If you are a passenger in an Uber or Lyft accident, it can be hard to understand your rights when it comes to recovering injury-related expenses. That’s because ride-sharing apps occupy a legal gray area between the personal use of automobiles and commercial taxi operations in many states.
According to NOLO, the online legal reference library that works to break down legal concepts to the general public, ride sharing accidents usually fall under the driver’s personal insurance if the driver is at fault unless the insurance policy specifically excludes ride-sharing. Otherwise, a lawsuit on your behalf to recover damages from the at-fault driver’s insurance is common.
Immediately After an Uber or Lyft Crash
If you’re in a crash, take these steps to protect your legal rights down the road so you can get the medical treatment you need and recover the costs associated with your injury.
Contact 911 if the driver has not already done so, to report the accident.
Check to see if anyone in the car is injured and report it to the dispatcher if they are.
Get the insurance information from all the drivers involved so you can be sure you have what you need once fault is determined.
Contact the rideshare company’s customer service to report to them.
The Changing Insurance Landscape
More and more insurance companies are excluding rideshare time from their personal vehicle coverage policies. If an Uber or Lyft driver’s policy excludes rideshare, they should have a ride sharing insurance policy. One of the reasons it is important to contact customer service for your rideshare company is because they are carrying insurance on the drivers’ behalf more and more. According to a firsthand account in Fortune, the company began carrying its own insurance in 2013 in response to the rising tide of rideshare exclusions on personal policies.
The car accident attorneys at the law offices of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley provide legal expertise, strong trial skills and the essential investigation in order to successfully litigate your personal injury claims. If you have recently been in an accident and you have medical expenses or other losses associated with it, you should talk to an attorney before accepting any settlement. For a consultation with experienced attorneys, contact O’Connor, Runkel, and O’Malley LLP today.
Just as there are apps to help decrease standard automobile accidents, there are also mandates going into effect in the trucking industry in an effort to reduce truck accidents. Electronic Logging Devices keep track of how long a trucker has been on the road to better ensure she or he doesn’t sit across the table from a truck accident attorney after falling asleep at the wheel. But are the devices effective?
The Aim of the Devices
In 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimated that ELDs could prevent roughly 1,700 crashes, 500 injuries and 20 deaths a year. This is because the devices make it so truck drivers cannot drive more than 11 hours in the road without resting. As truck accident attorney I can tell you that driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of truck accidents.
Besides preventing accidents, logging devices can improve the trucking industry at large. Specifically, if truckers aren’t driving more than they should be, they’re less likely to burn themselves out. Fewer overworked truckers is likely to result in a lower employee turnover rate.
Are the Devices Reducing Salaries Along With Accidents?
For all the good they’re supposed to do, ELDs aren’t beloved by all truckers. One issue is the devices can actually make truckers drive a bit more recklessly than they normally would. This is because when drivers near their 11-hour limit and haven’t made it to their destination, some of them may speed up to get there faster.
There are still problems even when a truck driver hasn’t neared her or his destination when the 11-hour limit approaches. The issue is that not all truckers are able to find a safe place to park their vehicles when they reach their time limit.
If you were recently involved in an accident with a truck, it may have been due to reckless or fatigued driving. Either way, it’s best you reach out to a truck accident attorney to explore your rights.
Traffic moves at a snail’s pace when driving during rush hour on Mission Boulevard in the Mission San Jose area of Fremont since thousands of vehicles are on the road all at once.
The drive was particularly frightening on August 3rd when a big rig dump truck rolled over while turning right off the Interstate 680 southbound exit ramp onto Mission Boulevard going north, dumping gravel all over the road and destroying parts of a car in the process.
Traffic accidents involving trucks often cause devastating injuries or even death to victims. Due to the enormous size and weight of big rigs and other commercial trucks, the rates of severe injuries and death for the occupants of the smaller vehicles in these accidents are higher than in most other traffic accidents.
