Ride sharing is gaining popularity like never before. Popular services like Uber and Lyft allow people to live and work easily without a car, and has become one of our greatest tools against drunk driving.
Whether you’re in a rush, don’t want the financial burden of owning a car, or had one too many at the local sports bar, ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft have made life a whole lot easier and safer. That being said, there are certain dangers that come along with the seemingly perfect transportation solution.
In fact, ride sharing may have as many dangers as it does benefits. Rideshare accidents quickly become a confusing situation. If you’ve been in a rideshare accident, you may not know who to blame or what your rights are. Our knowledgeable care accident attorneys can help you to understand the situation fully and get the compensation you deserve. Understanding what “rideshare” actually means can help you determine whether or not these circumstances apply to you. Rideshare is a concept more familiar in terms of taxicab services.
Ride-sharing is one-time transportation of a passenger by a private driver, for a fee or for free. The pairings of passengers and drivers are usually facilitated by third-party apps such as Uber or Lyft. A Chicago rideshare lawyer can help with accidents involving any of these vehicles.
Riding in an Uber
Uber, the largest current rideshare service, covers some important information in its Terms and Conditions page. Be sure to read the terms if you can; if not, here are some of the highlights. (The terms and conditions for Lyft and other major rideshare platforms are similar to Uber’s terms, but there may be some differences. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of your rideshare app before use.)
When you agreed to the terms of Uber, you give up the right to sue Uber in court should a dispute arise. Instead, you agree to discuss your claims in front of an arbitrator, a private citizen (usually a retired judge). Arbitrations are generally more informal and shorter than traditional court settings. Less evidence can be presented, and the verdict cannot be appealed.
Once you are in the rideshare car, you’re covered by Uber’s auto liability policy. Uber provides up to $1,000,000 in coverage, which protects the passenger whether the driver is at fault or not. This coverage also applies to the driver and passengers of the other cars involved if the rideshare driver is responsible.
Uber’s liability policies are dependent on if the driver is currently “online” and actively seeking out passengers or “offline” and not accepting passengers. Uber’s liability policy may be available when the driver is classified as “online”, but if the driver is “offline”, Uber can deny liability.
Uber drivers are classified as Independent Contractors rather than employees. As such, Uber can attempt to deny liability using an “independent contractor defense”. In the situation that Uber denies liability, the independent contractor (the driver) takes responsibility for any damages.
Are you or a family member a driver with a rideshare service? Be sure you know your rights, responsibilities, and liabilities. Rideshare drivers are put in a unique predicament. A debate of liability between the rideshare service and the driver’s personal insurance can start if the rideshare driver is at fault. These conflicts can force you to compensate the passengers out of pocket.
Here are a few hypothetical situations:
- The driver is online and has a passenger. The rideshare company is usually liable.
- The driver is offline. The driver’s personal auto insurance is usually liable.
- The driver is online but between passengers. This situation gets tricky. Some auto insurance policies have an exclusionary clause for when the vehicle is being used for commercial purposes. Since the driver is between passengers, the rideshare company usually tries to avoid liability. This creates an ambiguous gray area of coverage. Many drivers in this area are forced to pay out of pocket.
Rideshare driver negligence is not only limited to car accidents. Other injuries can be sustained while using a ride share service, including:
- Theft. Keeping forgotten items also falls under this category.
- Assault. Any aggressive physical contact with a passenger.
- Battery. We’re not talking about lithium or alkaline here.
- Animal attack. Especially if the driver brought the animal into the car.
- Burns. Either from a car accident or any heat source within the vehicle such as the cigar lighter.
There are many things that could lead to an accident during a ride with Uber or Lyft drivers. Let’s take a look at some of the common causes of rideshare accidents as well as the reasons behind them.
One of the main causes of rideshare accidents is speeding. Most drivers feel that they’ll get a better rating if they get their passengers to the destination faster. Regardless of whether or not this holds true, drivers can, at times, sacrifice safety in favor of customer satisfaction — thus increasing the odds of getting into an accident.
Working Conditions of Rideshare Drivers
Uber and Lyft drivers — unlike taxi drivers — are part-time. That means that they only start driving passengers after working a full eight-hour shift at their day job. If you spent the whole day in the office then hours on end driving people around Chicago afterward then you’d be fatigued too. This fatigue will slow their reaction time and reduce their awareness when it comes to threats around them which makes a collision more likely.
Uber and Lyft drivers are actually allowed to keep their phones out since they rely on it to find passengers. This means that they’re more susceptible to getting distracted by various push notifications. Having a smartphone right in front of their face while driving can make it hard for them to focus on the road which is the cause of many rideshare accidents.
Despite the fact that “don’t drink and drive “ has become one of the most popular sayings when it comes to safe driving, car accidents involving intoxication are still far too common. Uber and Lyft drivers are no different when it comes to the dangers of drunk driving. Driving people around for hours can get pretty depressing which is why some drivers turn to alcohol.
