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.