Important Factors in Rideshare Accident Claims

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Ridesharing is a form of transportation where multiple individuals use the same vehicle to arrive at a destination. Carpooling was the original rideshare, making transportation convenient and more affordable than taking a taxi or owning a personal vehicle. Over the past decade, companies like Lyft and Uber have capitalized on the rideshare concept.

These companies provide services via freelance drivers who use their personal vehicles to transport customers. Drivers contract with rideshare businesses to pick up passengers through smartphone app transactions. Once a rideshare driver drops a passenger at his or her destination, the saved credit card stored on the app is automatically charged.

Rideshare companies don’t own, operate, or control the vehicles used to transport customers or hire drivers directly. They simply own the apps that are used to connect drivers to passengers. As a result, these companies maintain that their drivers are independent contractors, and therefore don’t fall under the umbrella of employer responsibility or liability in the case of an accident.

Not surprisingly, the issue of who is liable in accidents involving a rideshare driver has come up again and again as ridesharing becomes an increasingly popular way to travel. If you’ve been involved in a rideshare-related accident, the personal injury attorneys at Berry Law can advise you on how to proceed to recover damages accrued to persons and property.

Safety

In a study from the University of Chicago, researchers found that the rise in rideshare services in large cities correlated with an increase in fatal car crashes in those cities. Curious to learn more, they used data from cities before and after the introduction of services like Lyft and Uber.

During the years leading up to the launch of rideshare companies, deadly motor vehicle accidents were at record lows. By 2010, the number of traffic fatalities nationwide was the lowest it had been since 1949 according to government data. Between 2011 and 2016, the advent of ridesharing businesses was associated with a two-to-three-percent increase in the number of motor vehicle fatalities and accidents, including those involving occupants of the car and pedestrians.

The researchers noted that the effect was most obvious in cities with readily available and frequently used sources of public transportation. They hypothesized that this might explain the uptick, as people shifted from using public transportation to rideshares. Uber and Lyft released statements disagreeing with the study’s methodology and findings.

Responsibility

Courts and insurance carriers have had to wrestle with the question of who is responsible for damages when a rideshare accident occurs. In some states, legislation is pending that would classify rideshare drivers as employees of the companies they work for, making those companies liable for damages.

As in any other personal injury case involving a motor vehicle, the injured party in a rideshare-related accident must prove fault to receive compensation.

  • Liability- All drivers assume a duty of care to other drivers on the road while they operate a motor vehicle.
  • Negligence- Negligence is established when a driver breaches that duty of care by his or her actions.
  • Damages- The cost of damages is determined based on injuries to person or persons and destruction of vehicles and other property due to another driver’s negligence.

The only difference between establishing fault in a rideshare accident versus a regular accident is whose insurance will pay those for damages. Injured individuals can file a third-party claim with the car insurance carrier of the driver at fault. However, if that driver was using their vehicle for the purpose of making money, his or her personal car insurance policy may not cover the accident. Most insurance contracts state that a driver will only use the vehicle for personal use, and ride-sharing doesn’t fall into that category.

Chances are, an insurance carrier will deny claims filed under a personal policy if the accident occurred while a rideshare driver was transporting a passenger. Some states require that rideshare companies carry a policy that covers at minimum $50,000 for bodily injury and $100,000 for each accident up to $1 million in personal injury coverage to operate. Nebraska does not have a similar requirement at this time.

Uber and Lyft do provide some coverage for drivers, including those who have accepted a ride request or are driving a passenger when an accident occurs. In the case of drivers who are waiting for a ride request, these companies will cover liability only in the event that they are at fault for an accident.

Drivers typically have to submit claims to their own insurance carrier first, and then when the claim is denied, the rideshare insurance picks it up. It’s possible to hold rideshare companies financially responsible for damages sustained in a motor vehicle accident, but going after the company directly is a last resort.

Insurance carriers like State Farm, Geico, Progressive and others offer current and potential rideshare drivers insurance as an add-on to their personal car insurance policies or will combine auto and rideshare coverage into a single policy. This is a good option for drivers worried about lack of coverage during rideshare trips. Driving with liability coverage only will protect the interest of other drivers and passengers, but it doesn’t protect the rideshare driver or his or her property outside of the outlined window of time if they are found at fault.

Causes of Ride Sharing Accidents

  • Speeding- Speeding causes more than 9,000 fatalities each year, and approximately a quarter of all motor vehicle accidents are due to speeding according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In the rideshare business, time is money. Drivers may feel pressure to speed to pick up a passenger so that they can deliver them to their destination and take another fare.
  • Not Driving for Road Conditions- Traffic safety laws are written for normal road conditions. Drivers are expected to adjust their speed and other habits when driving on roads that are icy, snowy, foggy, or under construction. In cases where they don’t accidents may occur.
  • Inexperience- How rideshare services screen their drivers has raised cause for concern. Most of them simply require a valid driver’s license, which requires a driver to pass a rudimentary driving test, as well as a minimal background check. Inexperienced drivers tend to have higher accident rates overall.
  • Fatigued Driving- Rideshare drivers who get behind the wheel tired, especially those picking up passengers late into the night or early in the morning are more at risk for fatigued driving, a serious contributor to motor vehicle accidents that occurs when a driver experiences brief moments of sleep while operating a car.
  • Distracted Driving- Rideshare drivers with multiple passengers are more susceptible to distracted driving, as they adjust the radio, speak with other occupants of the car, and juggle the cell phones that are the lifeline to the rideshare business. Distracted driving is a serious and sometimes deadly cause of car crashes.

If You’re In An Accident

Get the names, contact information, and insurance information of anyone involved in the crash. Ask potential witnesses for their contact information as well. When possible, take photos of the accident scene and the vehicles, and call the police from the scene to establish a case number and obtain a police report.

If you’ve been involved in a rideshare accident due to another driver’s negligence or carelessness, call the experienced attorneys at Berry Law. They can handle the details while you recover.

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