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Personal Injury Blog

Drivers and Passengers Beware: Know Your Rideshare Risk

Monday, September 07, 2020

Catching an Uber or a Lyft is now commonplace and very convenient. Most people reading this article have pro

bably experienced ridesharing themselves, especially if you reside in or have visited a large city. No money is exchanged between a passenger and a driver, you can use your phone to track your driver's arrival and route while on your trip, it is less expensive than traditional public transportation such as a taxi, and if you're a driver, you can make some extra money. Those all sound like great things – and they are. But what about the other side of ridesharing where crimes are being committed?

Crimes Associated with Uber and Lyft

According to the LAPD, since 2016, 'Uber and Lyft drivers have committed more than 500 crimes' in the Los Angeles area. However, the police tracking crimes in this area note that there have been more crimes against Lyft or Uber drivers than crimes in which these drivers were the perpetrators.

Protecting Yourself When Ridesharing

Passengers

People use ridesharing for various reasons like getting to work, as an alternative to their car that may not be working, 

or to explore a city without having to take mass transportation or worry about parking. When you are taking an Uber or Lyft, you should be mindful that it is not a taxi; the same safeguards do not exist for drivers and passengers. With that said, you should consider employing these tips to protect yourself as a passenger the next time (and every time) you use a ridesharing service. Here are a few of the suggestions:

  • Don't ride alone – Take a partner with you in the vehicle. Especially if you are intoxicated, you should not be getting into the car without a sober passenger.
  • Use the apps' notification features – Let someone know you are taking an Uber or Lyft, and they can track your trip on their device.
  • Don't give the driver personal information – Small talk with the driver is fine. But just as best practices advise against sharing personal information online, you should follow the same advice while ridesharing.
  • Confirm the driver – There have been instances of fake Uber drivers picking up passengers. Don't ask the driver, 'Are you John Smith?' Ask the driver to tell you your name so you can be sure he or she is the correct person.

Drivers

As indicated above, in LA, drivers are more often the victim of a crime than passengers. This means that Lyft and Uber drivers must take precautions to keep themselves safe as well. Below are some steps to take as a driver to protect yourself:

  • Report rider behavior – If you notice that a passenger is acting in an erratic or suspicious manner, do not hesitate to report the passenger's actions via the Uber and Lyft safety protocols.
  • Be selective – Use the same rating system mentioned above to check passenger ratings before accepting a rider. Also, do not pick up passengers in unsafe areas.
  • Install a dashcam – A dashcam that records the inside of your vehicle can provide evidence of passenger actions and potentially discourage riders from poor behavior.
  • End the ride – If a passenger is acting aggressively or behaving in a way that threatens your safety, pull over to a safe place, and inform the passenger you are ending the trip.

Deciding to Take anUber or Lyft

There are risks in many of the activities we do every day, whether we are driving a car or taking a shower. But we wear seat belts and use shower mats to reduce the likeliness of injury. Most of the time, when we engage in these activities, we are fine, and we go about our day. When you take an Uber or Lyft, or choose to drive for a ridesharing service, you will most likely have an uneventful experience. But there are potential risks to your safety that may be involved. You should be aware of the risks so that you can decide whether participating in ridesharing is for you or so that you can take the necessary precautions as mentioned above.

Getting Help When You are the Victim of a Crime

Although the probability that you will be the victim of a crime during a ridesharing trip is low, the possibility still exists. Freeman & Freeman is a personal injury law firm that has experienced Uber and Lyft injury attorneysContact us if you are the victim of a crime as a driver or a passenger of a ridesharing service.

Water Safety 101: Keeping Everyone Safe During Water Activities

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Enjoying fun in the warmer months often involves water activities such as swimming. This can be indoors or outdoors and in a variety of settings such as pools, lakes, oceans, and spas. Although no one intends for a tragedy to occur when spending a day with family (especially when children are involved), unfortunately, when experiencing the fun of water activities, accidents happen, which are often fatal or life-altering.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2005 – 2014, there were approximately 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States. This equates to about ten deaths per day. These statistics do not include the 332 people who died each year due to drowning associated with boating accidents.

As summer is upon us, we all must take the necessary precautions to engage in water fun safely. It is especially vital to equip children with the skills and tools they need to enjoy the water carefully.

Facts About Drowning Accidents

  • One in five persons who die from drowning are 14 and younger
  • More than 50% of drowning victims suffer non-fatal drowning injuries that result in severe brain damage, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning.
  • Children aged one to four have the highest drowning rates. Most drownings in this age group occur in home swimming pools. Drowning is the cause of more deaths in this age group than any other reason besides congenital birth defects.
  • Almost 80% of people who die from drowning are male.
  • The death rate due to drowning is significantly higher for African Americans as compared to whites.

