With the tap of your finger on a smartphone, a car appears and you climb into your Uber or Lyft and depart for a destination at the time of your choosing. Ridesharing is a modern and convenient way to get around today, and more services are appearing on the market (Digital Trends published an interesting article on the best ridesharing apps).
If you add taxis into the mix of ridesharing options, there are diverse choices for one to get around town, on your own schedule, without owning or renting a car. But what happens if there is an accident and you receive serious injuries that require medical attention, like:
Who pays for the medical bills and other damages? Which court oversees mishaps involving taxis or ridesharing and how do you file an insurance claim? These are difficult questions that an average person is not likely to answer correctly.
Then consider this, drivers rarely accept responsibility for an accident. And odds are there will be no friendly, unsolicited offers to pay your bills.
And that can be infuriating, you were just sitting in the back seat, minding your own business. The ridesharing or taxi company sent you the car and the driver they sent was at the wheel at the time of the accident. Why should you be responsible to pay the medical bills for an accident you had nothing to do with?
Unfortunately, the truth is if you are injured it is hard to avoid the feeling that you are on your own, fighting against the system. That is because you are.
In the meantime, you may not be able to work and have plenty of time to worry about how to make the next rent or mortgage payment, or how to buy food. As you consider ways to get some help, you may ask:
Can a Personal Injury Lawyer help a Paying Passenger Injured in a Car Accident?
If you have been injured in a car accident while riding in a taxi or ridesharing service, the simple answer is you need a good attorney. Think about it, you were in a car accident, but you were not driving. The driver is not a friend or family member, but rather is a contractor hired to drive you. And they work for a private company (e.g. Uber, Lyft, Yellow Taxi, etc.) who sent the car. Plus, the accident may involve other vehicles driven by strangers. Who do you file a claim against? It gets complicated fast.
An experienced lawyer brings the knowledge and skill that is necessary to get to a fair settlement for you. Without an established attorney, you are at risk of making mistakes that result in a settlement favorable for the insurance companies or the opposing parties, and bad for you.
It would be nice if the legal system was simple. But it is not; the modern legal system is thorny. So much so, experts are trying to figure out if it has become too complex (Wired magazine had an interesting article Measuring the Complexity of the Law). Wired noted that laws and regulations have become a tangle of interconnected statements that even professionals have trouble figuring out. So, it is not surprising we find lawyers specializing in certain fields. The simple reality is that the United States, state, and local codes are a complex behemoth to the lay person that are hard to decipher. Specializing allows a lawyer to focus on their area of law, and with lots of hard work they can become an expert in that field.
This is certainly true for personal injury law. It has grown and evolved over the years to deal with new inventions and developments in a changing society. For example, new statutes have to be added to the codes to deal with advances like ride sharing and autonomous cars. But it is far from simple.
Consider ridesharing, there is sometimes confusion over whether the state or city has authority over the matter (this Government Technology article is a good example). What that means for you is finding the right court to file with may be difficult. Something seemingly easy, like filing paperwork, becomes a chore.
And things get more complicated when you learn that you accepted a user agreement when you loaded that Uber app. And this agreement releases them from all responsibility and waives your right to a jury trial in favor of arbitration. Among many other things.
This leads many to ask why we make it so complicated. But the truth is we need to add new regulations on an ongoing basis to address the unique issues raised by new forms of transportation. Over time, this continual tweaking results in a legal system that appears as an overgrown jungle of rules and statutes that are full of pitfalls and setbacks to the average person. All too often, those who have been injured cannot not cut through it, no matter how hard they try. However, with the help of a skilled attorney, you have an experienced guide, giving you the means to safely find your way through the thicket.
So, yes, a personal injury lawyer can help just about anyone injured as a result of negligence by others in a rideshare or taxi accident. It is not an exaggeration to go so far as to say you must have a lawyer, or you risk a reduced or no settlement.
What does a Personal Injury Lawyer do for Those Hurt in a Ridesharing or Taxi accident?
The short answer is a good attorney shares their education and experience. They know the law; city, state, and federal. They understand how the judicial system operates. You don’t. (FindLaw is a popular “legal information” website and has a detailed article on the reasons to hire a personal injury lawyer. The American Bar Association “ABA” also has a more generic guide on when you need a lawyer.)
A quick summary of what a good attorney can do for you:
- Expertly negotiate with insurance companies and opposing attorneys.
- File claims before time limitations prevent you from seeking compensation.
- Negotiate payments with opposing parties.
- Manage forms and administrative tasks, ensuring they are done correctly.
- Navigate the puzzling process of hearings and trials.
- Hire consultants and experts to bolster your claim (if needed).
