Thanks to rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, individuals today can take advantage of a new variety of transportation options. Companies like these offer those who can’t or don’t wish to drive an opportunity to secure both group and private rides with little more than a few taps on a smartphone application. Working professionals, students, and those planning a night out on the town rely on these services to help them reach their destinations safely.
But what happens when a ride with a Lyft or Uber driver goes awry? What rights do victims have—and what compensation can they pursue—if they’re involved in a rideshare accident? Many victims have to battle with conflicting information in the time following their accidents. Drivers fearing legal penalties and not-so-transparent representatives from rideshare companies may further complicate the process. An experienced car accident attorney can help guide you through the process to keep your legal rights in tact.
Many of us rely on these services when we feel we cannot or should not drive ourselves. Whether we are trying to avoid frustrating traffic or we’re unable to drive after a few drinks, it’s not uncommon for us to turn to ridesharing as an active effort to avoid accidents. When a crash occurs, it can be a terrifying and wholly unexpected experience.
The time following a rideshare accident is often riddled with confusion. Many rideshare accident victims find that they struggle to contend with complicated and excessive paperwork following their crash, and many more receive paltry settlement offers that scarcely cover medical bills and fail to account for the extent of their suffering caused by the crash. Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have complex insurance policies. Most passengers are unaware of the policies and guidelines outlined for rideshare drivers, but understanding the factors that might come into play following an accident can be helpful.
Boohoff Law’s Commitment to You
Countless rideshare accident victims find themselves partnered with unreliable, careless, or unmotivated attorneys. If you or a loved one have been involved in a rideshare accident, you deserve to work with a knowledgeable and empathetic legal professional. Victims injured as a result of a rideshare driver’s negligence should seek a reputable attorney with a deep understanding of Washington law.
At Boohoff Law, we take focused steps to ensure that accident victims receive the compensation and assistance that they deserve. Our skilled legal team works tirelessly to aid in our clients’ pursuit of legal recourse after they are involved in a rideshare accident. We rely on:
- Meticulous investigation to turn up as much evidence to benefit your case as possible.
- Comprehensive preparation to ensure that both our team and our clients are well-prepared and informed before beginning the legal process.
- Extensive personal service to help us build meaningful relationships and help clients feel at ease.
- A retained team of litigation and medical paralegals to help our clients fight for their rights with specialized knowledge and assistance.
Rideshare Accident Injuries
Even minor rideshare accidents have the potential to cause serious injuries, but some crashes lead to catastrophic damage and bodily harm. Depending on the circumstances and the severity of the crash, victims may experience:
- Scrapes, cuts, and lesions;
- Head and neck injuries;
- Brain injuries;
- Back injuries;
- Chest injuries;
- Spinal cord and nerve damage;
- Herniated discs;
- Vocal cord paralysis; and
- Ligament damage.
An experienced medical professional must evaluate all of the injuries you sustain in a rideshare accident. Even if you don’t exhibit any negative symptoms after a rideshare accident, it’s best to visit a doctor to ensure your safety and wellbeing. Doctors may be able to pinpoint injuries that lie dormant for a period of time or that haven’t worsened to the degree where they’re noticeable yet.
Potential Rideshare Accident Causes
The same factors that increase the risk of all other vehicle accidents impact the likelihood of experiencing an accident during an Uber or Lyft ride. Unfortunately, relying on another party for transportation means that the situation is largely out of passengers’ hands.
Every driver puts themselves at some risk when they head out onto the road. Other drivers can cause accidents even if you behave and drive flawlessly. Still, drivers can generally take steps to ensure that they’ve done all they can to ensure their own safety. Rideshare passengers do not have this opportunity.
A rideshare accident may be caused by the Uber or Lyft driver, but could also be the fault of other drivers on the road. Your driver or those in the vehicles around you may:
- Be inattentive or distracted while driving;
- Make improper turns or execute other improper maneuvers;
- Park illegally;
- Drive while intoxicated;
- Exhibit signs of road rage or aggressive driving; and/or
- Have to grapple with dangerous road or weather conditions.
Distracted driving, in particular, tends to be a common issue for rideshare drivers. These drivers rely on the rideshare company’s application to view GPS maps and receive driving directions. Paying too much attention to maps, getting distracted or confused by directions, and other similar issues can all greatly increase the risk of a crash.
All of the above factors have the potential to put both drivers and passengers at risk. If you notice that your driver is engaging in any of these behaviors or exhibiting signs of intoxication, it is in your best interest to leave the vehicle as soon as it’s possible to do so safely. Never allow another individual to put your wellbeing in harm’s way and don’t hesitate to contact authorities if you believe that your rideshare driver is doing something illegal.
