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How Uber & Lyft Car Accident Claims Work in Northern Virginia

Offered by Blaszkow Legal, PLLC

Accidents involving rideshare services can be complex

The major rideshare services, Uber and Lyft, have grown in popularity nationwide. With the number of people traveling to or through the DC Metro area, Northern Virginia is certainly no exception. From Richmond to Alexandria, for many people in Virginia, taking a Lyft or Uber is a convenient and affordable way to get around. However, rideshare drivers are also involved in their share of car accidents, and people hurt in those accidents (whether as Uber passengers or other drivers) need to know their legal rights.

Whether you were a passenger in an Uber-involved car crash, or a motorist or pedestrian hit by an Uber vehicle, an experienced car accident attorney can help you pursue compensation for your injuries. Here’s what you need to know about Uber and Lyft accident claims in Virginia.

What makes rideshare drivers potentially dangerous?

Like any other driver, Uber and Lyft drivers are only human, and there is a degree of risk whenever anyone gets on the road. However, there are also a few additional risks that come with the rideshare services:

Distracted driving

Rideshare drivers may be distracted by the Uber or Lyft app itself, a GPS program that helps them get to unfamiliar locations, or other distractions while picking up or transporting passengers. Additionally, some drivers try to multitask by searching for their next trip while a current fare is still in the car!

Distracted driving among rideshare drivers is particularly dangerous because they make many pickups and drop-offs in areas with a lot of pedestrian and bicycle traffic, such as bustling downtowns, airports, bars, restaurants, and college campuses. It is easy for a distracted Uber or Lyft driver to overlook a vulnerable road user, with tragic consequences.

Fatigued driving

According to the rideshare companies, the majority of their drivers work part-time. Many of those part-time drivers have traditional full-time jobs and then work for Lyft or Uber for added income. This means they may be quite tired behind the wheel, especially later in the evening when they push themselves for one more fare.

Those who do work full-time for the rideshare services may be even more tired as they push themselves to earn even more. While Uber limits drivers to 12 hours of driving before they must take a six-hour break, and Lyft has a 14-hour limit, the rideshare companies have no way of enforcing what their drivers do outside the bounds of their individual app. Some Uber drivers get around the hours limit by simply switching to Lyft, and vice versa.

Rideshare drivers may also be on the road at odd times to earn the most and highest fares. According to Lyft’s own website, busy times include the morning and evening commute hours, Friday and Saturday nights, and the time after special events such as concerts. Even if you are on the road at a daytime hour, an Uber or Lyft driver sharing the road with you may have been out at 3 a.m. taking people home from a party the night before.

Pulling over in dangerous locations

It’s unfortunately common for rideshare drivers to pull over in bicycle lanes and other locations where their vehicles become hazards to vulnerable road users like cyclists and pedestrians. While hard data on this practice is difficult to come by, anecdotal evidence suggests that a very high percentage of rideshare drivers routinely block bicycle lanes while picking up and dropping off passengers - and still others just stop alongside the road after dropping off a passenger, waiting for the app to give them another ride!

At times, these Uber drivers won’t use their turn signals or activate their hazard lights, increasing the danger of a collision.

Vehicle maintenance

Traditional taxi cabs have added safety features and must be regularly inspected and maintained. In comparison, while Virginia does require Uber and Lyft vehicles to pass a state safety inspection within the previous 12 months, the safety standards for privately owned ridesharing vehicles are typically less stringent, especially taking local laws into account.

In Arlington, for example, taxicabs are subject to an annual physical inspection conducted by the Arlington County Police in addition to state inspections. Rideshare companies are not subject to those local regulations.

That’s not to say that rideshare services are overly dangerous or that people shouldn’t use them; on the contrary, most Uber and Lyft drivers are good people, working hard and safely. However, everyone on the road – whether you personally use Uber or Lyft or not – needs to be aware of these dangers.

How does car insurance apply to Lyft and Uber accidents?

Uber and Lyft are different from traditional taxi services because the vehicles are privately owned, and drivers are independent contractors rather than employees. Both rideshare services require their drivers to carry personal car insurance. However, personal insurance usually does not cover “driving for profit,” so the rideshare companies also carry supplemental insurance coverage.

Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare companies are classified as “Transportation Network Companies” under Virginia law. Every such platform or app accepting rides in Virginia is required to follow the rules laid down by the Code of Virginia, including the minimum insurance required.