- Question and suppress faulty evidence or arguments that are damaging to your account of the incident.
A reputable lawyer brings the expertise you need if you have been hurt in an Uber, Lyft, or taxi ride. While every accident is different, the bottom line is a veteran attorney will increase your chances of a satisfactory outcome and they are motivated to fight for what you are owed. Many lawyers offer free initial meetings and they receive no compensation until you do. If you were hurt in a taxi or ridesharing car accident, retaining an established personal injury lawyer brings many advantages, with little to no downside.
The Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky offers a “we win or its free” guarantee. And they have been representing individuals hurt by the negligence of others for years. Personal injury is their lone area of law they practice, they are specialists. And with their skill and understanding of personal injury law, they protect your precious rights. Call (215) 735-4800 for a free consultation.
Very few products manage to become ubiquitous and so well known that the brand name is used a as a generic label for an entire family of products. The word Kleenex is used instead of facial tissue. Scotch tape describes all clear, plastic pressure sensitive tapes. And most refer to cotton swabs as Q-tips. You get the idea.
But recently, we have seen a brand name used to describe a modern-day service, ridesharing. Many refer to this handy mode of transportation as “Uber,” even if the car is not from the company that operates under that name. And as with most successful business ideas, there are competitors to Uber, and the number of companies offering ridesharing is increasing. So, while Uber is not the only choice, it does conduct a whopping fifteen million rides a day and has become the Kleenex of ridesharing.
Most know that ridesharing is an app on a phone that allows a user to summon a car to take them where they want to go for a fee. Uber provides an easy way for passengers to find a ride on their own timetable. No schedules to worry about like when you ride the subway train or local bus. Click the button on your phone screen and someone responds telling when they will be there and how much it will cost. You can even track the car as comes to you. Very high-tech and convenient.
But in reality, it is slightly more complicated. Yes, Uber is the company that makes the app on your phone, but they also hire thousands of independent drivers who operate their own cars as private contractors to Uber. So, Uber interfaces between a paying customer who needs a ride and a private contractor who operates their own “rideshare” service. The app is simply the means of communication for the independent drivers to find people who want rides.
So, big deal, there is a little more to ridesharing than just the app. Why do I care? Well, you should care. Uber drivers are involved in car accidents just like all other drivers, and in some cases the driver has even assaulted passengers. When this happens, what do you do? And, unlike riding in a taxi, when you signed up for the app you agreed to Uber’s terms. And they are very favorable to the Uber, but not so much for you.
This is far from ideal if the Uber car you are in has an accident and you are hurt. If you read the most current terms and conditions (in effect as of 13 December 2018 when this article was written), you assume all responsibility for whatever happens to you, “to the maximum extent permitted under applicable law.”
Section Six of the US Uber Agreement reads:
THE SERVICES ARE PROVIDED “AS IS” AND “AS AVAILABLE.” UBER DISCLAIMS ALL REPRESENTATIONS AND WARRANTIES, EXPRESS, IMPLIED, OR STATUTORY, NOT EXPRESSLY SET OUT IN THESE TERMS, INCLUDING THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NON-INFRINGEMENT. IN ADDITION, UBER MAKES NO REPRESENTATION, WARRANTY, OR GUARANTEE REGARDING THE RELIABILITY, TIMELINESS, QUALITY, SUITABILITY, OR AVAILABILITY OF THE SERVICES OR ANY SERVICES OR GOODS REQUESTED THROUGH THE USE OF THE SERVICES, OR THAT THE SERVICES WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR ERROR-FREE. UBER DOES NOT GUARANTEE THE QUALITY, SUITABILITY, SAFETY OR ABILITY OF THIRD PARTY PROVIDERS. YOU AGREE THAT THE ENTIRE RISK ARISING OUT OF YOUR USE OF THE SERVICES, AND ANY SERVICE OR GOOD REQUESTED IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, REMAINS SOLELY WITH YOU, TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED UNDER APPLICABLE LAW.”
And to make matters worse, many states and cities have antiquated laws that have not caught up to adequately cover the concept of ridesharing. Where there are no clear, specific laws, Uber’s insurance company and lawyers will present and attempt to enforce the user agreement. That could mean you forfeited all your rights to a claim against Uber, and agreed to other things like waiving a trial by jury in favor of arbitration. It can be mind melting for someone not well versed in law. So, if you are in an Uber accident and end up hurt, you need someone that does understand how to use and interpret the user agreement, as well as the laws. A good lawyer is able to help you fight for your rights and work for a fair settlement.