Immediately After Your Accident: The Steps Victims Should Take
Enduring a rideshare vehicle accident can be a life-altering experience. Many victims find themselves at a loss following their accident regardless of what type of accident it was. Where should they go? Who should they call? Who do they need to talk to? Even the most basic and obvious guidelines are easily forgotten in the aftermath of a crash.
If you or a loved one is concerned about the steps to take following a rideshare accident, it’s important to keep calm and have a plan. Utilize the following as a guideline to inform your actions after a rideshare accident:
- Ensure the health of all parties involved in the accident. Some accidents only result in minor injuries, but others can lead to catastrophic damage to the human body. Be sure to call 911 and ensure that each victim is seen by an emergency response team. A lack of pain or visible injuries does not mean that an individual is safe and unharmed—only a trained medical professional can determine that.
- Collect information from all involved parties. This includes license plate numbers, insurance information, and even a number where you can contact the other parties involved in your accident if need be. Take pictures of any visible injuries and any damage to the vehicles. The Uber and Lyft apps make it easy for rideshare passengers to see driver information; consider taking a screenshot of the driver’s page for future reference.
- Contact your insurance agency. When you do, be sure to emphasize that the accident is still under investigation. You will likely receive calls from the insurance companies covering other parties involved in the crash, too. Be cordial, but avoid the temptation to accept a low settlement offer.
- Seek out a trusted and knowledgeable rideshare accident lawyer. Your legal rights clearly state that you are at liberty to fully investigate the accident and receive an appropriate settlement. Partnering with a rideshare accident attorney will help you work through the complicated process of settling your case. Take the initiative to put yourself and your rights first: hire an experienced, proven legal professional to help you pursue the compensation you deserve.
If you or a loved one fell victim to a rideshare accident, you may be struggling to understand who can be held liable for your injuries. Uber and Lyft passengers may need to pursue compensation from a third party involved in their accident, or they may need to contact the rideshare’s insurance company.
If another driver hit the vehicle you were in, the process may be relatively simple. These accidents are often handled much the same way as typical non-rideshare accidents. You or your loved one can file a claim against that driver’s insurance company just as you would if they’d injured you while you were driving your own vehicle. If the driver does not hold ample insurance to cover your needs, you may be able to receive additional coverage from the rideshare company’s insurance carrier.
Many Uber and Lyft accidents can also be traced back to the rideshare driver. If your driver caused the accident, you’ll need to file a claim with the rideshare’s insurance company. Uber is known to carry a $1 million liability insurance policy, which is often a helpful source of compensation for victims who sustain injuries in rideshare accidents. Lyft’s terms and coverage are similar.
Navigating the Web of Insurance
A majority of rideshare accidents end up involving three insurance agencies:
- The rideshare company’s insurance company;
- The rideshare driver’s personal and private insurer; and
- The insurance company covering any other driver involved in the accident.
This can prove overwhelming for an accident victim who doesn’t understand where to begin pursuing compensation. Many rideshare crash victims must endure multiple insurance companies working together with one common goal: to try to diminish the victim’s injuries in hopes of offering them a low, unfair settlement.
With so many insurance companies involved in the time that follows a rideshare accident, it becomes easy to see why turning to a legal professional for help is the best choice. A trustworthy, seasoned attorney can help you untangle the mess of paperwork and communication you may receive from these companies. Your lawyer may also help you stand up for yourself against such companies in court.
Victims’ Options When Insurance Companies Fail to Pay
Unfortunately, many rideshare accident victims find themselves being denied the compensation that they deserve after they are injured. Rideshare insurance companies can and do refuse to pay victims after some crashes. After retaining a lawyer that you feel you can trust to keep your best interests in mind, you have a few options to help you move forward.
Victims can fight the rideshare’s insurance company if they feel they may have enough evidence to prevail in court. If you elect to follow this path, your attorney will need to help you prove that the rideshare’s insurer denied your claim illegally. A legal professional will be able to help review the terms of the relevant rideshare policy and ensure that you have a case before getting caught up in a legal tug-of-war.
Technically, you also have the option to directly sue the driver who was transporting you at the time of the accident. Some private insurance companies will cover the damages caused during an accident that can be traced back to the rideshare driver if that driver holds a personal policy with the insurance company. Rideshare drivers are like any other drivers on the road, though, and may not have adequate insurance of their own.
Are Uber and Lyft types of ridesharing companies?
Yes. Uber and Lyft provide most of the rideshares in Seattle. These rideshare companies technically operate as transportation network companies (TNC). TNCs provide an online network for connecting riders with drivers but are not responsible for actually transporting the passengers. Instead, the passengers are connected via the transportation network to Seattle drivers who use their personal vehicles, and pay these drivers for transportation. Often the cost of using a driver through a TNC is less than the traditional cost of a taxicab.
Does Seattle have any specific ridesharing laws?
