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Can You Seek Punitive Damages After a Trucking Accident?

Friday, May 08, 2020

If you have been in an accident with a truck, it was likely a major accident. As trucks are often of a significant size and with a lot of power behind them, few regular drivers come out unscathed from such an accident. If you have had to endure this accident, you will be entitled to compensatory damages. This monetary amount is meant to make you whole, as if the accident has never happened. This means your medical bills and auto damages will be covered so you aren't left paying any bills. However, in certain circumstances, you may have another form of compensation available to you – punitive damages.

Punitive damages are much like how they sound – they are compensation meant to punish the wrongdoing party for their negligence. However, your entitlement to punitive damages is not guaranteed after a trucking accident. As the saying goes, accidents happen. When it is indeed a true accident, the courts find no reason to punish either party. However, if the accident was caused maliciously, intentionally, fraudulently, or recklessly through the actions of the truck driver or company, this opens up the option for punitive compensation.

When Can You Receive Punitive Damages From a Truck Accident?

In many circumstances, a truck accident is just a more dramatic auto accident. However, if you discovered there was various other factors at play in the accident, you could seek punitive compensation. Solid examples of truck accidents open to punitive damages include:

  • Drunk Driving – If the truck driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they were not only acting illegally, but recklessly. As the acceptable BAC level for CDL drivers is even lower than the standard .08 percent, any drinking is likely to build a strong case for reckless driving.
  • Destroying Evidence – The issue with seeking punitive damages is that you will need to provide evidence that there was malicious, fraudulent, intentional, or reckless action. This can be difficult when a trucking company is circling the wagons to protect themselves. If the truck in the accident just happened to be missing its black box or various maintenance records are missing, there is some fraud going on.
  • Regulation Violations – This can be the most difficult circumstance for punitive damages to prove. In this situation, you would need to prove that a company forewent various regulations on purpose and not just on accident. If there is a long record of non-regular maintenance, for example, this can help. However, one missed maintenance appointment can be a weak case.
  • Employment of Unsafe Drivers – It is a company's responsibility to do background checks on their drivers to ensure proper driving history and one without any red flags for substance abuse. If a trucking company employed a driver with a long history of DUIs, this was just asking for an accident to happen. They failed to do their due diligence when hiring a driver when, if they had, the accident may have been prevented.

If your accident with a truck falls into these circumstances or others that are equally as fishy, your compensation options are not only limited to medical bills and auto damages, but can include damages that serve to punish the company as well. However, it will require gathering the proper evidence of wrongdoing first, something that can be quite difficult to do if you are trying to navigate these legal waters on your own.

 If you have been in a truck accident and want to see what your options for compensation are, contact us today. The Law Office of Freeman & Freeman is dedicated to helping you become whole after serious and traumatic accidents.


Convenience vs Safety: Uber and Lyft Accidents

Friday, February 21, 2020

As the 21st century is nearing the end of its second decade, the demand for ridesharing services is growing quickly. Meanwhile, the safety of hiring such "non-taxis" is becoming more and more questionable.

Uber has been around for 10 years. It has turned the life of people in many countries around. Cheaper rides with high accessibility upped the convenience tremendously. Some people have given up their vehicles in favor of such services. As Lyft and Uber made their way to the market, more and more users left taxis behind.

However, as the convenience of using rideshare over regular taxi services has become obvious, the safety and legal responsibility seem to be lurking in a grey area. What happens if there is an accident? Who is responsible?

Uber and Lyft Aren't Taxis 

When you book a taxi ride, you are entering an agreement with a taxi service provider. In case an accident occurs, the company's insurance covers the expenses.

When you get into an accident while using Uber or Lyft, you are covered by either the driver's insurance or the company's insurance. That's where it could get tricky. None of the companies is happy with covering your accident-related expenses, especially if a serious injury is involved. Most likely, you would need to hire an attorney to have your expenses settled timely and properly.

Ridesharing Services Increased the Number of Accidents 

According to a study done by researchers from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, the rise of ride-sharing services increased traffic-related deaths by 2% to 3% in the United States.

Other problems associated with the overwhelming use of rideshare are higher congestion and decreased exploitation of public transport. Both lead to harming the environment and making life inconvenient for busy city dwellers.

Some cities have already started to conquer the problem. For example, NYC introduced a cap on ridesharing services in 2018 and extended it for one more year in August 2019.