The trucking industry, as well as the government, is well aware of the risks that tractor-trailers, big rigs, semi-trucks, and 18-wheelers pose to others sharing the road. This is apparent when you look at the increased regulations and the additional requirements in the hiring and training of drivers as well as the loading. Despite all of these precautions, truck accidents still occur.
According to Fremont officials, there have been five similar rollover accidents involving big rig trucks at the very same interchange since December 2015. This is a very dangerous situation for thousands of commuters, not to mention the gridlock these accidents cause that can last for hours.
Fremont’s director of public works, Hans Larsen said about this recent accident, “I immediately thought, ‘Wow this feels like déjà vu.’ ” Others posted similar sentiments on Facebook about the frequency of these accidents.
“This occurred with another gravel truck just a few months back at that very same intersection. Maybe that location needs some work to make things safer,” Heather Wallace commented on a Fremont Police Department posting on the latest accident.
Just over a year ago, on August 31, 2017, a nearly identical accident happened in the exact same spot during rush hour traffic in the afternoon.
A big rig carrying a full load of dirt rolled over on the road while turning right off the Interstate ramp. It landed in the median with one of its rigs thrown across the southbound lanes, crashing into a fence. This backed up traffic for hours.
“Apparently, trucks are speeding down that same 680 off ramp way too fast,” Glenn Gutierrez commented on the police department’s Facebook post about the accident. “What can be done to make it safer?”
Larsen said, “We are very distressed about this,” adding, “It’s definitely a problem that deserves serious study.”
In this last incident, two people suffered injuries, and highway lanes and ramps remained closed for hours, which severely delayed traffic.
It’s become such a concern that the city of Fremont is meeting with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the agency in charge of managing the Interstate, the off-ramp and Mission Boulevard to seriously discuss that particular interchange.
“It’s to make them aware of the seriousness and frequency of the problem and how many trucks have overturned at that one location. We need to know how they intend to respond to the situation and what solutions are available to remedy the problem,” Larsen said.
Spokesperson for the California Trucking Association, Eric Sauer said he’s glad that officials from the city of Fremont and Caltrans are meeting to take up the issue.
Sauer said, “We’ll have to see if anything happens as a result of those meetings. I hope we can join in on those discussions at some point.”
“We need to add more signs and rumble strips while making sure that all drivers know they need to slow down,” he said. “These are steps the association can fully support,” he added.
There are reminders on Mission Boulevard of the toll these accidents have taken. Along the curve there is a huge gouge in the pavement, caused when the trucks overturned, and oil stains from the engines blanket the median and roadway from all the previous accidents.
If you look closely at the median that runs along Mission Boulevard near the ramp you can see dirt, gravel and other debris from cars and trucks, including lug nut covers and glass.
Expert researchers who have studied large truck rollovers when carrying huge loads say that these huge trucks may not have the ability to sufficiently slow down when exiting the Interstate and are therefore unable to safely navigate that sharp right turn at the bottom.
On the 680 Interstate leading towards this off-ramp, vehicles are travelling downhill, and this particular ramp is sloped downward as well.
Drivers going left onto Mission Boulevard or continuing straight ahead must stop at the bottom of the ramp at the signal, but drivers going right onto Mission Boulevard are in a dedicated merge lane, so they do not need to stop at all.
Larsen is of the opinion that this current situation discourages vehicles from adequately slowing down, so they end up making their turn at higher speeds than are safe, especially when its a large commercial truck with a relatively high center of gravity.
“There really is no reason to slow down or stop unless you notice a pedestrian crossing the road there,” he said of the downward right turn.
There is also a lack of signage. Yes, there is a sign suggesting a speed limit of 30 mph posted just ahead of the ramp, but there was no sign warning drivers that the off-ramp slopes downhill until just recently.
Three days after this recent accident, Caltrans put up two new “hill warning” signs, one just before the off-ramp and another one where the ramp begins. The signs show an “8%” with a drawing of a truck going downhill.