There are more difficult questions to consider. When there is a car accident involving your Uber car, do you need to file a police report, too? Do you need to file an insurance claim if you are hurt, and with who? These questions get complicated and the answer to some questions may vary depending on where the accident happened, since cities and states are passing laws regarding ridesharing. (You can find firsthand accounts of the confusing process from an Uber rider involved in an accident all over the internet.)
Another interesting aspect of Uber, riders often develop a relationship with certain drivers over time and look to ride with them whenever they can. But if there is an accident and it gets reported, the customer may worry that their favorite driver could be fired. But should you file a report anyway? If you do not, does that expose you to a claim or problems? These are difficult questions, and they get harder to answer when injuries are involved.
A car accident can result in broken bones, cuts and abrasions, and back and neck injuries among other things, all of which require medical attention and that means a hospital bill. Who pays for this expense? Well, Uber does have insurance for its drivers, but there are stipulations. Their insurance will pay only if the accident is caused by the Uber or other drivers involved in the wreck, and only if the coverage of the Uber contractor and other drivers is insufficient. That brings us to more questions. Do you file a claim against the Uber driver or Uber, or anyone else who was driving and involved in the accident? Do you file a claim against all of them? When and do I need to file a lawsuit? These are answers that vary depending on the specifics of your accident and where it happened, so you may want to discuss these issues with a knowledgeable lawyer.
And what happens if you are assaulted or robbed? Sounds far fetched to you? Well, remember Uber provides fifteen million rides a day. That is a lot of drivers with opportunity and unfortunately it does happen.
Take a look at this story from CNN Business, this piece in Elite Daily, and this article from Hawaii News Now. In a four-year stretch, CNN reported 103 United States drivers were accused of attacking or raping women. Of course, you should call the police or 911 if you can and get immediate help is you are assaulted. But after the incident, you may want to press charges. Can you sue for damages and who do you sue, the driver, Uber, or both? A good lawyer would be the person to ask as it gets complicated, fast. You do not want to make a mistake by trying to handle the matter on your own since it may reduce the compensation you are entitled to.
With millions of rides executed every day, there will be accidents and mishaps involving Uber cars. The steps you take after an accident are crucial, especially if you are hurt. And in today’s modern, complex society, one of the most important steps you can take is to hire a reputable attorney. Most will offer a free consultation to review your case and many firms agree to get paid as part of the settlement funds. That means they do not get paid unless you get paid. So, there is little risk in hiring a lawyer if you have been hurt in an Uber accident. If you go it alone and make a mistake along the way, it could cost you significantly in reduced compensation.
Competitors to a successful business model always pop up. There is almost always a Burger King within a block of every McDonalds for a reason. And the same is true in ridesharing. While Uber is the big dog in the rideshare market, Lyft has made in roads and become a popular alternative. It is not uncommon for many users to have both apps on their phones.
Like their competitor, Lyft offers rides by connecting private drivers with those who need a ride. They offer an app and operate in a similar if not almost identical manner as Uber. Some users feel Uber is more businesslike, while Lyft is more of a fun ride. Lyft used to even encourage passengers to ride shotgun with the driver. Another feature Lyft offers, stops along the way. You can pick-up your friend or drop something off along the way. So, there are some differences when comparing Lyft to Uber, but it really comes down to who has the closest car for users who commonly use both services. (Look to this link for a more detailed comparison of Lyft and Uber from Ridester.)
Another similarity to Uber, Lyft requires users to accept a user agreement when the app is loaded. And as was the case with Uber, Lyft goes out of their way to absolve themselves from any responsibility if there is a problem.
An excerpt from the U.S. terms and conditions in place at the time this article was written: 6 Feb 2018
Limitation of Liability
“IN NO EVENT WILL LYFT, INCLUDING OUR AFFILIATES, SUBSIDIARIES, PARENTS, SUCCESSORS AND ASSIGNS, AND EACH OF OUR RESPECTIVE OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, OR SHAREHOLDERS (COLLECTIVELY “LYFT” FOR PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION), BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR ANY INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, PUNITIVE, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR INDIRECT DAMAGES (INCLUDING DAMAGES FOR DELETION, CORRUPTION, LOSS OF DATA, LOSS OF PROGRAMS, FAILURE TO STORE ANY INFORMATION OR OTHER CONTENT MAINTAINED OR TRANSMITTED BY THE LYFT PLATFORM, SERVICE INTERRUPTIONS, OR FOR THE COST OF PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE SERVICES) ARISING OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE LYFT PLATFORM, THE SERVICES, OR THIS AGREEMENT, HOWEVER ARISING INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE, EVEN IF WE OR OUR AGENTS OR REPRESENTATIVES KNOW OR HAVE BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES. THE LYFT PLATFORM MAY BE USED BY YOU TO REQUEST AND SCHEDULE TRANSPORTATION, GOODS, OR OTHER SERVICES WITH THIRD PARTY PROVIDERS, BUT YOU AGREE THAT LYFT HAS NO RESPONSIBILITY OR LIABILITY TO YOU RELATED TO ANY TRANSPORTATION, GOODS OR OTHER SERVICES PROVIDED TO YOU BY THIRD PARTY PROVIDERS OTHER THAN AS EXPRESSLY SET FORTH IN THIS AGREEMENT. CERTAIN JURISDICTIONS MAY NOT ALLOW THE EXCLUSION OR LIMITATION OF CERTAIN DAMAGES. IF THESE LAWS APPLY TO YOU, SOME OR ALL OF THE ABOVE DISCLAIMERS, EXCLUSIONS OR LIMITATIONS MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU, AND YOU MAY HAVE ADDITIONAL RIGHTS.”
