Home pools and those at hotels or resorts are often the venue for summer parties and other social events where alcohol is often served. Inevitably, people become intoxicated at these parties and accidents can happen on the premises or on the roadway if an inebriated guest causes an injury accident while driving home. In such cases, there are laws that determine if the host of the event can be held civilly liable for your injuries.
Has the introduction of Uber into our towns and cities led to a reduction in drunk driving arrests and, consequently, alcohol-related injuries and fatalities? Perhaps, but the “jury” seems to be still out on this question.
Uber is a ride-sharing phenomenon that with its competitor, Lyft, has shaken up the taxi industry. Its drivers, who may or may not be independent contractors, use their own vehicles to pick up passengers who make ride requests via an application. Drivers are directed to pickup locations from their own driver app that has a GPS system. Passengers input their destination and drivers follow the GPS directions. Fares are based on distance though they vary if there are surge times, or hours of the day or evening when demand for rides may be higher.
One of the benefits that Uber likes to tout is that it reduces the incidence of drunk driving. It would seem to make sense since people no longer have to worry about drinking too much and can easily call for an Uber to take them to and from wherever they are partying.
Studies Confirm and Reject a Reduction in Alcohol-Related Incidents
There are some studies that confirm the reduction in drunk driving incidents. A New York study indicated that intoxicated driving in 4 boroughs declined by up to 35% since Uber was introduced there in 2011. Other studies in Seattle and San Francisco seem to support these results but some researchers suggest that it is still too early to conclude that Uber is responsible for the decline.
A joint study from the University of Southern California and Oxford University came to the opposite conclusion or at least that reduction of drunk driving incidents was the result of other factors such as bans on texting and driving and changes in legislation among other factors. This study, however, found no reduction in traffic deaths with the introduction of Uber, even when separating total alcohol-related traffic deaths from those that occurred on weekends and holidays when ridership is highest. Researchers have pointed out that the conclusions may depend on the methodology and how you use the data.
Their reasoning was that intoxicated persons do not make rational judgments or simply do not want to pay the fees for an Uber ride. They may also feel, with considerable justification, that the possibility of being stopped and arrested for DUI is quite low and prefer to take their chances.
Regardless of how you feel about these studies, it makes sense to use a taxi, Uber or Lyft if you plan on drinking or will be in a vehicle where the driver has been drinking.
Accidents with Uber or Lyft
There are thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers in urban and suburban areas in Massachusetts. If you are in an injury accident with an Uber or Lyft or while a passenger in a ride-sharing company, there are some things to note.
If you were injured as a passenger and the Uber driver was at fault, you can look to Uber’s own insurer for compensation. Uber provides $1 million in insurance coverage for accidents involving its drivers while its app is on and either in route to pick up or drop off a passenger. If another motorist was at fault, then you bring a claim against them or both if circumstances support it.
Should you be another driver injured by an Uber or Lyft driver, you can be compensated from the ride-sharing company provided that these same circumstances were present. If the driver’s app was not on or he or she was not in route to pick up or drop off a passenger, then the driver’s personal auto policy is applicable. In Massachusetts, the minimum auto liability limits are only $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident.
You can likely expect the insurers for Uber or Lyft to vigorously defend an injury claim. You will need an experienced car accident lawyer like Neil Burns to prosecute your claim. Do not try to settle your case alone. Statistics consistently show that injured claimants represented by attorneys receive substantially more in compensation than those who represent themselves, even taking legal fees into account.
Damages in an Uber or Lyft Accident
If injured by a Lyft or Uber driver, you are entitled to compensation. Damages typically include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future wage loss
- Loss of earning capacity
- Exacerbation of a pre-existing condition
- Emotional trauma
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Diminution in quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
If you were injured by an intoxicated driver, your damages will not increase from that factor alone. Massachusetts allows punitive damages only in wrongful death claims. The family of a person killed by a drunk driver may claim such damages.
