Rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft, which are also known as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), provide more than 91 million rides a year in Massachusetts. The number of rideshares provided has increased about 52 percent in the state just within the past three years, and in Boston, the number of rideshares provided increased by three million in just one year.
Unfortunately, with the increase in ridesharing, there has also been an increase in deadly accidents in many parts of the U.S., partly attributed to deadheading, a name given to rideshare drivers who drive around high ride activity areas, waiting for a fare.
If someone else’s negligence caused you injuries in a Boston ridesharing accident, you can seek compensation for the financial and psychological impacts of your injury through a legal claim.
An experienced Boston ridesharing accident lawyer from Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers can provide a free case evaluation to help you understand this process. We can provide guidance and services to ensure your right to recover damages following an injury accident resulting from someone else’s carelessness or recklessness.
How Does the Law Treat Ridesharing?
Ridesharing is a relatively new phenomenon in which TNCs such as Lyft or Uber provides an app where individuals can apply to become drivers to transport individuals needing a ride to their location for money.
The TNCs’ app on the driver and passenger’s smartphones conducts all aspects of the transaction, including the rider accepting the ride and learning of the pick-up and drop-off locations for the passenger and the passenger’s payment for the ride.
Drivers who wish to provide rides through one of the ridesharing companies must have:
- A clean background and driving history.
- A relatively newer model vehicle in good running order and without extensive cosmetic damage, with at least four doors and at least five seatbelts.
- A valid driver’s license. Note: drivers in Boston are not required to have a Massachusetts driver’s license.
Current out-of-state licenses are allowed.
The current rideshare model provides a more affordable and convenient way of arranging transportation outside the traditional taxi system.
How Boston Ridesharing Accidents Occur
Many situations can cause a ridesharing accident, including:
- An accident that the rideshare driver’s carelessness or recklessness caused, that occurred while you were a passenger in the vehicle.
- An accident that occurs while you are in a rideshare vehicle that another party, such as another driver on the roadway, caused.
- An accident that occurs while you are in another vehicle, or were another roadway user, such as a bicyclist or a pedestrian, and that the rideshare driver’s careless or reckless actions caused.
As with other types of motor vehicle accidents, ridesharing accidents are almost always the result of human error.
Some of the actions that commonly lead to ridesharing accidents in Boston include:
- Distracted driving: Driving distractions can be visual, meaning they take the driver’s eyes from the roadway; manual, meaning they cause the driver to take his or her hands from the wheel; or cognitive, meaning they draw the driver’s focus away from the task of safe driving. Texting and other cell phone use are of particular concern as they feature all three types of driving distractions. Distracted driving is also a frequent cause of accidents involving ridesharing drivers, as they are required to consult their app to accept rides and pick up or drop off passengers. One of the most serious types of accidents to result from distracted driving by a rideshare driver is an accident in which the driver strikes a pedestrian while he or she is distracted by the passenger or the ridesharing app.
- Impairment by alcohol or drugs: One of the benefits that people often cite when discussing the ridesharing industry is the ability for adults to have a sober driver to take them home from the bar or a private party. Interestingly enough, Lyft and Uber do not subject their drivers to random drug and alcohol screenings. These companies even provide the steps a passenger should take if they believe that their driver is drunk, including reporting the driver on the app, declining or ending the ride, and calling 911.
- Fatigued driving: Uber and Lyft drivers often work late-night hours to get passengers home from the bar or work long hours to earn the money they need to pay for their expenses. As anyone who was stuck in Boston traffic for a long time can tell you, traffic congestion in the city is exhausting. The mental exhaustion of being attentive to the actions of other drivers for hours on end is enough to give rise to driving fatigue. The symptoms of fatigued driving often mimic the symptoms of alcohol impairment, including difficulty responding to emergency driving situations or multi-tasking, difficulty maintaining one’s own lane of travel, or difficulty exercising good judgment.
