Everything You Need to Know if You’ve Been Involved in a Rideshare (Uber/Lyft) Accident in New Orleans
Since being introduced to the public back in 2010, ridesharing has been a total gamechanger in the world of private transportation.
Data suggests more than 40 percent of Americans have taken advantage of the services available through companies like Uber and Lyft over the past year. And there have been more than 10 billion rideshare trips worldwide. As these companies continue to be more widely adopted, certain legal aspects surrounding them will undoubtedly grow more complicated. And as the saying goes… accidents happen.
What is Ridesharing?
Considering the sector’s surging popularity you have likely used a rideshare service, most likely with Uber or Lyft (the two main providers). Ridesharing begins with opening up the app on your phone for your preferred provider. From there, these transportation network companies (TNCs), or mobility service providers as they’re sometimes called, ask you to input your current location as well as a desired destination. At that point, you will be informed of the approximate price of the trip, which includes a base fee as well as mileage rates. Often you may also request a specific type of vehicle, such as a small sedan or full-size SUV, which factors into the final cost. After agreeing to the posted price you can confirm your ride. At that point, you’re previously stored details, including name, personal rating and credit or debit card information will be used to authorize your request and is then dispatched to available drivers. When a driver accepts, he or she will pick you up at your trip’s point of origin.
Should the driver have trouble finding you, he or she may call or text message you for further details. Many even remain in constant contact from that point until the two of you have made a mutual visual connection. Upon reaching your destination, your app will alert you that the ride has been completed and allow you to rate your driver and provide additional details about your trip. If you’d like to tip your driver, there will be an option to do so.
How Are Ridesharing and Taxi Services Different?
On the surface, booking an Uber or Lyft ride and taking a taxi may seem very much the same; after all, both provide pickups and drop-offs in privately owned vehicles for a fee. However, a number of differences actually exist between the two.
Taxi drivers generate a great deal of their income by being in the right place at the right time. Those in need of a ride hail the taxi, and the trip is underway. In contrast, rideshare drivers aren’t allowed to pick up random passengers who try to flag them down. Everything has to be arranged through the online app. This creates a higher level of security for everyone involved while guaranteeing a set price and ensuring the driver is paid accordingly.
Ridesharing tends to offer a great deal more certainty than taxi services. For example, when you call to book a ride in a taxi, a driver may or may not come for you even if a dispatcher confirms your arrangements over the phone. Certain technological advancements have helped solve this issue to an extent, but it has still left countless customers in the lurch. With ridesharing, the app notifies riders when a driver accepts their requests and provides continual updates on their locations and arrival times.
Ridesharing also offers a broader reach. Many taxi drivers aren’t willing to venture too far out of their typical urban settings. Those who live in suburban or rural areas often don’t have traditional taxi services at their disposal, which is largely responsible for the previously-mentioned lack of certainty. Drivers for Uber, Lyft and their counterparts tend to be a great deal more flexible. And surge pricing is designed to attract more drivers when demand is high. With surge pricing drivers can earn many times what the same fare might otherwise cost.
Taxi drivers’ incomes suffer due to idle time. In between riders, they’re technically still on the clock, but not actually making any money. Long stints between fares and losing money on long trips to pick up riders generally drive up their prices. Whereas rideshare drivers enjoy higher levels of efficiency thanks to the rideshare apps. They’re often able to find new ride requests within reasonable distances from their previous drop-offs. Considering the rising popularity of ridesharing, drivers experience a fairly steady flow of fares, so little time is wasted on waiting. These aspects help reduce the costs for those who use their services.
Despite the few similarities between rideshare companies and taxi services, completely different business models bring more flexibility, greater customer confidence and lower costs to the world of ridesharing. Security factors into the equation as well. Via the app, riders have a picture of the driver and description of the vehicle to be picking them up in hand, so they know exactly whom and what to expect.
When a Problem Arises
Ridesharing offers a wide range of benefits in a variety of different situations, from solving simple logistical issues to traversing strange cities. Having an alternative to long lines at crowded airport, hotel and cruise port shuttles can’t be overlooked, either. That being said, rides do sometimes go awry.
What Types of Rules and Regulations Apply to Rideshare Drivers?