Because rideshare drivers don’t have passengers all the time, which insurance applies to an accident caused by an Uber or Lyft vehicle depends on the driver’s status at the time of the accident:

  • If the driver was signed out of the Lyft or Uber app and not awaiting a ride request, then their personal auto insurance applies.
  • If the driver was signed into the app and awaiting a ride request, then their personal insurance may apply. Still, the rideshare companies also carry contingent liability coverage in the amount of $50,000 per injured person, $100,000 total for injuries per accident, and $25,000 for property damage, if the driver’s personal insurance doesn’t cover the claim.
  • If the driver was picking up or transporting a passenger, the rideshare company’s full liability insurance applies: this coverage includes up to $1 million in bodily injury and property damage liability coverage.

If you were a passenger in an Uber or Lyft vehicle when the car accident happened, you clearly know the driver’s status at the time of the crash. However, if you were another driver or pedestrian involved in the crash, the rideshare driver’s status may not be so clear. Just because there is an Uber sticker in the window does not mean the driver was "uber-ing" at the time. A thorough investigation may be necessary to understand which insurance policy applies to the accident.

As with any car crash, there may be other at-fault parties besides the rideshare driver, such as the manufacturer of a defective vehicle or the driver of another car involved in the accident. Again, a thorough investigation is required to understand what happened and who was responsible.

What steps should I take after an Uber, Lyft, or other rideshare crash?

If you have been involved in a car accident that involved a rideshare vehicle, there are certain steps that you need to take to help preserve your claim for later:

  1. Take lots of pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words, and even more so after an accident. Pictures as well as videos are evidence in your case. It is important to get pictures of all vehicles involved, as well as road signs, stop lights, tire marks, debris, etc.  You can’t have too many pics!
  2. Get witness information. If there are passengers, make sure you get names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. Don’t ever think that the Rideshare company will have that information. They do have it, but will refuse to provide it without a subpoena.  While this will not delay a case in and of itself, it can prolong the investigation.  Also, if there were passengers in other vehicles, get their info as well.
  3. Identify the other drivers. Oftentimes, people think they just have to “exchange insurance information” after an accident – this is not enough! An insurance card tells you who is paying for a policy, or who owns a vehicle.  It does not tell you who was driving. Your case is always against the driver of the at-fault vehicle.  Always get a copy of any involved-motorist’s state-issued driver’s license.
  4. Call an experienced Uber accident attorney. You should never speak to an insurance company without the benefit of legal counsel, because anything you say can and will be used against you. While passengers are usually blameless in the happening of an accident, if you were another driver, then the insurance adjusters will try to argue that you, too, were partially at fault, and thus deny your claim.

Car Accident Case Results

$1 million settlement Alexandria, VA

$1 million settlement for a rideshare claim where a pedestrian was struck by a driver who failed to pay full attention to the roadway. Blaszkow Legal, PLLC obtained this settlement for the victim.

$2 million settlement Alexandria, VA

$2 million settlement of a truck accident claim where one person was killed and another was seriously injured in Fairfax County, VA. Blaszkow Legal, PLLC obtained this settlement for the victim and family.

$450,000 settlement Alexandria, VA

$450,000 settlement for a woman who was struck by a driver who turned without looking both ways in Arlington County, VA. Blaszkow Legal, PLLC obtained this settlement for the victim.

The value of hiring an experienced Uber and Lyft accident attorney

Because the rideshare services are still relatively new, the legal system continues to grapple with how to handle these types of cases. That’s why you need an attorney with extensive experience handling rideshare accidents and related cases who is abreast of the latest legal developments in this area of litigation. A lawyer who knows the courts, the law, and how the insurance companies operate will put you in the best position to recover full compensation for your injuries.

Having experienced legal counsel is particularly critical in Virginia because of the “contributory negligence” rule. This means that if you are even slightly at fault for the accident, you cannot recover compensation at all. For passengers injured in an accident, this is usually not a problem. Still, if you were involved in an accident as another motorist or road user, the insurance company can use this rule to deny your claim. An experienced attorney can fight to protect your rights.

If you were hurt in an accident involving an Uber or Lyft vehicle in Richmond, Alexandria, or anywhere in Virginia, you must act fast to protect your rights. Your lawyer needs to launch an immediate investigation before critical evidence is lost or destroyed and witnesses forget what happened. Schedule your free consultation with an experienced Lyft and Uber accident attorney today.

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Blaszkow Legal, PLLC is a personal injury law firm with decades of experience litigating cases in Virginia, Maryland, and DC. We believe in working closely with our clients and ag...