The administrator for the decedent’s estate may bring a wrongful death claim for the immediate family members. Damages may include:
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Loss of income during the working life of the decedent
- Pain and suffering but only if the decedent was observed to have consciously suffered before succumbing
- Final medical bills if applicable
- Loss of the love, companionship, comfort, guidance and counsel the decedent would have provided family members
- Punitive damages if the defendant exhibited gross negligence or malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct
Consult Car Accident Lawyer Neil Burns
Neil Burns is an injury lawyer who has been practicing since 1985. He has represented thousands of injured claimants from across the state and has obtained millions in dollars for his injured clients. Call his office for a free analysis of your injury claim.
Anyone who gets into a cab, Uber or Lyft may have some concern about the character of your driver. For example, did the company verify that the driver has a clean driving record, is not a sex offender or has a record of violent felony convictions? Furthermore, is there insurance if there is an accident?
Uber and Lyft conduct background checks as either required by the jurisdiction where they are operating or as part of their own policies. In most cases, they report that they will reject applicants with a DUI/DWI or who have a record as a sex offender or other violent offenses. However, their background checks only extend back 7 years.
It is no secret to anyone who uses a cell phone to text or read messages how focused you can be on that activity alone. Sit on a bus or in a coffee shop and you will likely see that over many people are ignoring their environment while scrolling through emails and text messages or sending them. Now transfer that to the act of driving. Read more
Motorcycle and truck accidents happen every day and occasionally both are involved in the same collision. Because motorcycle riders have little protection in any kind of collision, the consequences can be catastrophic or fatal.
In a recent motorcycle accident near Elgin, Illinois, a 25-year old man was killed when a semi-tractor trailer made a left turn in front of his bike. The family of the motorcycle driver has filed a wrongful death action against the truck driver alleging that the driver failed to yield by making a turn when it was unsafe to do so, failed to maintain control of his truck, failed to maintain a proper lookout and was proceeding too fast for the traffic conditions.
Many people are excited about the prospect of driverless or autonomous vehicles becoming commonplace on our roadways, eliminating the human factors that are responsible for causing 94% of all traffic accidents. A high percentage of accidents and injuries are caused by intoxication, distracted driving (smartphone use) and speeding. If you are in a driverless car, though, then it makes no difference how intoxicated you are or if you are focused exclusively on your smartphone. Also, your driverless car will not speed so that factor may be eliminated as well.
Texting is ubiquitous these days. People are doing it while driving, crossing the street, drinking coffee at Starbucks or while working. It is the latter case that can put employers at risk for liability if an employee’s negligence causes injury to a third person.
An unusual case in which an employer is being sued by a third person, or one who is not a co-worker of the negligent employee, occurred at a Wal-Mart two years ago and is being litigated now. The employee was allegedly texting on his phone while pushing a cart filled with boxes when he inadvertently ran into the plaintiff and injuring her. The victim’s complaints consisted of loss of motion of her neck and shoulders and continued post-concussive symptoms that includes short-term memory loss.
Traffic statistics on injuries and fatalities were moving in the right direction about 10 years ago when traffic administrators, federal and state officials could boast that our nation’s highways were becoming safer. The reasons? Most pointed to stricter laws on drunk driving, seat belt enforcement, helmets for motorcyclists and concerted safety campaigns. However, the good news has soured over the past 2 years with the National Safety Council having recently released its 2016 statistics indicating that traffic deaths exceeded 40,000 for the first time since 2007. Deaths were up 7% in 2015 and matched last year for a 14% overall rise in the past 2 years. This is the largest increase in more than 50 years.
AAA, or the American Automobile Association, has been around nearly as long as when the first automobile appeared on American roads. For 95 years, AAA has promoted and lobbied for safety in improved automobile design and features as well as funding educational and instructional programs for motorists and young pedestrians in high schools and elementary schools. In the latest iteration of its safety message to young people and teen drivers, AAA Northeast has announced its annual AAA Traffic Safety Poster and Video Contest to run through April 7, 2017.
Most of us have to start driving sometime. Laws in every state allow you to start driving in your teenage years with some as young as 15. While this makes parents nervous, starting young can lead to developing sound driving habits and it frees up parents from having to drive their teens everywhere. However, teen drivers are novices. Combine inexperience with reckless conduct, an unfortunate trait of many teen drivers, and horrible accidents can result.