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Rideshare Car Accidents

Rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft have transformed the transportation industry over the years by connecting drivers with customers in the area who need a ride. Once customers have downloaded the free app, they can request a ride, a nearby driver will accept the request, and the app will display a pickup location and an estimated time of arrival. Oftentimes, customers use these ridesharing services to arrange for a safe ride home if it is late and they have been drinking or they are simply too tired to drive. However, although ridesharing services are extremely convenient, rideshare drivers are just as susceptible to car accidents as the average driver. Uber and Lyft drivers are not required to undergo any intensive background checks or complete any training programs before they are allowed to pick up passengers. Unfortunately, as more passengers opt to use ridesharing services, it stands to reason that more people will be involved in ridesharing car accidents. If a motorist is injured in a car accident involving a ridesharing vehicle, an experienced car accident lawyer can help the victim with the claims process, including determining who is liable for the accident, and securing the financial damage the victim deserves.

How Common are Rideshare Car Accidents?

According to a study by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the growing popularity of ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft have led to a three percent increase in overall car accident fatalities since 2011. The researchers analyzed eight financial quarters from Uber and Lyft before and after their rollout dates. They also looked at the popularity of rideshare usage between 2010 and 2016 by examining factors such as traffic volume, preferred methods of transportation, and number of car accidents. The accident report included statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and compared accident rates from major cities across the United States where the Uber and Lyft apps were first launched. Following are highlights from the study:

  • The increase in the number of rideshare vehicles in the road was responsible for close to 1,000 car accident fatalities per day.
  • Between 2017 and 2018, Uber vehicles were involved in close to 100 fatal car accidents.
  • Over 40 percent of the crash victims were passengers or Uber or Lyft drivers.
  • Nearly 60 percent of the crash victims were third-party drivers or passengers.
  • There is an increasing number of accidents that occur at drop-off and pickup locations.
  • The increased use of ridesharing apps is directly related to the increased number of vehicles on the road and the rise in accidents, injuries, and fatalities among drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

What are the Most Common Causes of Rideshare Car Accidents?

Ridesharing drivers are at risk for the same types of car accidents as the average driver. However, when a rideshare driver is involved in a serious accident, it is likely that he or she has one or more passengers in the vehicle that may also suffer serious personal injury. The following are examples of some of the most common causes of serious car ridesharing car accidents:

  • Speeding: According to the NHTSA, over 9,000 people are fatally injured each year in speeding-related accidents in the United States. Although there are no reliable statistics for the number of ridesharing accidents that are directly caused by speeding, all motorists are expected to obey the speed limit at all times. When a motorist is speeding at the time of an accident, the injuries are often quite severe because of the force of the impact at the time of the crash. Although one study found that ridesharing drivers speed in approximately 30 percent of their trips, compared with the average driver who speeds in roughly 40 percent of trips, ridesharing drivers are urged to follow the speed limit and the rules of the road at all times.
  • Overdriving road conditions: Motorists are expected to adjust their driving speed based on the current driving conditions. For example, speed limits are designed for ideal road conditions. If rain, snow, fog, extreme sun glare, or any other type of inclement weather causes hazardous driving conditions, motorists are expected to adjust their speed and use extra caution. In addition, if traffic is extremely heavy or there is road work being done, motorists are expected to understand how to navigate these situations. If an Uber or Lyft driver is inexperienced or fails to adjust his or her speed based on the current conditions, it can increase the risk of a serious car accident.
  • Inexperience: Oftentimes, ridesharing drivers do not have as much experience as the average taxi driver. Some states require ridesharing drivers to be over the age of 21, or if under the age of 23, the driver must have a valid driver’s license for at least three years. If over the age of 23, drivers are only required to have one year of driving experience. Customers are urged to check the app to see if their assigned driver has a number of positive or negative reviews before accepting a ride.
  • Drowsy driving: People often use ridesharing services if they are too tired to drive home, particularly if it is late at night and they have been drinking. However, when an Uber or Lyft driver is on the clock late at night or well into the early morning hours, it is likely that he or she will experience some degree of drowsiness. In fact, it has been reported that half of all drivers say that they drive while drowsy, and approximately 20 percent admit that they have fallen asleep behind the wheel. Unfortunately, ridesharing drivers are encouraged to continue using the app, even if they are tired. Certain ridesharing companies offer drivers incentives for driving at least 60 hours per week. This can have devastating consequences, considering the fact that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Failure to follow the rules of the road: All motorists are expected to obey traffic signals, avoid aggressive or negligent driving behavior, and follow the rules of the road. A failure to do so can result in a serious car accident. When a negligent Uber or Lyft driver causes a serious car accident, not only do they jeopardize their own safety, but also the accident can cause the passengers to suffer serious injuries.
  • Distracted driving: Ridesharing drivers must check the app on a regular basis to find potential passengers. Once a passenger is in the vehicle, the driver often has to check their phone for directions. Unfortunately, this takes the driver’s attention off the road. When a driver is checking their phone when rushing to pick up a customer, this can be particularly dangerous because they are distracted while also possibly driving too fast.
  • Violence: Rideshare companies often conduct background checks before hiring drivers. However, these background checks are not foolproof. There have been instances in which drivers became violent toward passengers. If the company that conducted the background check was negligent in its screening process, the company may be liable for injuries caused by the violent behavior.  