First and foremost, drivers for any rideshare company must be at least 21 years old and have valid drivers’ licenses, registration and license plates and be able to show proof of current vehicle insurance coverage. In New Orleans and the surrounding areas, drivers must also have up-to-date inspection stickers displayed on their vehicles. Beyond the obvious, additional driver regulations apply:
Anyone applying as an Uber or Lyft driver is screened via extensive background and driving record checks before being considered eligible. Rideshare companies operating in New Orleans must maintain an updated record of all their registered drivers and documentation of their criminal background check results with the City of New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits.
Limited Traffic Violations
Drivers with more than three traffic citations or who have been at fault in more than three accidents during the most recent five-year period are not qualified to drive for hire based on the guidelines of both Uber and Lyft. Anyone who has been cited for a major traffic violation (one that has placed others in serious danger), is automatically disqualified from being a rideshare partner.
Random Drug Testing
Drivers are also subject to random drug testing. Every quarter, the City of New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits is allowed to send a list of 25 drivers to Uber, Lyft or any other rideshare company who must submit to drug testing. Drivers whose names appear on these lists must be notified by the rideshare company within five days and are given another 10 days to have the test performed. Any drivers who are in an accident are required to undergo drug testing within 24 hours following the incident.
Lyft requires its drivers to have held a valid driver’s license for at least one year, whereas Uber only allows those with three years or more of driving experience to bear its stickers in their vehicle windows. Both companies provide online courses that drivers may participate in on a voluntary basis. They also offer guidance on using their apps to better serve customers, dealing with the public and handling unusual requests from passengers.
As far as actual instruction goes, even drivers currently registered through Uber and Lyft express a great deal of surprise at how little each company offers in the way of driving education. Both seem to consider holding a valid driver’s license and having a clean driving record sufficient when it comes to on-the-road training. Since they’re not operating commercial vehicles, this falls well within legally acceptable parameters just as it would in any case where any driver has a passenger.
All drivers are required by law to maintain minimum insurance on their vehicles. Since rideshare drivers are using their personal vehicles to profit by driving and offering rides to passengers, they’re technically required to carry commercial insurance. Some coverage providers have developed specialized rideshare policies to help keep policyholders, their passengers and others on the road covered in the event of an accident while mitigating the costs for Uber and Lyft partners.
Rideshare Company Coverage
In Louisiana, drivers must maintain liability insurance of at least $15,000 per person for personal injury or death with a $30,000 maximum limit per accident. Additionally, drivers must maintain a minimum of $25,000 in insurance to pay for property damage they cause.
Rideshare companies are subject to higher standards. Specifically, Uber, Lyft and other rideshare companies must maintain liability insurance of at least $50,000 per person for personal injury or death with a $100,000 maximum limit per accident for their drivers who are online and ready to accept requests but haven’t yet picked up passengers. Both companies also maintain $1 million in coverage for drivers, passengers and others involved in accidents that kicks in once their drivers accept requests and ends when riders are dropped off. They also carry $1 million in uninsured and underinsured motorist policies to cover online and en-route drivers as well as passengers.
Common Causes of Rideshare Accidents
Louisiana is home to more than 3.4 million licensed drivers. More than 47,000 vehicle accidents take place on the state’s roadways each year. In light of the growing use of rideshare services, Uber and Lyft drivers are bound to be part of the mix. Accidents involving rideshares can be caused by a number of different issues.
Rideshare drivers are required to use newer-model vehicles for transporting passengers. They must have those vehicles inspected at their own expense within 30 days after purchase as well as at least once every other year to ensure all major parts and systems are working properly. Despite those safety precautions, the possibility always exists that things can still go wrong during a trip, from electrical fires to brake failures.
Hazardous Road Conditions:
Inclement weather and improperly maintained roads can also be factors in rideshare wrecks, just as they are in many other types of accidents. This includes rain, ice, oil slicks from previous collisions, large potholes and uncovered manholes among a long list of additional issues.
Technology runs amok in today’s vehicles whether it’s standard equipment or brought in by owners. Rideshare drivers are required to keep smartphones on them in order to follow ride requests and other app functions, though hands-free laws do apply. GPS is virtually a must in their line of work. In spite of being necessary, these devices to cause their fair share of distractions. Other drivers are equally guilty of taking their eyes and minds off the road from time to time as well.
Per company regulations, Uber and Lyft drivers aren’t allowed to drive for more than 12 consecutive hours in a 24-hour period; of course, their personal drive time can’t be tracked because they’re off the system. Authorities can’t monitor others on the road for lack of sleep, either. Commercial drivers would be an exception to the rule, but even those sometimes manage to evade the system. Nonetheless, exhaustion can be a factor in some cases.
