heads out on the road.

If it can be proven that the tires had blisters, bulges, uneven tread, cracking in the sidewall, or were not properly inflated when installed, then the mechanic can be held responsible if not under the protection of the trucking company. This can often be the case for truckers that own their own rigs and use their own mechanics. However, even if a mechanic is responsible, usually they will have the protection of their employer unless they own their own business.

Need Help?

If you have been in an accident due to a truck tire blowout or some other defect, we can help. Contact us today to see how Freeman & Freeman can help you begin your personal injury case to help you get the compensation that your injuries and trauma from the accident deserve.


What Happens if My Uber or Lyft Driver is Uninsured?

Thursday, February 06, 2020

In a recent Fox news story out of St. Petersburg, Florida, a passenger was injured during a Lyft ride -- and says that the Lyft driver was uninsured at the time of the accident. Cameron Decker, the Lyft passenger, is now looking to Lyft for answers after he discovered post-accident that his driver did not have up-to-date insurance. Decker suffered a severe neck injury, with multiple herniated discs and disc bulges in his neck and lower back, which has prevented him from returning to his usual day job as a trained saxophonist. What's more, Decker says his medical bills have been piling up, and he isn't sure when -- or if -- Lyft will take responsibility for this unfortunate accident. 

 

Who is Responsible After A Rideshare Accident?

 

Stories like this have been flooding news outlets lately, with injured passengers taking issue with the way that big rideshare companies, such as Lyft and Uber, are handling accident claims and incidents where the driver was uninsured. Riders in big cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles often rely on rideshare companies to get to and from work, important appointments, and fun nights out on the town. Nobody expects to be left in a position like Cameron Decker was, earlier this year, stranded at the scene of an accident by his Lyft driver. 

"Decker's attorney says the driver had the correct policy when he started driving for the company, but at some point stopped paying the premiums and kept driving for the ride-sharing service." "How does this even happen?" Decker wanted to know, "Does Lyft not check in on their drivers monthly to make sure they are carrying the proper insurance?!"

Fox 13 reached out to Lyft to ask how often they check to see if drivers are continuing to carry the required coverage. 

According to Lyft, they fired the driver responsible, who also refused to exchange information with Decker before leaving him at the scene. They also said they were "working on getting an answer" to the question of checking insurance, but "wanted to reiterate all Lyft drivers are required to demonstrate proof of insurance when they are first hired." 

This answer does not seem to properly address Cameron Decker's situation, a situation that many other rideshare users find themselves in when they discover, after an accident, that their driver was not properly insured. This leads many Uber or Lyft passengers to take matters into their own hands by hiring a personal accident attorney. 

 

What Should I Do if My Lyft or Uber Driver is Uninsured?  

 

Uber and Lyft instruct their drivers to call 911 and ensure their passengers receive any necessary medical attention in the case of an accident. If your Uber or Lyft driver doesn't follow this protocol, make sure that you take these steps to make sure everybody involved is okay. 

After these essential steps, Uber and Lyft do not make it clear what happens in the case of an accident. Their websites enable riders to reach out to the company if an accident occurs, but the companies are not transparent about what happens after that. It is highly recommended to bring your case to an attorney in the case of a rideshare accident because you're up against big businesses that must protect their drivers and reputation. 

In any case, you should demand the following information from anyone involved in the accident: 

  • Name, address, and phone number
  • Role in the accident (driver, passenger, rideshare passenger, etc.) 
  • Personal insurance information 
  • Lyft/Uber's insurance information 
  • Vehicle information (make, model, registration number, and license plate number) 

In addition, you should attempt to get the accounts of any witnesses as well as their information for follow-up. You should also take detailed pictures of the scene of the crash, including any damage to vehicles, properties, or persons. 

Because you may ultimately be dealing with multiple insurance agencies (your own, the other driver's, and Lyft or Uber's), it is extremely beneficial to get as much information as you can on the front-end. All of this information will prove useful to your attorney when making your case as strong and sound as possible. 

If you or a loved one is injured in a rideshare accident in the Los Angeles area, reach out to our offices today. We are experienced in dealing with complicated rideshare cases, so we'll know what to do to get your bills paid and to put your mind at ease.


Is The Driver Liable When a Car Malfunction Causes an Accident?

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Car problems are an inevitable part of life. However, while a dead battery or a flat tire are frustrating, they aren't dangerous. Yet, car problems had while on the road can be major hazards not just to your own safety, but everyone around you.

If you have been in an accident, that is bad enough. However, if prior to that accident you were dealing with some sort of malfunction, such as a blown-out tire or faulty brakes, you may be looking for a little justice. Yet, even if your car caused the accident and not any negligence on your part, it is likely that the other party and their insurance company will still try to pin the blame on you, but that might not be quite right.

If your car did have a malfunction, there could be another party you could be holding responsible for your damages and those to the other vehicle in some circumstances.

Manufacturer Liability

It is possible for your auto accident to transform into a product liability case if the malfunction was caused by the manufacturer. If you can show that the problem was caused by a flaw in the design of the vehicle or a flaw that happened in the manufacturing process, you can pursue a claim with the manufacturer and hold them liable.

Unfortunately, this will take an examination by someone very knowledgeable about cars and it can be difficult to go after auto companies. Furthermore, if the cause in question has already been recalled, depending on the time the recall has been out, you may be liable for not visiting a dealer to have it rectified after you have been notified about the issue.

Repair Shop Liability

More commonly when a car malfunctions, it is not so much the manufacturer that caused it due to some defect, but it could have been potentially caused by the repair technician. Over time, your mechanic has a lot more contact with the car and its mechanical functions than the manufacturer.

If your vehicle malfunctioned, you may want to have it investigated after the wreck to see if it was a fault in your repair shop that caused the problem. If this proves true, you can hold the repair shop liable.

Unfortunately, many independent mechanics don't have the assets, funds, or even insurance to field a lawsuit like this. However, chain repair shops will often have insurance specifically to cover the mistakes of their employees.

Were You Actually At-Fault?

When a car accident happens due to a malfunction, you may be somewhat relieved to know you might not be held liable, but there are circumstances where this isn't true. For example, if the malfunction was caused due to your own work on the car, this means that you are still held liable for that accident.

Furthermore, if you suspected something was wrong with your car, such as your tires kept losing pressure, or your brakes were a little slower to stop your car, you may be held liable if you didn't take any action. This falls into the same vein as the aforementioned recalled defects on the part of the manufacturer. Similar to if you received a recall notice and did not take timely action to have the defect replaced, if you knew of a problem but did nothing, then the accident it caused is still your fault.

Need Help?

Have you been in an auto accident in the Los Angeles area? Whether it was caused by a defect or the negligence of another, contact us today. The Law Office of Freeman & Freeman can help you navigate through the complex process of personal injury suits to help you get the compensation that you deserve.



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