Yes. The rise of rideshare companies in Seattle and Washington in general presented lawmakers with unique questions about passenger safety and car accident liability. Because of this, Washington passed a specific ridesharing law to clarify the rights of TNC drivers, passengers, and companies. Civil and criminal penalties may apply to companies providing TNC services in violation of the law; it holds drivers “to a reasonable and ordinary standard of care,” not “to ordinances or regulations which relate exclusively to the regulation of drivers or owners of motor vehicles operated for hire, or other common carriers or public transit carriers.”
In addition, Seattle has passed ordinances that apply to transportation network companies.
A dedicated Seattle injury lawyer at Boohoff Law will analyze the facts of each viable rideshare accident case to determine the best avenue for financial recovery.
Are rideshare drivers employees of ridesharing companies in Seattle?
In general, rideshare companies try to say that they do not employ rideshare drivers. These drivers are independent contractors, (also known as 1099 self-employed workers) and not a TNC’s employees. This designation applies even though most rideshare companies collect, reduce, and distribute driver payments, a traditional red flag when disclaiming employee status.
Courts distinguish between independent contractors and employees. Employers generally bear full financial responsibility for torts, such as driver negligence, committed by those working in their employment. Companies do not have responsibility for the torts, however, committed by independent contractors working for them. Independent contractor status typically eliminates a TNC’s liability for car accidents.
A rideshare accident lawyer may demand evidence of each statutory factor during car accident litigation. If a rideshare company has failed to adhere to all of the conditions listed above, the TNC might be vicariously liable for a rideshare accident.
Do rideshare companies have to perform background checks on their drivers?
Yes. Not everyone is allowed to serve as a rideshare driver in Seattle. Prospective drivers must supply the TNC with their personal information. The TNC must maintain and review these records; the FBI, Washington State Patrol, or an approved third party can check fingerprints. Rideshare companies must report criminal offenses on the parts of drivers.
Ridesharing companies face hefty fines and potential criminal penalties for failing to perform and/or report proper driver checks. Further, rideshare companies that contract with drivers after failing to discover or ignoring essential convictions may owe damages to claimants injured due to this failure.
Do Seattle rideshare drivers need special car insurance?
Rideshare drivers need a special TNC insurance policy in Seattle to operate.
In Seattle, the TNC must maintain, for all affiliated vehicles:
- $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident in bodily injury insurance
- $25,000 in property damage insurance
- $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident in uninsured motorist insurance
TNCs may provide all or part of this insurance on behalf of drivers. For example, Uber provides rideshare drivers with the applicable $1,000,000 liability policy. But the amount of that policy may decrease depending on whether the driver was (1) logged out of the rideshare application; (2) logged into the app and waiting for a summons; or (3) actively engaged in a rideshare. A ride starts when the driver accepts a request for pickup and legally ends when the last rider exits the vehicle.
Who is liable for a Seattle ridesharing accident?
Personal injury protection (PIP) policies, the negligent driver’s liability insurer, or the TNC’s umbrella policy usually cover viable injury claims, but many claimants must litigate to collect further damages.
Liability depends on who or what caused your injuries. Generally, a rideshare company will argue that responsibility for a rideshare crash only rests with the negligent drivers/vehicle owner. A rideshare company might be vicariously liable if the driver is considered an employee.
Rideshare companies may also bear liability if a passenger sustained injuries because:
- The TNC knowingly permitted a dangerous vehicle on its platform
- The TNC negligently retained the driver, knowing he or she had a poor driving or criminal record
- The TNC missed an essential criminal or driving conviction during the driver’s background check
- The TNC did not display the proper rider safety information before pickup
- The TNC did not take measures to suspend the driver during a DUI investigation
The TNC’s negligence must relate to how your injuries occurred. For example, a passenger sexually assaulted by a rideshare driver might hold the TNC liable for a missed conviction but not for injuries sustained in a rear-end accident. Property owners, other passengers, and other drivers could be responsible for negligently caused damages. Every case differs, but an experienced Seattle rideshare accident attorney at Boohoff Law can expertly analyze each potential claim.
Isn’t ridesharing dangerous because drivers use their phones?
Most rideshare drivers rely on one or more phone applications while working. They use these applications to accept rides, take payment, and navigate to their destinations. Some attorneys argue that forced reliance on these applications might subject TNCs to direct liability. Washington State allows only hands-free operation of phones while driving.
However, just because a driver may use a rideshare application during a trip—for example, the GPS function—does not protect him or her from liability. Negligently designed rideshare applications, such as those with distracting features, might result in product liability claims against the designer. Speak with a qualified Seattle Uber accident lawyer today if a driver’s phone distracted him or her immediately before a crash.
Is the rideshare company liable if I was injured while waiting for my Seattle rideshare?