Reports of rideshare drivers picking up passengers while under the influence of illegal drugs, alcohol and controlled prescription medications are rare in the grand scheme of things, but they’re not unheard of. In truth, many studies show reductions in impaired driving cases in cities where services like these are available. Still, drivers make irresponsible decisions on a daily basis, and they sometimes generate unfortunate results.
Speed is the nation’s second-leading cause of automobile accidents. Drivers are responsible for fostering their own safety as well as that of their passengers and fellow motorists by adhering to posted speed limits. They’re advised to stay well below even those when visibility and road conditions are less than optimal.
Though speed could be classified as reckless driving, plenty of other factors are also at work in this category. Frequent lane changes, tailgating, ignoring traffic signs and signals and general acts of road rage all apply here. This is the case whether they’re coming from rideshare drivers or those outside the vehicle for hire.
Uber and Lyft accidents do happen, but the companies’ driver-partners aren’t always responsible for them. No one can control the actions of other drivers. Even slowing down and taking all the necessary precautions on particularly hazardous roadways won’t prevent every crash. Any road trip could be dangerous no matter who’s behind the wheel or how experienced he or she may be.
Who Could Be Considered at Fault in a Rideshare Collision?
Pinpointing the responsible party can be complicated with any type of accident. Determining who’s at fault in a rideshare collision depends on all the factors and circumstances leading up to the incident itself.
If the rideshare driver is under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances or even certain allergy medications at the time of the incident, he or she may very well be held responsible for resulting injuries and damages. In the event the driver is proven to have been distracted, speeding or acting carelessly, he or she could be found at fault.
In many accidents involving rideshare vehicles, other drivers may be the party acting carelessly or irresponsibly. Though they may be deemed at least partially accountable for collisions, matters like these aren’t always clear. In some cases, rideshare drivers must prove they did everything in their power to avoid the accident in question; otherwise, the court may decide both drivers are at fault.
In rare instances, rideshare passengers could even be ruled the at-fault parties. Excessive unruliness, distracting behavior and failure to comply with rideshare companies’ rules all apply in situations like these. Though they’re few and far between, they could certainly be a factor.
Any number of results could come from accidents involving rideshare vehicles. Determining who is at fault, and to what extent, isn’t a simple feat. It takes a great deal of experience with cases like these and knowledge of the laws as they apply to transportation network companies. Though this is a relatively new industry, the state legislature is working hard to further develop the laws that govern rideshares.
What Should You Do If You’ve Been in a Rideshare Accident As a Passenger?
If you’re in a rideshare accident, as is the case with any collision, your first priority should be contacting the police and seeking medical attention for yourself or anyone that is injured. In fact, it is worth seeking medical attention even if you think you have not been injured. Adrenaline runs high following an accident, and it has a way of blocking the brain’s pain receptors. You may be injured without realizing it. At the very least, you’ll establish a paper trail to be followed later on if needed.
While those involved in the accident are receiving medical care, the police will gather the rideshare driver’s contact and insurance information as well as your name, phone number and other details. They’ll create an accident report based on details from you, the driver and other drivers and passengers involved. Eyewitness accounts will also come into play.
If you have a phone with you and you’re physically able, take a video or pictures of the accident from several different angles. Witnesses’ versions of the events surrounding the collision vary and fade; but pictures offer solid, enduring evidence of what happened. They’ve also been known to capture details that no one noticed initially.
Rideshare partners are required to report accidents to the company they’re driving for. As you might imagine, this doesn’t always happen because they’re afraid of being suspended or losing their ability to drive for the company altogether. Either way, you should call in a report of your own. Once the company has been advised of the accident, an investigation will ensue.
All these steps go a long way toward building your case and establishing who is at fault. Once you’re able, you should follow up by contacting a Louisiana car accident attorney that understands the laws surrounding rideshare to help further guarantee you’ll be properly compensated for your injuries.
Also remember, rideshare companies cannot ban you from future access to their services for reporting an accident, filing a claim or even bringing a lawsuit against them.
Additional Rideshare Considerations
Rideshare companies take numerous precautions to protect their customers when hiring drivers. However, invariably some slip through the cracks. Take proper precautions before, during and after booking rideshare trips.
