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Personal Injury Blog

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.


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.


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.


How to Be Safer When Using an Uber

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Uber is supposed to be the safer option: better, for example, than attempting to drive drunk in an unfamiliar city. Unfortunately, many people are skeptical about Uber rides--and with good reason. Fake drivers are out there--and they know how to convince you that they are, in fact, your Uber driver and that they're there to pick you up. Try some of these strategies to stay safer. 

1. Make Sure You Have the Right Driver

Before you get into the Uber, double check to make sure that you have the driver that the app says is coming to get you. The app provides a lot of information about your driver's vehicle, including the make, model, and license plate number of their car. The driver won't be offended if you walk around the car or check them out before you get in. You're just keeping yourself and everyone in your party safer!

2. Buckle Up

Any time you get into a moving vehicle, you need to be buckled in. Uber vehicles are no different from other passenger vehicles: they provide no extra protection against an accident, nor does the driver receive extra training about avoiding accidents or keeping their passengers safe. Buckle up as soon as you get in the car. 

3. Pay Attention

You've paid the Uber driver to get you safely to your destination. To many passengers, this means you can simply turn your attention to your phone or your friends. After all, your driver has GPS and knows the area. They don't need your input to get there. 

Paying attention, however, can let you know if any red flags are being raised. Is the driver taking the wrong route or headed toward a place you don't recognize? Is the ride taking far longer than it should have? Is the driver displaying signs of erratic behavior? By paying attention, you can increase the odds that you'll notice a problem before it leads to serious danger. 

4. Know When to End the Ride

If you call for an Uber, you always have the right to cancel or end the ride--even in the middle of it. You can end your ride early for any reason. If you feel unsafe, the driver is behaving erratically, or your gut is telling you to get out of the car, trust your instincts. This is particularly true if you notice your driver speeding, driving distracted, or ignoring traffic laws. If you end the ride, you can request another driver to take you the rest of the way to your destination or use an alternate form of transportation to get there. It may take a little longer, but if you feel unsafe, it's not worth taking the risk.

5. Leave Reviews

Did you get in an Uber with a driver who did not behave safely behind the wheel? Did they drive distracted, appear to be drunk, ignore traffic laws, or do something that made you uncomfortable? Leave a review! Not only does Uber seriously consider these reviews and check over them on a regular basis--in some cases, leading to the removal of drivers from their pool--your review can also help other riders decide when to avoid a driver who could cause a danger to them. While those reviews can't always prevent accidents or ensure safety, they can help prevent someone else from having a bad experience. 

Did you suffer injuries from an Uber driver, in spite of your best efforts to be safe? Do you need legal help to get the compensation you deserve after an accident? Contact us today to learn how we can help.



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