The text is copied exactly as it appeared in the terms and conditions, all bold. So, once again you accept all responsibility for riding in a Lyft car. But Lyft does acknowledge that some cities and states may have laws that override the user agreement. What does that mean and how do you know if there are laws in your locale that override the agreement? For most people, they do not know. However, a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer that specializes in working with these laws can help you understand and contest the user agreement, protecting your rights and fighting for proper compensation to cover your injuries and damages.
Also, both Lyft and Uber screen their drivers before hiring. They know it is wise to take some measures to make sure they send a driver who will be courteous and professional. And it makes good business sense to provide a passenger with confidence that they are climbing into a “safe” car with a responsible driver. Lyft even markets their services as the “safety first” rideshare option. But what does that mean or imply when there is an accident?
Does Lyft and Uber accept responsibility for a “safe” driver through the screening process? Are there implied warranties because of this screening? For many, common sense tells us that a screening process would imply that both Uber and Lyft are aware of their responsibility for sending a safe, competent driver.
So, if Lyft has some liability when an accident is caused by a negligent driver sent by them, should the rideshare’s insurance company pay if you are hurt because of this implied liability? Again, this is a gray area and depends on where you file the claim, but some would argue yes. And there is no one better equipped to cut through the tangle of laws and translate user agreements than an experienced attorney. Establishing liability is a key requirement to establishing a claim, and an attorney is best equipped to make a strong case for liability by others.
On reviewing the Uber and Lyft websites, they also both have website sections devoted to safety (Uber safety page and Lyft safety page). They note policies like a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol abuse by their drivers and a two-way rating system (where the driver can also rate the passengers) to make things “safer.” But this commitment to safety and establishing safety related policies also implies that the rideshare companies acknowledge a degree of responsibilities for their drivers.
As with most things when dealing with rideshare issues in the legal system, tough questions fast arise from the implied liability because of their safety programs and they can be argued either way. And who better than an experienced attorney to make the best argument for your rights and implied responsibilities should you get injured in a rideshare accident. It is hard to overstate the importance of good attorney should you be injured in a Lyft car.
With their specialized knowledge, an experienced personal injury lawyer is not only able to make complex arguments on your behalf, they are also motivated to do so. Most personal injury attorneys truly want to protect their client’s rights. But it is also true that most personal injury lawyers are paid as percent of the final client compensation. So, the law firm also has a financial interest in getting the best possible settlement just like you do. And in the end, this means you get proper compensation, which is likely more than you would be able to get on your own, even after paying the lawyer.
While not as big as Uber, Lyft does offer over a million rides every day and there will be times when things go wrong. If you are hurt in a Lyft accident, you should act quickly as there may be time limitations for filing claims in some cities and states. With the complexities of new laws and modern society, you should also consider the immediate hiring of a reputable attorney to properly establish your claim and fight for your rights. Most personal injury lawyers will offer a free consultation to evaluate your case and most get paid from the settlement funds. That means they do not get any money until you do. So, there is no risk in hiring a lawyer if you have been hurt in a Lyft accident. But if you forgo an attorney, you risk not being properly compensated and you may even forfeit some of your rights.
Tips for Staying Safe in a Rideshare Car
With safety becoming a major issue with ridesharing, it is not surprising that some have asked how they can increase their odds for a safe ride. Two good articles on the topic can be found at:
Most of the information might appear to be common sense, but it is not bad to keep in mind when you climb into a rideshare car (and most of the tips can apply to a taxi cab as well). In summary:
- Make sure you get into the right car. Confirm the name of the driver and the make of the car.
- Check the driver’s ratings.
- Let others know where you are and what you are doing.