In California, fake Uber drivers were picking up and sexually assaulting passengers by explaining away the mismatched license plates. Uber knew this was occurring but chose not to warn passengers of the danger. The injured riders settled with Uber under a theory of failure to warn while using a dangerous product (the phone application). This case was unique, but certain other situations may give rise to viable legal claims for riders injured while waiting for a rideshare vehicle.
Can I hold a Seattle rideshare company accountable if a driver assaulted or stole from me?
Possibly. Liability depends on what the rideshare company should have known or knew about the driver. In such cases, personal injury lawyers may run a criminal background check to determine if the driver had a relevant criminal history. If so, a rideshare company may be directly liable for negligently contracting with the driver, even if his or her crimes were not “disqualifying” offenses under the law. Liability might also stick if previous clients complained about related behavior from the driver, but the rideshare company did not take action.
Are rideshare companies responsible for making sure vehicles are safe?
Seattle requires safety inspections from city-approved mechanics. Accidents or injuries caused by mechanical failures, such as faulty seat belts or brakes, may subject individual rideshare companies and their drivers to liability. In addition, Uber and Lyft require drivers’ vehicles to undergo comprehensive safety inspections before registering with the platform. Based on these requirements, TNCs are presumably not directly liable for accidents caused by mechanical failures. Rideshare insurers may still cover injuries sustained during rides. Legal responsibility for mechanical failures could also attach to vehicle manufacturers or even mechanics.
What damages can I recover after a Seattle rideshare accident?
Negligent parties must pay for all losses sustained in the accident. In Seattle, this includes out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, and future anticipated losses. Compensation may also include damages for pain, suffering, inconvenience, lost enjoyment of life, and lost job opportunities.
With the Seattle rideshare accident team at Boohoff Law, injured passengers may claim monetary compensation for the following:
- Emergency room bills
- Co-pays and doctors costs
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Lost enjoyment of past social activities
- Reconstructive surgery
- Lost income
- Lost employment benefits
- Medications and medical devices
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Home help and nursing care
- Medical transportation
- Hospital beds or home accessibility improvements
Compensation includes past, present, and future anticipated damages. Claimants must file litigation within three years of the rideshare accident to recover damages for negligence. Even if you’re still in medical treatment, you can work with expert witnesses to predict future financial losses. Courts might also delay adjudications if other claimants need specialized surgeries, or other additional damages appear.
If my rideshare was involved in a multi-car crash, who pays for my injuries?
Each rideshare driver must carry personal injury insurance (no-fault) coverage. Regardless of fault, this coverage typically pays for injured occupants’ immediate medical expenses and lost wages. Claimants with minor injuries might only need no-fault coverage.
Anyone with a serious injury under Seattle tort law might claim damages from a person or entity that negligently caused or contributed to the injuries. Liable parties may include a driver that rear-ends your rideshare, a rideshare driver who stops short, or a pedestrian that unlawfully cuts into the road. Insurance adjusters or juries typically review the facts and apportion liability accordingly.
Sometimes a TNC’s umbrella insurance policy settles any initial minor injury or property claims, and then seeks indemnification from another liable insurer. Schedule an insurance claims analysis with a Seattle rideshare accident lawyer at Boohoff Law today.
How can I claim money from Uber’s umbrella insurance policy in Seattle?
Uber and related rideshare umbrella policies only take effect during official rides. They do not cover illegal rideshares, such as those stemming from street hails, unofficial taxi services, or rides taken outside the official rideshare platform. Passengers should not finalize a claim for damages with a rideshare insurer before first speaking with a dedicated Seattle rideshare liability attorney at Boohoff Law. Most personal injury attorneys obtain compensation for clients by effectively advocating for an insurance settlement. Settlement requests often include submitting medical reports, photographs, police reports, and witness statements. Do not settle a claim for any amount without speaking with a legal professional to discuss the implications of liability waivers and potential future medical needs. Some claims require court-ordered discovery to recover the injury compensation you deserve after a Seattle rideshare accident.
Partner With Boohoff Law’s Seattle Rideshare Attorneys
Rideshare services have become immensely popular in recent years. With Uber pulling in over eleven billion dollars’ worth of revenue worldwide in 2018, there’s no question that more and more individuals are turning to these services for their transportation needs. Most passengers, however, are not aware of their rights or the steps they should take if they are involved in an accident while they’re utilizing one of these services.
That’s why the team at Boohoff Law is dedicated to educating and guiding our clients through the time after a rideshare accident. Our skilled team of attorneys works closely with clients to determine the damages and losses they’ve sustained, which the attorneys use to help them collect the compensation they rightfully deserve.
If you’re interested in seeking the advice of one of our compassionate and talented attorneys, please don’t hesitate to call us at (877) 999-9999 or contact us today.