- Speeding: Speeding is a factor in roughly one-quarter of all traffic-related fatalities. Speeding decreases the time a driver has to perceive danger and respond to it by depressing the brakes while simultaneously increasing the distance that the brakes need to pull the vehicle to a safe stop. Likewise, speeding increases the severity of the accident, while decreasing the effectiveness of the vehicle’s protective features, such as seat belts, airbags, and the steel frame.
- Failure to yield the right-of-way: Failure to yield is a factor in most intersection accidents, even among those with a stop sign or a traffic light, as people tend to race to beat the red light and misjudge the gap in traffic when making a left turn at a non-arrow intersection. Failure to yield is also the most common cause of a particularly deadly type of accident—a T-bone collision, also known as a broadside collision—in which the front of one vehicle collides with the side of another. As the doors of vehicles don’t generally come with the same safety features as other car parts, the risk of injury increases for vehicle occupants sitting on the struck side of the vehicle. This is especially true when a large commercial truck broadsides a passenger car.
- Tailgating: The term tailgating refers to one driver following another vehicle too closely. Tailgating the following car can cause a dangerous rear-end accident if the lead car suddenly brakes.
- Aggressive driving/ road rage: The terms “aggressive driving” and “road rage” are often used interchangeably. In fact, these are actually two different types of driving behaviors. Aggressive driving refers to a series of traffic infractions that an individual commits while driving, generally to get out of heavy traffic congestion. Those behaviors can include speeding, tailgating, improper lane changes, and failing to signal one’s intentions for other drivers. Road rage refers to a series of criminal acts to punish other drivers for a perceived slight. Common road rage behaviors include honking in anger, gesturing or shouting obscenities at other drivers, exiting one’s vehicle to confront another driver at the light, or attempting to bump or ram another vehicle from the roadway.
- Inclement weather: While individuals can’t cause inclement weather, they are responsible for the errors they make during inclement weather. New England weather offers many surprises for drivers, including road surfaces that are slick from rain and snow, reduced visibility, and even fallen foliage that can reduce the ability of a vehicle’s tires to grip the road. These factors become an even greater risk when combined with other risky driving behaviors such as speeding or tailgating.
Injuries One Can Sustain in a Ridesharing Accident in Boston
Some of the
injuries commonly associated with rideshare accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries: The brain is a thoroughly complex and important organ responsible for controlling all of the functions and involuntary responses. Despite its importance, the brain has only a limited ability to heal from injury. The injury can result in permanent deficits that mean the person can no longer earn as much as before the accident. Some of the deficits commonly experienced by sufferers of traumatic brain injuries include loss of memory, difficulty communicating through spoken language, difficulty controlling one’s behaviors or emotions, inability to move in a balanced and coordinated manner, and chronic headaches or vertigo.
- Spinal cord injuries: Like the brain, the spinal cord controls the functions of the rest of the body. Unfortunately, also like the brain, the spinal cord has only a limited ability to heal from damage. Contrary to popular belief, spinal cord injuries do not generally involve the complete severing of the bundle of nerves that extends from the base of the skull to the waist. Instead, a spinal cord injury usually features a cord that is intact but damaged. The long-lasting effect of a spinal cord injury is loss of sensation and function below the injury site, a condition known as paralysis.
- Broken bones: While many broken bones can heal relatively simply within a matter of weeks to months, some broken bones can result in long-term implications such as chronic pain or loss of strength or range of motion in the affected limb.
- Burns: Motor vehicles use toxic, caustic chemicals to run. It is not unusual for an individual to suffer burn injuries in a motor vehicle accident from their skin coming in contact with the chemicals themselves or from fire or heat caused by the ignition of these materials.
- Cuts and abrasions: Like broken bones, these are common injuries to incur in a car accident and they often heal well within a matter of weeks or months. However, cuts and abrasions can also place the sufferer at risk of acquiring a life-threatening infection through the open wound or suffering permanent scarring or disfigurement.
- Soft tissue injuries: Whiplash and other damage to the muscles, joints, and tendons are also a common type of injury to experience in a ridesharing accident, often from the energy from the collision causing a sharp back-and-forth or jolting motion at the time of the crash.