Top Reasons For Rideshare Accidents 

The convenience of using rideshare services is starting to be offset by dangers. The top reasons for rideshare accidents include:

Speeding

While rideshare drivers may be careful about maintaining speed limits when carrying a passenger to get 5-star reviews, they are likely to speed to get to the next client.

Lack of experience

When you hire a taxi, you are likelier to enjoy a ride with an experienced driver than when riding with Uber or Lyft. Drivers only need one year of experience to offer ridesharing services.  

Drowsy driving

In the race to earn more money, rideshare drivers tend to overwork. As a result, you may face a sleepy driver behind the wheel, thus increasing the chances of getting into an accident substantially.

Distraction

As rideshare drivers are taking you to your destination, they can get distracted by the rideshare app to take a new order. Drivers often look at their smartphones to secure a new client faster than the competition, thus pulling the attention away from the road.

Improper vehicle maintenance

Rideshare drivers often fail to maintain their vehicles properly due to the lack of time and financing. As a result, many passengers are injured when tires blow, brakes stop working or airbags don't open.

Final Thoughts 

While such rideshare companies as Uber and Lyft are highly convenient, they don't offer taxi services, which complicates the insurance payment process. As the number of rideshare-accidents is growing, more and more passengers are sucked into the black hole of unfulfilled claims. In some cases, proper expense coverage is impossible without legal assistance.

For more information about rideshare-related accident claims in Los Angeles and beyond, please contact us today.


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.


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.


Legal Help for Rideshare Accidents

Thursday, October 10, 2019

If your Uber or Lyft driver gets into an accident, under current procedures, everything is usually very straight forward.

The View of Minimal Trouble

An article in Fortune Magazine describes what happened from the viewpoint of a San Francisco Uber passenger when her Uber driver got into a significant fender-bender. In the wee hours of a weekday morning, a turn into a one-way street resulted in significant damage to the passenger door of another car. The Uber driver was shaken up by the incident and she reminded him that he had to pull over. The Uber driver assured his passenger that he would be able to drive her the rest of the way home, but she refused, saying that she would prefer to walk. She was sure that negotiations between the drivers would take considerable time. Corporate Uber called the passenger days later, was very apologetic and refunded the passenger's fare. The driver had correctly reported the accident to Uber. The payment to the car sustaining the damage was covered by the James River Insurance Company. 

Under a California statute that took effect in 2015, Uber and Lyft drivers must carry increased personal insurance while online to seek riders and even more coverage during the time of the trip itself (from acceptance of the ride to the drop off). There are gaps in the legal process if a passenger were to hail a ride and not using the Uber or Lyft app online. Under those conditions, the driver might not be covered under the increased insurance.

Beyond the Easy Cases.

The basics of handling accidents by Uber or Lyft drivers are straight forward. However, there are many situations where resolution may not be simple. Difficulties are going to get more complicated once, in the near future, Uber and Lyft begin employing self-driving vehicles. In Los Angeles and California, the law says that Uber or Lyft passengers are entitled to be fairly compensated for injuries after a ridesharing accident. Sorting out the fault and the compensation for parties in an Uber accident would be complicated. There are many possible classes of victims and potential causes of accidents. Either could be private vehicles, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, truck drivers, bystanders. All victims are entitled to fair compensation for their injuries. All causes of accidents have to be factored into the awards picture. An experienced  Uber accident attorney, Lyft accident attorney, or rideshare accident attorney will be able to fully analyze any accident using techniques like accident reconstruction and employing experts in accident safety. Thorough legal investigation and casework an experienced attorney may find hidden insurance benefits and find the best medical and rehabilitation services available.

Uber and Lyft drivers themselves may have very complicated insurance cases especially if the rideshare driver feels that an accident was caused by another party, but the passenger feels their driver is at partly or fully at fault. The legal situation can be complicated if the insurance company decides to point its fingers at anyone other than the person whom they insure. A skilled rideshare attorney with years of experience could be the only one who can sort out such a case.

Self-Driving RideShare.

We don't know exactly when self-driving cars will be introduced into the rideshare environment. The principles and practices of insuring Uber and Lyft passengers will become much more complicated then. In a given accident, the vehicle manufacturer, the writer of the software, or the makers of individual components of the complex system could be included in the distribution of blame. These factors may involve foreign entities or entities from other states with different laws. Insurance companies may begin to count on the fact that investigations would be too costly to pursue. It could be a lot more complicated to obtain just compensation for injuries.

Freeman & Freeman have successfully handled hundreds of Uber/Lyft cases since the inception of their services. These cases have become one of our largest specialties. Please contact us to learn more.


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