Ridesharing has exploded in popularity in recent years, with people turning from traditional means of public transportation to companies like Uber and Lyft. As more commuters book trips with ridesharing companies, there is an increased risk of serious injury to passengers, third-party motorists, and others. If you’ve been hurt in a ridesharing accident, it’s important that you understand your legal rights. The personal injury attorneys of Stanfield Bechtel Law are dedicated to helping accident victims get the compensation they need to get their lives back to normal.
What is Ridesharing?
Most everyone has used some form of public transportation in their lives, including taxis, buses, subways, and trains. Ridesharing is akin to a hybrid of public and private transportation. It involves private automobile owners allowing members of the public to hire them and their vehicles for short-term drives from one place to another. As an example, an individual may hire an Uber or Lyft driver to take them home after a night out with friends.
The main difference between ridesharing and traditional public transportation is convenience. A passenger who wants to take a train has to go to the train station; to take a bus, you have to wait at the bus stop. With ridesharing, however, a passenger can directly request a driver to come to pick them up from nearly anywhere and at any time.
To use this on-demand service, an individual downloads an app onto their phone. When the user needs a ride, he or she opens the app, requests a nearby driver, and is charged a fee for the trip. A user can even activate the app’s GPS tracking system to determine the location of the driver and how close he or she is.
Another major distinction is that taxis, buses, and other forms of public transportation are regulated. For example, in Connecticut, the Regulatory and Compliance Unit of the Bureau of Public Transportation oversees taxis and other transportation systems. Meanwhile, rideshare drivers are just ordinary private citizens who work as independent contractors for companies like Uber. They have no special licensing or training as drivers.
What Injuries Might You Sustain in a Ridesharing Accident?
Whether you’re a driver, a passenger, or a third party (such as a non-rideshare motorist or a pedestrian), the injuries that you might suffer in a ridesharing accident are identical to those involving any other type of automobile accident. They include:
- Neck and spinal cord injuries such as muscle strains, whiplash, and herniated discs
- Head injuries, including concussions and skull fractures
- Traumatic brain injury
- Bone fractures such as broken arms and legs
- Internal organ damage and bleeding
Some accidents are so serious that victims suffer irreversible damage and disability that could shorten their lives or negatively impact their quality of life. In extreme cases, these accidents lead to coma and death. But regardless of how severe or minor your injuries are, it’s critical that you seek immediate medical attention for them. Not doing so may harm your health and jeopardize your ability to later seek damages from the responsible party.
How to Recover Damages in a Rideshare Accident Case
The first step in claiming damages is to determine who is actually responsible for causing the accident. Although you may have been a passenger in an Uber vehicle, this does not necessarily mean the driver caused the wreck. For instance, another motorist could have been responsible, in which case you would pursue a standard personal injury claim against that party and his or her insurance company.
But rideshare drivers do cause many of these wrecks, which complicates the question of liability. That’s because ridesharing companies do not consider their drivers to be employees, but instead classify them as independent contractors. Uber, Lyft, and other companies have used the independent contracting system to try to distance themselves from the negligent conduct of their drivers. Even so, these companies are required to carry liability insurance for their drivers, which is where you will likely start with a personal injury case.
Uber and Lyft Insurance Can Be Complicated
But the issue isn’t necessarily as simple as filing a claim against the insurer that covers Uber or Lyft. The driver’s personal automobile insurance may instead be responsible for paying for your injuries. Whose policy applies depends on whether the driver was working for the rideshare company when the wreck happened. For instance, if the accident occurred while the Uber or Lyft driver was not on duty, the driver’s personal policy will likely be responsible.
But if the driver causes the accident while actively working for a rideshare company, or was on the way to pick you up because you activated the app and requested a driver, the rideshare insurance company will probably be liable. There are varying policy limits depending on what the driver was doing at the time of the accident.
What to Do If You’ve Been in a Ridesharing Accident
If you’ve been in any type of wreck involving a rideshare driver, call 911. The police will come to the scene and generate a police report. This important document contains basic details about the accident such as the time, place, and identities of the parties involved. Don’t forget to seek medical attention right away to protect your health and your legal claim.
Next, begin documenting as much as you can about the accident. Take pictures of the accident scene, write down notes about what happened, and get the names and contact information of any witnesses. Also be sure to get the insurance information of all drivers involved. If you were the driver, notify your insurance company about the wreck.
Finally, give our firm a call at your earliest convenience. We work to determine not only all of the parties who may be at fault for causing an accident, but which insurance company (or companies) should pay and how much. We also work with insurance companies to settle claims out of court where possible. If the insurer refuses to pay or offers an unreasonably low settlement amount, we’re prepared to take your case to court.
Contact Our Connecticut Ridesharing Accident Attorney
Insurance companies and their lawyers are looking out for their bottom line. Who’s looking out for you? If you were injured in a ridesharing accident, Stanfield Bechtel Law has you covered. Call us today to get started.