- Damage to the spinal discs of the back and neck, which can result in significant pain, a loss of the ability to move and perform simple tasks independently, and often requires surgery to repair.
Frequently Asked Questions About Boston Ridesharing Accidents
Despite the popularity of ridesharing as an affordable way for individuals to get where they need to go without using their personal vehicle, ridesharing presents a risk of injuries.
Here are answers to some of the questions our Boston clients ask us most frequently about obtaining compensation after a Boston ridesharing accident.
What is the process of obtaining compensation after a Boston ridesharing accident?
If you were injured in a Boston ridesharing accident due to the carelessness or recklessness of someone else, you can obtain compensation for the expenses and impacts of the accident through a lawsuit.
The lawsuit attempts to prove who is liable (legally responsible) for the accident and show the financial and psychological impacts of the injury for the claimant.
What can I recover through a Boston ridesharing accident lawsuit?
Massachusetts allows individuals who have incurred expenses over $2,000 or a serious injury, broken bone, or loss of a bodily function such as hearing or sight to step outside the no-fault insurance system and pursue the recovery of both economic and non-economic damages.
The term “recovering damages” in the legal arena refers to obtaining compensation for the expenses (economic damages) and impacts (non-economic damages) of your injury.
Some of the expenses and impacts that plaintiffs commonly pursue after Boston ridesharing accidents include:
- Medical expenses, such as the cost of ambulance transport, hospitalization, surgical services, prescription medication, physical therapy and rehabilitation, and the provision of devices such as prosthetic limbs, crutches, or a wheelchair.
- Lost income from missing work, including to attend an injury-related medical appointment.
- Loss of future earning capacity if your injury results in permanent deficits and that decrease your earning capacity.
- Property damage, such as the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle you were driving when you got into an accident with a rideshare driver.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Lost enjoyment of life.
How do I prove who was liable in my Boston ridesharing accident?
The potentially liable parties in a ridesharing accident include:
- The rideshare driver.
- Other roadway users, including the drivers of other cars and trucks, bicyclists, or pedestrians.
- The maker or distributor of parts used on the vehicles, if defective vehicle parts caused the accident.
- The rideshare passenger, if his or her unruly behavior resulted in the driver having an accident.
To prove liability, you must show negligence on the part of the at-fault party.
You prove negligence by showing:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The term “duty of care” refers to the actions that a reasonable person would take in a given set of circumstances to protect the safety and property of others. For example, the duty of care to operate a motor vehicle safely and legally.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. The breach is the action that the at-fault party took that violated the duty of care. Speeding, driving while alcohol-impaired, and failing to yield the right-of-way are all examples of a breach in a driver’s duty of care as these activities are not safe or legal to do while driving and could harm others.
- The breach resulted in the accident that caused your injuries and subsequent expenses and impacts.
How do the insurance policies provided by Uber and Lyft work?
Many people do not realize that the well-known ridesharing companies provide insurance for their drivers, in addition to requiring that individuals who are approved as drivers possess the minimum amount of insurance as required by the state they drive in.
- Bodily injury coverage of $20,000 per person/ $40,000 per accident.
- Personal injury protection of $8,000 per person, per accident.
- Uninsured motorist coverage of $20,000 per person/ $40,000 per accident.
- Property damage coverage of $5,000 per accident.
Uber and Lyft offer similar third-party liability policies if their driver causes an accident while waiting for a ride and transporting passengers. You may only access these policies if the driver’s personal auto insurance carrier refuses to pay the claim.
This can happen if drivers do not inform their insurance carrier that they are using their vehicle for ridesharing work or pay for an endorsement to retain coverage during their ridesharing activities.
The secondary Uber or Lyft insurance policies include:
- When the driver has his or her app off and uses the vehicle for personal reasons, the driver’s personal auto insurance policy covers liability for bodily injury and property damage to others.
- When the driver has his or her app on and is awaiting a ride request, the policy will provide $50,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, and $100,000 per accident, as well as $25,000 in property damage.