As we all know, drinking and driving is the classic recipe for disaster and could lead to a ridesharing mess. You might think that drunk driving is rare in our modern, responsible society. However, statistics show that one person dies every hour in the United States alone due to intoxicated driving.
Unlike other jobs with fixed hourly wages, the income of Uber and Lyft drivers is directly tied to the number of passengers that they get on average each day. That being the case, they generally try to get to the destination of each passenger as quickly as possible so that they can move onto the next one and maximize their profit. This greed for more passengers can lead to aggressive driving and tons of accidents.
Vehicles that you book through Uber and Lyft are owned by the drivers themselves as opposed to the booking companies. That being the case, the booking companies have no way of knowing whether or not a vehicle is being properly maintained. Being a rideshare driver isn’t the most lucrative job so drivers may skimp out on maintenance costs to keep money in their pocket — leading to dangerous situations when on the road.
Finally, sometimes ridesharing accidents can be attributed to garden-variety reckless driving. Uber and Lyft drivers are just like any other humans — they have a tendency to ignore speed limits and run red lights when they’re in a bad mood, rushing to get to a destination or just the careless type.
Sticking to drivers with good ratings is one way to prevent such situations but the system isn’t infallible so you might still end up with a driver who puts your life in danger through disregard for traffic regulations.
Recently, mainstream media reported on a story in which an Uber driver was driving under the influence. “Uber has a zero tolerance policy for the use of drugs and alcohol, and upon learning of these allegations, we immediately removed the driver’s access to the platform,” an Uber spokesperson said.
While it’s reassuring to see Uber deactivate the drunken driver’s account the following day, you can’t help but feel worried when you see live examples of a rideshare driver getting drunk on the job.
Lyft had its own drunken driver problem in February 2018. Though there’s no report of the driver being permanently deactivated, her privileges were suspended pending an investigation. The passenger also received a full refund for the ride. It’s unclear at this time whether Lyft is less stringent with DUI cases in comparison to Uber, but one could certainly make the case that they are less acute in their handling of them.
Do Rideshare Companies Train Their Drivers?
You might think that Uber and Lyft — being the multi-billion companies that they are — would offer extensive training programs to their drivers and be stringent when it comes to qualifications. Sadly, this isn’t the case.
Booking companies prioritize growing their driver pool above all else — meaning that they’ll often sacrifice training and qualifications in favor of acquiring more drivers for their service. Neither Uber nor Lyft drivers undergo additional training upon registering, but the qualifications required does vary slightly from the former to the latter.
Uber requirements state that all applicants must be at least 21 years of age and have a year of experience as a licensed driver within the U.S. It’s worth noting that any driver under 23 years of age must have at least three years of experience to compensate for their young age. All drivers must also hold a valid driver’s license upon registering and during service. Furthermore, four-door vehicles are required.
Lyft is a bit laxer on the necessary qualifications for applicants due to the fact that Uber is way ahead of them. They also require that drivers are at least 21 years of age and hold a valid U.S. driver’s license. However, they only require a year of driving experience regardless of the age of the applicant. That being said, they do perform a background and DMV check to see if the applicant has any criminal history or a track record of reckless driving.
Liability Coverage for Rideshare Companies
Both Lyft and Uber have liability coverage. That being said, the coverage does vary depending on the stage of transit.
Between the point of launching the booking app and accepting the ride, the coverage lies at $50,000 for bodily injury, $25,000 for damaged property, and up to $100,000 per accident. The coverage, however, quickly rises between the period of a ride match and dropping off the passenger. The primary liability coverage for both companies is $1 million for each accident as well as $1 million for uninsured — or underinsured — motorists.
That being said, due to the fact that Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors rather than employees of the booking company, it may be rather difficult to sue the company as they can simply waive responsibility and place the blame on the driver.
This is why you’ll often need to sue the driver directly if you’re seeking compensation for a rideshare accident. Suing a rideshare driver is, in certain ways, more complex than seeking compensation from the booking company directly which is why you need a good rideshare accident attorney by your side.
It’s worth noting that, since Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors, they are able to carry their own insurance policies which could even provide more coverage than the policies of the booking companies themselves in the event that they try to pull a Pilate and wash their hands. Drivers also choose to have their own insurance policies to ensure that they’re covered even during periods when they aren’t using the app.
Uber’s Insurance Company
The James River Insurance Company handles all accident claims for Uber. James River has been in operation for over 15 years, opening its doors in 2003. It shouldn’t be confused with the James River Corporation which was once the largest paper manufacturer in the world prior to merging with the Fort Howard Paper Company. The insurance company is based in Richmond, Virginia.
Lyft’s Insurance Company
Lyft is covered by the Zurich American Insurance Company. Founded in 1912, Zurich has served businesses in 25 industries across 210 countries.
Fears About Filing a Claim
A common concern that we’ve had from our clients is that they fear that they may be barred from using Uber and Lyft if they pursue a claim. While this may not seem too bad for people who normally drive themselves, those who rely on these services could be put in a very difficult spot if such a ban were to take place.