Assess the Situation:
Never accept a ride from a driver or in a vehicle not matching the description you’re given during the booking process. Imposters know how to spot rideshare customers, and some are quick to jump at a potential opportunity. If your driver arrives and seems to be acting strangely, such as hiding his or her face, slurring speech or trembling excessively, don’t get into the vehicle. Changing your mind mid-trip may not end well. In either case, report the situation to the rideshare company immediately.
Though there’s no harm in chatting with rideshare drivers, it’s important to remember they have a lot to contend with while driving. On top of following GPS instructions, drivers must battle traffic, reckless drivers, less-than-optimum driving conditions and countless other hurdles. Don’t be offended if they can’t give you their undivided attention, and don’t be angry at them for obeying speed limits and traffic signs.
Don’t Be a Distraction:
No matter where you’re going or for what reason, always remain seated, keep your belongings close at hand and try not to be a backseat driver. Yelling at the driver, being overly rowdy, tossing objects and other distracting behaviors are dangerous for you, your driver and everyone else on the road.
If your driver seems to be taking unnecessary risks, feel free to point out this error, but do so calmly. Be mindful of the challenges drivers face during trips and use your own good judgement before committing to a ride. Following these tips may help make for a safer ride not only for you, but everyone else potentially involved.
For Rideshare Drivers Who’ve Been in an Accident
As rideshare drivers, you provide valuable services to the public. Thanks to you, people can enjoy smoother vacations, less stressful journeys to and from airports and hotels and less worry over finding designated drivers on nights out.
Rideshare drivers are not considered employees of Uber, Lyft or their counterparts; instead, you’re independent contractors. Liabilities and financial costs of this designation can bring added stress. Understanding just which ones fall on your shoulders versus those of the company you drive for can be difficult.
How Well Are You Covered as an Independent Contractor?
Understanding the details of insurance coverage can be difficult. And it is important to understand that not having adequate coverage can turn out to be very costly in the long run. Like all vehicle owners, you’re required by law to maintain insurance. Though it’s imperative to avoid letting the coverage lapse for your own personal protection as well as your status as a rideshare partner, it’s even more critical from a business perspective.
When driving the vehicle for your own purposes, your personal insurance policy is the only coverage you have to fall back on. Once you change your status to online or driver mode, the rideshare company’s policy takes effect. Still, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re covered for every situation; in fact, your personal insurance provider may not pay a claim on an accident if it occurred while you were using your vehicle for commercial purposes.
In Uber’s case, the company provides liability coverage in the amount of $50,000 per person for bodily injury with a $100,000 maximum payout per accident and $25,000 for property damage while you’re waiting for requests but haven’t yet picked up a rider. .
Lyft provides contingent liability coverage in the same amounts, meaning the company’s insurance will pick up where yours leaves off. If an accident claim is fully covered by your insurance, Lyft’s won’t apply.
Once you accept a ride request, both Lyft and Uber have $1 million policies designed to protect you, your vehicle, passengers and other people or property directly affected if you’re in an accident. Both companies’ policies also include $1 million in coverage for collisions involving uninsured or underinsured motorists as well as hit-and-run incidents. These policies only apply if you’re on your way to pick up a passenger or have a rider in the vehicle.
Other Points for Rideshare Drivers to Keep in Mind
As a driver, you’re well aware of all the hazards to be faced on the road, especially in a city like New Orleans, where traffic, congestion, pedestrians and any number of other hurdles are present. You can take several measures to reduce your risks whether you’re on your own time or the company’s.
Follow the Rules of the Road:
Riders are often pressed for time or, at the very least, anxious to reach their destinations as quickly as possible. Though the customer is supposed to always be right, safety is the top priority. Heed posted speed limits and avoid frequent or reckless lane changes regardless of the circumstances at hand. Obey traffic signs and signals even if a passenger is urging you to do otherwise.
Be Mindful of Your Surroundings:
Drive defensively. Always try to stay a mental step or two ahead of those you’re sharing the road with. Watch for turn signals, lane drifters, erratic drivers, distracted pedestrians and other potential hazards. Reduce your speed in work zones and if you’re up against rain, ice or fog.
Exercise Caution with Passengers:
You’re bound to see and hear it all when transporting strangers, from emotional distress to extreme inebriation. If a passenger begins to act irrationally during a trip, pulling over may be the best solution. Be courteous, but don’t let down your guard. In the event of a medical emergency, don’t hesitate to find a safe stopping point and call an ambulance. Should you fail to do so and the passenger suffers injury as a result, you could be considered liable.
Pay Attention to the Details:
Though their intentions may be good, passengers can often be your biggest distractions. Make sure they stay in the back seat with their belongings secured. If they have luggage, place it in your vehicle’s trunk or storage area so it won’t become an unnecessary hazard during the trip. Giving your vehicle a quick inspection between trips is also a good idea. Check tires for foreign objects and know your vehicle’s normal running temperature, oil pressure and battery voltage so changes in gauge readings will be easy to spot.
Speak with an Experienced Insurance Agent:
Talk to an experienced insurance agent that understands the liabilities faced by rideshare drivers. Make sure you fully understand your coverage options and how much your personal insurance policy provides in case of an accident.
Take Advantage of Technology:
Consider installing a video camera in your in your vehicle, or a dash cam designed to record what goes on both inside and outside the vehicle. Video footage gives drivers an extra level of protection (and evidence) in the event of a collision, an issue with a passengers or vandalism and theft.
Commercial insurance may be out of budget’s reach, but some companies now offer more affordable rideshare policies. Find out what’s available to you to ensure you’re always protected. Cover yourself from every angle by paying close attention to the road, other people and those in the vehicle with you. Doing so may not fully guarantee you won’t be in an accident, but it’ll certainly turn the tables in your favor.
What Should Rideshare Drivers Do Following an Accident?
In the event you’re in an accident as a rideshare driver, whether online or off, be sure to follow post-collision protocol. If you’re able, contact the police and have emergency personnel dispatched to the scene. Provide your driver’s license, insurance and contact information to the authorities when asked. Take closeup pictures of any vehicle or property damage and wide-angle shots of the accident scene. Collect contact information from others involved in the accident as well as any witnesses in case they’re needed for future reference.
Use the app to report the accident to the company you’re driving for as soon as possible, even if you were at fault. Keep in mind, if you don’t report it, someone else is sure to. You may be temporarily suspended from providing services until an investigation has been carried out, but failing to report the incident as required by rideshare companies will likely result in permanent dismissal.
Be sure to get examined by emergency medical personnel or a physician even if you don’t think you’re hurt. Some injuries don’t present themselves immediately, and failing to receive attention could forfeit your right to coverage for medical expenses later on.
Obtain a copy of the police report once it’s available and file any necessary insurance claims. If the accident wasn’t your fault, the other driver’s insurance should cover at least some of your damages and expenses. Your rideshare company’s coverage will come into play whether the collision was your fault or not if you were online or carrying a passenger, but your personal coverage may have to bridge any gaps if you were offline at the time.
Also contact an attorney as soon as possible after the collision. Rest assured you can’t be fired for filing an insurance claim or protecting your own best legal interests.
For Pedestrians and Other Drivers Who’ve Been in an Accident with a Rideshare Vehicle
If you’ve been in an accident involving a rideshare vehicle, understanding just how the insurance claim-filing process works may be a bit difficult. Coverage levels and statuses change based on a wide range of circumstances.
Rideshare drivers are only covered by the company’s insurance if they’re online and waiting for a ride request, on their way to pick up a rider or carrying a passenger at the time of an accident. If they’re on their own time, their personal insurance is their only source of coverage. Should they be responsible for the collision, their coverage will be yours as well.
Whether you or the rideshare driver is accountable for the incident and resulting damages, contacting a Louisiana rideshare accident attorney is crucial. If you’re the at-fault party, having legal representation could protect you against fraudulent claims and excessive expenses. In the event you’re the victim of an accident involving a rideshare vehicle, an attorney can help ensure you’re adequately compensated for your injuries and property damage.
Drivers are human, and they do make mistakes. Even the most experienced and cautious among us can easily fall victim to extreme weather, unsafe driving conditions and other people’s negligence.
Traffic volume continues to increase in Louisiana and across the nation as does the number of accidents occurring. Since services provided by Uber and Lyft are becoming more popular as well, rideshare drivers are inevitably going to be involved in collisions from time to time. These accidents aren’t always the fault of rideshare drivers, but they’re just as vulnerable to roadway mishaps as everyone else.
Whether you’re a rideshare driver or a passenger, contacting a Louisiana auto accident attorney should be a priority after an accident. Uber and Lyft have been known to deny liability in accident cases because their drivers are considered independent contractors rather than internal employees.
If you’ve been involved in a rideshare accident, protect yourself and your interests. Don’t hesitate to find an attorney who has ample experience in the relatively new, rapidly growing and continually changing rideshare industry. This small step could make a significant difference in your future and that of your family.