Risk Factors

Below are common risk factors associated with drowning accidents – most if not all, can be eliminated, or precautions can be taken to minimize the occurrence of injury.

  • Not knowing how to swim – Being unable to swim can present an obvious problem when going in the water. But many people report that they do not know how to swim. Taking swimming lessons can decrease one's risk of drowning.
  • Not having barriers around a pool – Not having a fence that completely encloses the perimeter of the pool makes it easier for children to access a pool without a caregiver's knowledge.
  • Failure to supervise children when swimming – When there is no adult specifically responsible for watching a child at all times, drowning can occur because it often happens quickly and quietly.
  • Setting – Younger children have a higher probability of drowning in a home pool setting, whereas the risk in natural environments such as lakes and beaches increases for older youth.
  • Not wearing life jackets – Most people who die in boating accidents are due to drowning. An overwhelming majority of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
  • Using alcohol – Alcohol usage affects one's decision-making ability, balance, and coordination.
  • Seizure disorders – The most common cause of unintentional injury death for persons who have seizure disorders is drowning.

Prevention

As mentioned above, many of the risk factors can be eliminated by taking the proper precautions and maintaining vigilant about water safety.

  • Take swimming lessons if you or your child do not know how to swim.
  • Ensure your home swimming pool has a fence on all four sides that encompasses the pool.
  • Always supervise children when they are in the water.
  • Be mindful of providing one-on-one supervision to those in the water who have seizure disorders.
  • Learn CPR.
  • Use only appropriate water safety devices such as a life vest, not toy noodles or inner tubes.

Getting Help When an Accident Occurs

Sometimes things happen even when we are trying to be safe. Or other times, another person may have caused an accident due to unsafe practices. When someone is injured or dies because of a drowning accident, the grief is life-changing no matter who may be at fault. In these situations, however, an experienced lawyer can sort through the details and ensure that the law is enforced.

If you need a knowledgeable personal injury attorney, please contact Freeman & Freeman. We welcome the opportunity to help you with your situation.

4 Safety Tips for Runners

Friday, August 14, 2020

Running is a great form of exercise, and many people find it to be a great way to rejuvenate their minds. Yet, if you are running on the street or along the side of the road, you also put yourself at risk of being hit by a passing vehicle or otherwise getting injured. Luckily, there are at least four ways you can be a safer runner.

Avoid Unsafe Roads

If you enjoy running along the road, it is important to be aware of any potential dangers along your running route. To help you better understand if your potential route is safe for a runner, take a drive yourself down your planned running route. Look for blind corners, busy intersections, or other areas where drivers may not notice you when you are running. You may also want to pay attention to areas where the road narrows or where there may otherwise not be enough room for a runner to safely run along the road. As a runner, you may not notice these as much as you will while driving the path.

Run With a Partner

Whenever possible, run with a partner. A partner increases your chances of seeing a potential danger and decreases your chances of becoming the victim of an assault. Along with that, if you have a running partner, the other person can go for help or help you to a safe location if you are injured.

If you are unable to run with someone else, it is important to let a friend or family member know your running route as well as how long you anticipate your run taking. Avoid deviating from your anticipated route without letting someone know. If something should happen to you, your friend or family member will know when and where to look for you.

Pay Attention

As a runner, it is your responsibility to pay attention to your surroundings. While it might be relaxing or enjoyable to run while listening to music, you are less likely to hear a car coming or hear another danger if you are focused on your music rather than what's happening around you. Ditch the earbuds and instead pay attention to your surroundings.

Once you've gotten rid of your earbuds, you can likely pay attention to your surroundings. To better see traffic and to make yourself more visible, you will generally want to run against the flow of traffic. Instead of having cars coming at you from behind, you will see them coming toward you and be able to react sooner. You may need to switch sides of the road for a short time if you are on a blind corner or otherwise feel that running on the opposite side of the road is safer.

Make Yourself Visible

It is especially important to make yourself visible to drivers if you are running at night or during bad weather when a driver's visibly might be reduced. If you plan to run when it's dark or in low visibility, be sure to invest in bright, reflective clothing as well as a headlamp. This will make it easier for drivers to see you and make it easier for you to see the ground.

Part of making yourself visible is also making sure that drivers see you before you cross the street or otherwise move to another location on the road. If you are running along a street with parked cars, avoid weaving between vehicles. Before crossing the street, make eye contact with any drivers, and make sure that they are aware of you and your intentions. Don't assume that just because you see the driver, the person sees you.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, even safe runners sometimes get injured by drivers who were not paying attention. If you were hit and injured by an inattentive driver while running, contact us.

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.



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