That being said, if you file a valid injury claim, neither Uber nor Lyft will penalize you. Booking companies wouldn’t bother getting insured if they didn’t think that claims would come. Injury claims are a normal part of running a business — especially one centered around transport — and booking companies understand this.
The insurance companies covering Uber and Lyft are so large that any single claim won’t put even the smallest dent on their bottom line. As long as your claim is valid, well-documented, and presented by a qualified attorney then you’ll surely get the respect you deserve rather than any form of punishment.
If you happen to get into a collision with a rideshare driver then you can still attempt to get compensated for any damages that you’ve incurred with a local rideshare accident lawyer.. However, if the driver didn’t have a passenger or booking at the time of the crash then it may be rather difficult to go for the booking company’s liability coverage as they were effectively off-duty when the accident occurred.
It’s worth noting that the coverage isn’t dependent on a passenger actually being in their vehicle. As long as they had a match and were on the way to pick up the passenger then the booking company coverage technically kicks in — but they can still dispute the blame and pin it on either you or the driver, with the former being more common.
Some rideshare drivers have regular customers who book them through a phone number rather than the app itself. In a situation like this, the liability coverage of the booking company would NOT come into play as the app was not in use at the time of the accident.
Dealing with Multiple Parties
As if car accident claims weren’t complicated enough, getting into a collision that involves a rideshare driver just takes things to a whole new level. The main reason that rideshare accidents are so complex is the number of parties at play. In any given rideshare accident, there are three insurance groups involved — the driver’s private insurance, the rideshare company’s insurance, and the insurance of the other driver involved in the accident.
Each insurance company has its own set of policies making it very confusing to file a personal injury claim in situations like this. This could lead to a case falling into limbo or you receiving an inadequate settlement. If you want to get a fair settlement and navigate the confusing labyrinth of rideshare accidents then it’s crucial that you get a qualified attorney by your side immediately.
While any type of injury is possible in a collision, there are certain types that seem to be rather common — depending on the severity of the crash — in rideshare accidents. Here are a few of them: During a collision, your head will abruptly snap back and forth which puts a high level of stress on your neck. This occurs during the initial impact. Some symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, stiffness, limited range of motion, tenderness, dizziness, and headaches. If you happen to hit your head during a crash then you could suffer from a concussion, fracture, or even an injury where a foreign object — such as glass or shrapnel — penetrates the head. Some of the common symptoms of traumatic brain injuries include weakness, persistent headaches, slurred speech, seizures, and vomiting. Due to the high force that your body undergoes during the impact in a collision, you could suffer from broken bones — particularly in your limbs. Even if you’re lucky enough to get away without a broken arm or leg, you’ll still be dealing with numerous sprains throughout your body.
All these injuries and the other types of harm that we didn’t list will lead to outrageously large hospital bills. To ensure that you get favorable compensation that will cover the medical bills as well as the income loss and other damages you’ve incurred, it’s paramount that you get a qualified rideshare accident attorney to represent you.
Potential Compensation Available
If one of your loved ones passed away due to a rideshare accident, you could request compensation for wrongful death. The damages in the case of wrongful death are more severe than those you would find in a personal injury case. Here are some of the damages that you could file claims for: With the average funeral costing between $7,000 and $9,000, you are certainly entitled to compensation that will cover the expenses. In addition to losing their life, your loved one was also subjected to unjust pain and suffering as a result of the accident. It’s only fair that you are compensated for these damages.
If the victim of the rideshare accident was your partner or spouse, you could be entitled to compensation for loss of consortium. There is a similar claim type known as loss of love and companionship that can be filed by relatives — rather than partners or spouses — of the victim. If the death of your loved one was not instantaneous and they spent time in the hospital prior to passing then you could also request compensation for the medical expenses incurred — which is somewhat relieving seeing as the average cost for a day in the ICU is over $10,000. After ensuring that no one is injured — and calling paramedics if anyone is — you have to gather all the necessary information that you’ll need later on when attempting to support your claim and receive compensation for the damages.
The good news is that this part of the car accident process is actually easier when rideshare companies are involved as you can get most of the required information through the app itself. Below are some of the key details that you’ll need to obtain: This is the first piece of information that you’ll want to get due to the fact that the booking company will most likely try to waive responsibility for the incident thus making the private insurer of the rideshare driver your best bet to receive compensation. Printing out the insurance policy of the booking company is a good idea as well so that you can use it as a supporting document later in the process. You’ll often find this in the terms of service section of the booking company’s app and/or website.
Consult with a Chicago Rideshare Accident Attorney
Much like with any car accident, you’ll want to get the contact information of witnesses who saw what happened so that they can corroborate your story at a later date. If you have been involved as a driver or a passenger in a rideshare accident, talk to our skilled Chicago rideshare accident lawyers. Our ride share knowledge and legal experience can help you get the compensation you deserve for medical bills and lost wages.