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Highways and Streets says that federal guidelines are that those signs are supposed to be installed before any downgrades of 8% that are over 750 feet in length and “where field observations and crash experience show a need.” The Mission Boulevard off-ramp certainly qualifies.
A yellow sign was recently installed near the bottom of the off-ramp, showing a right arrow and a 15 mph suggested speed limit for the curve. However, officials from Caltrans seemed not to know whether that sign had been there before the latest accident or not. Looking at some Google Maps images, the sign does not seem to be there going back to 2015.
However, warning signs for drivers, especially truckers, to slow down when approaching the bottom of the ramp may be useless. This is according to a senior researcher at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley, Xiao-Yun Lu, whose expertise is in vehicle dynamics control.
“Some drivers assume that their truck could come to a stop if necessary. However, once they enter the curve, it’s too late,” Lu said when interviewed.
“Unless these drivers act sooner, there is no way they can slow down,” he explained, especially when carrying a heavy load. “If their load is not evenly distributed, it is more likely that the truck will roll over.”
Lu co-authored a commercial vehicle safety report in 2007 with other researchers that said speed is a vital aspect of truck safety.
“Travelling at high speeds is not only a threat to other vehicles on the road, but it also creates instability when it comes to the truck itself and can cause a rollover,” says the report. It also warned that, “A loaded big rig requires 20-40% more stopping distance than an average sized sedan. The situation becomes worse on downgrades and/or on a wet roadway.”
Lu said that although road and traffic engineers would need to carefully study the off-ramp and turn before they could recommend changes, there are some easy solutions that could be accomplished quickly.
He said that although the curve at the turn is banked slightly on its outer edge, it might be helpful to have steeper banking, which would allow trucks to more safely handle the turn. Reducing the suggested speed to 25 mph for the off-ramp, and putting up more signs well in advance along the Interstate warning drivers to slow down could also help, Lu added.
Larson is in full agreement, saying that police reports have suggested that one of the main reasons for most of these overturned trucks “has been their inability to get the brakes to adequately slow the truck down due to the downgrade.” In a later email he said that in a couple of the accidents the left front tires buckled in the turn, “which caused the trucks to roll over.” He added that the area of Mission Boulevard has drawn their attention for needing to be upgraded for other reasons, specifically the danger faced by bicyclists and pedestrians crossing where the curve is.
Larson suggested that reconfiguring the bottom of the off-ramp to make it safer for everyone would be where they need to start.
“We have to acknowledge that there are too many problems with this off-ramp to leave it as is.”
If you or a family member has been injured in a big rig or trucking accident and would like to consult with an experienced lawyer, please contact us. We will discuss your case, answer your question and explain how you can legally protect your rights.
The Law firm of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley has more than 50 years of legal experience specializing in personal injury cases. Our track record of successful outcomes for clients is well known in the legal community.
O’Connor, Runckel and O’Malley LLP would like to announce our 2018 scholarship recipient, Tamar Anna Alexanian. Tamar received her bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University in 2016 where she double majored in Women's & Gender Studies and English Literature. Upon graduation, she spent a year as an English Teaching Assistant with Fulbright Taiwan and the following year as an AmeriCorps member serving under-resourced communities in Chicago. In the fall, Tamar will be attending the University of Michigan Law School where she hopes to study international human rights.
We look forward to seeing Tamar succeed in her upcoming years at the University of Michigan Law School.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) announced that the number of pedestrians killed in the U.S. in 2017 was nearly 6,000. After two straight years of significant increases, the number of pedestrians being killed on our streets seems to be holding steady.
According to GHSA, this number is the highest it’s been in the last 25 years. Although the rise “seems to be holding,” the “ongoing problem of so many pedestrian fatalities raises concerns about the dangers facing pedestrians on our streets.”
This is even more concerning when you realize that the number of fatalities resulting from other types of traffic accidents is falling. GHSA mentioned that enhanced vehicle safety features make collisions safer for people inside vehicles – but these are not helpful to pedestrians.