- When the driver is transporting a passenger or is en route to pick one up, the policy provides $1 million in bodily injury coverage and property damage and uninsured motorist coverage and even comprehensive and collision coverage if the driver also maintains that on his or her personal insurance policy.
What happens if another driver was responsible for my Boston ridesharing accident?
It is easy to assume that all rideshare accidents are the fault of the rideshare driver. Another roadway user, such as the driver of another passenger car or truck, may cause these accidents. If you are injured in an accident another driver cause while you are a rideshare passenger, you may need to obtain the insurance information for the at-fault party to file a third-party claim against their auto insurance policy.
The information you may need to gather includes:
- The name and contact information of all drivers involved in the accident, including your own Lyft or Uber driver.
- The name and phone number of the driver’s insurance carrier, as well as the policy number and expiration date of the policy as listed on the driver’s insurance card, the make, model, color, and year of all vehicles involved, the license plate number of the vehicle.
- The name and badge number of the officer who came to the scene of the accident to take the report.
- Photos of all sides of all vehicles involved in the accident.
You will also want to report the accident to Lyft or Uber. If the at-fault driver does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to cover your expenses and impacts, you may seek compensation through Lyft or Uber’s uninsured motorist coverage, or from the personal auto policy of your rideshare driver.
How much is the average Boston ridesharing accident worth?
The unique facts of your case will determine the value of your ridesharing accident claim. Because of this, there really isn’t an average value to this type of case.
Many factors, however, can change the value of your case, including:
- How much insurance the at-fault party has. Insurance pays the vast majority of ridesharing accident claims. While you may file a lawsuit against an uninsured motorist and even obtain a judgment in your favor, collecting your award directly from the motorist would likely be extremely difficult, as most people cannot afford to pay accident expenses out-of-pocket.
- The severity of your injury. Many of the damage claim categories involve either compensation for wage loss and earning capacity. More severe injuries are likely to result in more time away from work, the presence of permanent deficits that can impact an individual’s ability to earn an income, and increased pain and suffering.
- The clarity of liability. In Massachusetts, you can be half responsible for the accident that caused your injuries and still seek compensation from other at-fault parties.
- Your patience with the settlement process. Settlement negotiations can take a lot of time. While it is not unusual for an insurance adjuster to offer a bodily injury claimant a quick settlement shortly after the accident, these offers generally do not consider the full picture of the injuries the claimant has experienced or the ways those injuries will impact his or her life. Negotiations can continue up until the court issues a judgment, and often the best settlement offers are not made until just before the case goes to trial (or during the trial).
Why do I need an attorney to pursue compensation for my injuries after a Boston ridesharing accident?
Car accidents can produce some of the most serious injuries that a person can experience, regardless of whether they involve individuals driving their own vehicles or those who become injured in an accident as a ridesharing passenger.
The process of obtaining compensation for your injuries after a motor vehicle accident is a complex one, requiring extensive knowledge in both how tort claims work and an understanding of the type of compensation that a person will need to survive and thrive in light of their injuries.
Claims involving ridesharing accidents also require knowledge of how liability works in such cases.
An experienced Boston ridesharing accident lawyer from Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers brings the benefit of knowledgeable guidance to your case through the provision of services such as:
- A free case evaluation, which provides you with answers to your legal questions and information about the ridesharing claims process, obligation-free.
- A value to your case that is based not only on the expenses and impacts you have already incurred because of your accident, but also those you will likely face.
A determination of all liable parties and all insurance resources available in your case.
- Negotiation with the at-fault party’s insurance to garner a fair settlement offer for you.
- Filing of all court-required paperwork within the statutory deadline, and attendance and representation at all court-required pre-trial conferences and hearings.
- A collection of the evidence and testimony needed to prove your claim.
- Assistance collecting your settlement or award.
Let the experienced Boston ridesharing lawyers at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers help you explore your legal options for recovering damages after your rideshare accident. For your free case evaluation, contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA online or by calling (727) 351-6129.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
76 Canal Street, Suite 302
Boston, MA 02114