What Steps Should I Take following a Car Accident Involving a Rideshare Vehicle?

There are important steps that should be taken immediately following a car accident, including those that involve a rideshare vehicle. The first thing to do is to call 911 so that dispatch can send a police officer and an ambulance to the scene. Next, it is important to get the names, contact information, and insurance details from everyone involved in the accident. If there were witnesses who saw the accident, drivers should ask if the witnesses would be willing to provide a statement and get their contact information. It is important to collect as much evidence as possible, so motorists are urged to take pictures of the scene, including damage to the vehicles, injuries, debris in the road, and anything else that may provide valuable evidence as to the cause of the accident.  It is also important to report the accident to the insurance company, as well as the rideshare company as soon as possible.

Who is Liable for My Injuries?

For years, Uber and Lyft have maintained their position that drivers are independent contractors, not employees, in an effort to shield themselves from liability if the driver causes an accident. However, legislative efforts are being made to classify drivers as employees. In the meantime, if a passenger is injured in a rideshare car accident, determining who is responsible for the costs associated with the injury can be confusing and overwhelming. New Jersey recently passed a law stating that insurance coverage must be provided by both the rideshare company and the driver. The amount of coverage that applies to an accident will depend on the nature and severity of the accident and the resulting injuries. Insurance minimums include the following:

  • If a driver is not logged into the rideshare app: The minimum financial responsibility requirements applicable to all New Jersey motorists apply
    – $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident of bodily injury liability coverage
    – $5,000 per accident of property damage liability coverage
  • If a driver is logged into the rideshare app but has not yet matched with a driver:
    – Minimum of $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident of bodily injury liability coverage
    – $25,000 of property damage liability
  • If the driver has a passenger in the vehicle:
    – A minimum of $1.5 million in bodily injury
    – Property damage liability coverage
    – At least $1.5 million of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage
    – $10,000 in personal injury protection coverage for the driver

Oftentimes, an Uber or Lyft driver’s personal auto insurance will not cover accidents that occur while the driver is on duty. New Jersey law states that coverage be provided by the rideshare company to the driver. Therefore, if a motorist is injured, or their vehicle is damaged in a car accident that was caused by an Uber or Lyft driver, the motorist may seek compensation from the rideshare company for the insurance coverage required by law. The injured victim may file a lawsuit against the rideshare company if he or she can prove liability and damages.

What if the Accident was Not the Rideshare Driver’s Fault?

If the rideshare driver was not responsible for causing the accident, the at-fault driver will be responsible for compensating the victims for their injuries, as well as any property damage to their vehicle. If the at-fault driver does not have sufficient coverage to fully compensate the other motorists, the injured parties or the rideshare driver may be able to make a claim for compensation with the uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage required when an Uber or Lyft is involved in an accident. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to collect compensation from the uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Some motorists drive illegally with no insurance coverage, or their policy covers only a minimal amount. If this is the case, it is highly recommended that the injured parties discuss the details of the accident with a skilled car accident lawyer who can help secure the financial compensation the victims deserve. 

What Damages May I Receive if I am Injured in a Ridesharing Car Accident?

Car accidents can cause a range of serious injuries, particularly if the vehicles were traveling at a high speed at the time of the crash, or if the accident was a head-on collision, a T-bone collision, or any other type of accident that is known for causing serious injuries. The medical expenses and other costs associated with these accidents can accumulate very quickly. If a motorist suffers a severe injury after being involved in a rideshare car accident, he or she may be eligible for financial compensation for the following:

  • Medical expenses associated with the injury, including hospitalization costs, surgeries, physical therapy, prescription medication, disability, rehabilitation, and long-term care
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning potential
  • Pain and suffering, mental anguish, and property damage
  • Punitive damages if the at-fault driver’s behavior was considered particularly egregious
  • Wrongful death benefits if the accident resulted in a fatality

New Jersey Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Advocate for Victims of Rideshare Car Accidents

If you or someone you know was seriously injured in a car accident involving a rideshare vehicle, do not hesitate to contact the New Jersey car accident lawyers at Ellis Law. We understand the unique liability issues associated with these types of accidents, and the need for a skilled and experienced legal team who can help you navigate the complex claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.