There was a rise of 27% in pedestrian deaths from 2007 to 2016, but during this same time deaths from other types of traffic accidents fell by 14%, GHSA reports. The result is that pedestrian fatalities account for a higher proportion of overall traffic accident fatalities.
The GHSA report is derived from early data from state highway agencies. A total of 23 states plus Washington, D.C., showed a rise in pedestrian fatalities. During the same time period there was a decrease in 20 states while the balance remained more or less the same.
Five states – Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas – made up 43% of pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2017. This is despite the fact that only 30% of the country’s population resides in those states.
Laurel Wamsley last year reported on NPR that a study was done by Smart Growth America revealing the most deadly cities in the U.S. for pedestrians. According to this study, eight cities out of the top 10 were in Florida. The study also revealed that the population most at risk is people of color, as she reported:
“People of color are disproportionately represented among the pedestrians being killed. Non-white individuals make up 34.9% of the U.S. population, whereas they comprise 46.1% of the country’s pedestrian fatalities.
“In some regions, this disparity is very pronounced. For example, Native Americans make up just 5% of the population of North Dakota, but this group accounts for almost 38% of pedestrian fatalities.”
The study also discovered that people with no health insurance, the poor and the elderly were more apt to reside in areas that are particularly deadly for pedestrians.
The most recent GHSA report does not categorize deaths by income, insurance or race. However, it does show that the elderly and children are “especially at risk.”
The question remains as to why pedestrian deaths have increased so much since 2014. Last year, when the GHSA report revealed an 11% increase over the previous year in pedestrian deaths, David Schaper of NPR took a close look at some of the possible causes:
“GHSA spokesperson Maureen Vogel said that there was ‘a perfect storm’ when a number of factors came together to spur the increase: There were more cars on the road due to a better economy and lower gas prices. People were just driving more, ‘but that doesn’t explain the whole story, so something else must be going on.’
“One possible explanation can be seen during downtown Chicago’s rush hour traffic if you look at all the drivers inching their way through traffic and the dozens of pedestrians crossing the street in the intersections. You can clearly see that many of the drivers and the pedestrians as well looking down at their cell phones.
“ We are totally distracted," said Melody Geraci, who is the deputy executive director of a Chicago group called, the Active Transportation Alliance, that advocates for improved public transportation, walking and cycling. ‘Speeding and not yielding are the top two causes of pedestrian deaths, but the third cause is distractions, which are usually by mobile devices."
“There is a lot of documentation attesting to the fact that drivers distracted by their mobile devices cause traffic accidents. But, there is an increase in pedestrians being distracted too, causing them to be totally unaware of all the traffic whirling around them.”
Other factors would be speeding vehicles and alcohol – not just drunk drivers, but drunk pedestrians too. The GHSA most recent report said that 33% of pedestrian deaths involved a pedestrian who had a blood alcohol count over the legal limit for driving. Yet, there are no laws against walking down the street while drunk, but obviously this is a very dangerous practice, which can kill you.
Another factor was time of day with 75% of pedestrian deaths occurring at night in the dark. In 72% of the cases, the deceased was jay walking, or crossing in the middle of the street without being in the intersection.
This latest report also indicates that marijuana use may also be a factor:
“From 2012 to 2016 there were seven states plus Washington DC, that voted to legalized the recreational use of marijuana. These states were Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. These states reported a 16.4% rise in pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2017 vs. the first half of 2016. Interestingly, all other states had a collective 5.8% decrease in pedestrian deaths.”
However, GHSA cannot assert a “definitive association” or “direct correlation” in explaining those particular states’ much higher rates of pedestrian fatalities.
If you have a loved one that was killed in a pedestrian accident that was caused by someone else, you may be entitled to seek compensation. You need to know your legal rights and how to protect them and an experienced pedestrian accident attorney can help. The law offices of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley has handled hundreds of clients in similar situations. Call today and speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer who will treat you with the respect and concern you deserve during this very difficult time.
Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP