It’s no coincidence that December is the busiest month of the year for rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. Millions rely on these apps for everyday transportation, and demand only increases during the holiday season. There are many reasons a rideshare service might make sense. An early morning ride to the airport, for example, or a way to get home safely after a late-night holiday party. Rideshare drivers provide a valuable service but aren’t immune from traffic crashes. The holiday season increases rideshare usage, and more rideshare vehicles on the road can mean an uptick in car accidents. However, here’s what you need to know about rideshare accidents.
Due to the multiple parties involved, the different levels of insurance available, and the catastrophic nature of many rideshare accidents, it is imperative that anyone injured in a rideshare accident contact experienced lawyers to discuss their personal injury claim. With the holidays here and our calendars filling up with travel plans, parties, and other festive events, it is essential to keep this in mind.
Driving in Virginia can be dangerous. This is true year-round, but even more so in colder months. Winter is more hazardous for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians because of snow and ice. Nearly 1,000 people lost their lives on Virginia roads last year, and traffic fatalities have been rising for years. More than 118,000 car crashes occurred, and almost 60,000 people suffered car crash-related injuries in 2021. These numbers are, unfortunately, trending upward.
In a 2018 study, researchers generally found that fatal accidents rose after ridesharing launched in a city. This is not to say rideshare drivers or companies are at-fault for the increase in fatal accidents. Still, there is clear evidence that the implementation of ridesharing has led to more vehicles on the roads. The researchers compared accident figures compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with data from Uber and Lyft. The study concluded that the arrival of ridesharing was associated with a 2% to 3% increase in the number of car occupants and pedestrians killed in accidents between 2011 and 2016.
How Rideshare Accidents Happen and Who They Affect?
Every traffic collision comes with its own set of unique circumstances. The same is true for rideshare accidents — no two are the same. However, there are some commonalities. Rideshare incidents will include a driver contracted by a rideshare company and another party — in some cases, another driver, pedestrian, or passenger. These are the parties most frequently injured in rideshare crashes.
Rideshare Drivers: Uber and Lyft require drivers to multitask, and many drivers are behind the wheel, distracted as a result. They must use their phones to accept rides and for directions to navigate. Not being focused on the road is normalized, but that doesn’t make it any less risky. Distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents.
Rideshare Passengers: Studies have shown that taxi, and rideshare passengers aren’t likely to wear their seatbelts on short car rides because of the illusion that they don’t need protection on brief trips. This belief could backfire during a rideshare accident. Not wearing a seatbelt significantly increases the risk of suffering a catastrophic injury during a rideshare collision.
Non-Rideshare Driver: Rideshare collisions that aren’t pedestrian-related frequently involve non-rideshare drivers and their passengers. These collisions might be the fault of the rideshare contractor, or the other driver may be found to blame. In these instances, several parties may suffer injuries.
Pedestrian: Drivers must stop when they see pedestrians, and Virginia pedestrians always have the right-of-way on sidewalks and crosswalks. Rideshare collisions frequently involve pedestrians because rideshare vehicles normally pick up and drop off passengers in areas heavily populated by pedestrians.
Rideshare accidents differ from other crashes because of liability. If a rideshare driver isn’t at fault in an accident, Uber and Lyft will still provide underinsured motorist coverage to everyone in the rideshare vehicle, and the at-fault driver’s insurance is responsible. If a rideshare driver is found liable after an accident, they can be held responsible for the injuries that the crash caused. Rideshare insurance coverage is complex and depends on whether the driver had the app open, had accepted a ride, and who was at fault.
If an Uber or Lyft driver acts negligently and causes an accident, you may wonder who can be held accountable. Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors, not company employees — a distinction that can work to the corporation’s advantage after a traffic crash.
One question that might arise after an accident is whether a rideshare company did its due diligence while onboarding a driver. Under Virginia law, Uber and Lyft drivers must ensure that a driver is at least 21 with a valid driver’s license. Rideshare drivers must also undergo background checks, and the companies should review their driving records yearly to ensure they’re satisfactory.
Car crashes can be emotionally and financially overwhelming, especially during the hectic holiday season. If you’re involved in a rideshare accident, you should call an attorney as soon as possible. Our Virginia personal injury lawyers at Curcio Law have the experience you need to ensure you are fairly compensated after a rideshare accident. Contact us today if you’ve been in an Uber or Lyft accident in Virginia. Call or text us at 703-836-3366 or visit us online, and we can help you navigate your options.
Rakin Hamad joined Curcio Law as an associate in August 2018 after graduating from George Mason Law School. During law school, Rakin demonstrated his dedication to client advocacy and was a member of the trial advocacy association, the pro bono society, and the George Mason Law Review. His approach to the law mirrors the firm’s philosophy of treating each client with commitment, compassion and character. Contact Rakin at firstname.lastname@example.org.