- Limit your alcohol consumption.
- Sit in the back, on the passenger side.
- Use a map app to track your route and document it.
- Travel in groups.
- Use common sense, if something feels wrong, do not get in.
Taxi cabs provide a valuable service and the image someone of standing on the curb in a busy city flagging down a cab is iconic. But with today’s modern miracles, and the pressures of ridesharing competition, it is not surprising to see that some cab companies now offer “calling” for a cab with an app on your phone. Whether you use the old-fashioned raised arm and loud whistle, or use your smart phone, cabs are something we all use at one time or another.
But what happens when the cab you are riding in gets in an accident and you get hurt? In New York City, there are on average eight to ten thousand taxi accidents a year. (Justia and Nolo overview articles of taxi cab accidents.)
The taxi driver could be at fault, but if other vehicles are involved, those other drivers could be the ones who caused the accident. If you were reading, or on the phone, you may not have seen what happened and do not know who is at fault. So, what should you do?
Immediately after an accident, you need to collect as much information as possible. You will need the cab driver’s name and badge number (if you used an app to hail the cab, you may already have this information on your phone), as well as the names and contact information of any witnesses to the scene.
As previously mentioned, you may not have seen what happened, so witnesses may crucial for you to establish who was negligent. And proving negligence is an important part of filing a claim.
If you are able, you should snap some pictures of the accident scene. Things like debris, skid marks, and autobody damage to the involved vehicles can often be valuable information to who hit who, and how hard. This information could be important evidence if you need to file a lawsuit. If your injuries are too severe, ask someone else to take pictures with your phone.
And one last thing you should do is file a police report, to ensure there is an “official” record of the accident. Do not assume the other drivers will do this, especially if you are hurt.
Then what do you do? Do you file a claim against the taxi driver, the taxi company, the other drivers involved, or all of them? It depends. Some states or cities have laws that govern insurance coverages and how to file a claim. Or, you may have to file multiple claims when multiple drivers are involved.
Once you decide who to make a claim against, then you have to file it with an insurance company. But what if the driver had no insurance, or too little coverage? Now you may have to negotiate a settlement, or file a lawsuit.
As you can see, it gets complicated fast, and when you consider the laws governing insurance and car accidents varies by city and state, it gets even worse.
Hiring a personal injury lawyer is your best move if you do not have a fundamental grasp of the laws and statutes in your area. There are time limits, forms and paperwork, insurance adjusters, and opposing attorneys to deal with, and most average people are not experienced at this type of work. But a personal injury lawyer is knowledgeable and skilled in handling the issues involved with injuries suffered by a passenger in a car accident.
And an experienced attorney is well versed in establishing liability, and will do so on your behalf. But there is more to filing a claim, and to receive proper compensation to cover your medical bills and damages incurred by the taxi accident, you need to deal with two major issues. The first is establishing liability, which we just mentioned. The second problem you will face is little less obvious, and more complicated.
A taxi accident is handled as a “standard” passenger injured in a car accident scenario. The fact you were in a cab is not a major consideration in the eyes of the law. However, cab companies are more likely to vigorously fight claims. And that is true of the cab’s insurance company as well, and they have experience with fighting the type of claim you have filed.
Also, many cities and states require taxi cabs to carry a minimum injury coverage. But most taxi companies carry the bare minimum to meet the requirements, no more. So, if there are multiple injury claims involved with your accident, or your injuries are severe, the insurance coverage may not be enough to fairly cover all the expenses. The leads to a negotiation of how to distribute the available funds, and will result in reduced compensation to you.
A personal injury lawyer is experienced in negotiating with insurance companies. It is one of the things they do on a regular basis. If you are in the position of having to cut a deal with an insurance company, you want a good lawyer on your side.
Unfortunately, sometimes negotiations break down. When negotiations with an insurance company break down, then you need to file a lawsuit. Once again you should have a knowledgeable attorney fighting for your rights and handling the suit. What court has jurisdiction, how to file, how to depose witnesses, etc. are all questions and tasks that a good lawyer is expert with, you are not.
So, a good attorney brings a multitude of services and advantages to a passenger hurt in a taxi cab accident. While many people feel they cannot afford a good lawyer, that is simply not true. Many firms offer a free consultation and they have policies where they do not get paid unless you are compensated. There is very little risk to you, but much to gain when you hire a personal injury lawyer to help you as a passenger hurt in an accident.
In summary, if you are unfortunately injured while riding in a cab, remember to collect information from the drivers and witnesses, take copious pictures, and ensure the police are involved so that a report is filed. After that, hire a good personal injury lawyer, you will need their help.