Being involved in an auto accident can be distressing and disorienting. And when this accident involves a ride-share service like Uber, Lyft, or Sidecar, you may find yourself even more unsure of what to do next. As Washington residents continue to use ride-share services, with an estimated one in four Washingtonians taking part in the sharing economy, the number of people impacted by ride-share accidents is only poised to increase.
Below we discuss some key steps to take after a ride-share accident, who may be liable, and what you should do to preserve your legal rights if you or a loved one has been injured in a ride-share collision.
Steps to Take After a Ride-Share Accident
There are a few important steps to take in the minutes, hours, and days following a ride-share accident.
Get to Safety and Call for Help
Under Washington law, those who are involved in any accident that causes bodily injury or more than $1,000 in property damage are required to contact law enforcement. Generally, the driver or drivers will report this damage; however, ride-share passengers are also entitled to call the police to ensure that an accident report is completed. Be sure to get yourself and any others out of the path of danger while you’re waiting for the police to arrive.
Seek Medical Attention
Often, the adrenaline and stress hormones that are released during a car collision can mask signs of injury. It may only be later, once the adrenaline has subsided, that you notice some serious aches, pains, and strains. Soft tissue injuries like whiplash can take days or even weeks to fully develop.
By seeking medical attention at the scene or shortly thereafter, you’ll be able to get a diagnosis and treatment plan for any injuries you’ve sustained. This can often help you avoid long-term complications—as well as avoiding any defensive argument that your failure to promptly seek medical attention exacerbated your injuries.
Get Information From Others Involved
If you’re able, get the names and contact information from those at the scene who witnessed the accident. This information can go a long way toward boosting any legal claim you may later make. Tracking down eyewitnesses after the fact can be difficult; but short of surveillance video, eyewitness testimony can be some of the strongest evidence you’ll present to support your case.
Take Photos, Videos, and Notes
Along with eyewitness information and testimony, photos and videos of the accident scene as it was just after the accident can also be strong evidence. If you do end up filing a legal claim, the scene may have changed significantly by the time you make it to trial—contemporaneous photos can help bring the scene to life. If any weather conditions contributed to the crash, take photos that depict them; also take photos of any damage, like a smashed vehicle or dented guardrail.
It’s also important to take photos of any injuries you’ve sustained in the crash. Bruises can fade and broken bones can heal; having photos that show your injuries at their worst can ensure that your claim isn’t later minimized.
Finally, by taking some notes—including details about what you remember from the crash—you’ll be able to preserve key information that may later be useful.
Report the Accident to Your Auto Insurance Company
You may assume that your insurance company only needs to be informed about an accident if you were driving. But even if you’re a passenger in a ride-share accident, it’s worth giving your insurance company a call to put it on notice. If you ultimately end up needing medical care as a result of the accident, your auto insurance may attempt to subrogate its responsibility by seeking damages from the at-fault party.
Notify the Ride-Share Company
It’s important to notify the ride-share company about the accident as quickly as you can. For Uber and Lyft passengers, this can usually be accomplished by submitting it on the respective app; for other ride-share companies, you may need to call to speak to someone. Failing to contact the ride-share company to report the accident could weaken any claim you make later; the defendant could argue that you weren’t seriously injured or didn’t believe that the accident was worth reporting at the time.
Consult With an Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in a ride-share accident, consulting with an attorney can help you preserve your legal rights. In Washington, those who are injured in auto accidents have only three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against those responsible. This three-year statute of limitations continues to run even while your insurance company is negotiating the claim; waiting until the last minute to pursue legal action could run the risk of having your claim dismissed as untimely. By contacting an experienced Washington ride-share injury attorney, you’ll be able to focus your energy on recovery, not your legal claim.
Who is Liable for a Ride-Share Accident?
Just like other car crashes, assessing fault for a ride-share accident will depend on the circumstances. There are a few potential scenarios when it comes to assessing liability:
- The ride-share company may be responsible. If you can show that the ride-share company allowed an unlicensed or unsafe driver to drive under its approval , you may be able to argue that the ride-share company was negligent in its hiring and retention practices. This will require you to show that the ride-share company knew, or should have known, that the driver was negligent and that the accident occurred while the driver was working on the ride-share company’s behalf.
- The ride-share driver may be responsible. If your accident occurred because of your ride-share driver’s inattention, reckless driving maneuver, or some other mistake, you may be able to hold the driver responsible. Because most ride-share companies carry liability insurance policies on their drivers, your damages should be covered even if the driver lacks an individual insurance policy of their own. If the ride-share driver does have their own insurance policy, it may cover your injuries and expenses up to a certain point.
- Another at-fault driver. If another driver’s actions led to the accident, that driver’s auto insurance policy will be responsible for property damage and medical expenses. If this driver is uninsured or underinsured (that is, their insurance policy limits aren’t enough to cover all the damages sustained), the ride-share company’s uninsured motorist coverage may kick in.
- The city or municipality. In some cases, you may be able to argue that the accident wasn’t due to driver error at all—but due to the city’s poor design or negligence. For example, if a clogged city sewer drain caused a buildup of water on the roadway, leading drivers to hydroplane, the city could be named as a defendant for its role in the accident.
To assess liability, attorneys and insurance representatives will look at a variety of evidence. This can include:
- Photos and videos from the accident scene
- Photos of the damage to the vehicles or any injuries sustained
- A police-generated accident report
- Statements from witnesses (including the drivers involved in the accident)
- Medical records
By gathering the evidence available and carefully sorting through it, your ride-share accident attorney can draft theories of what took place and who is at fault.
What Damages Are Available in a Ride-Share Accident Lawsuit?
In ride-share accidents, like other auto accidents, there are two main categories of damages available—compensatory and non-economic. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate you for the actual losses you’ve suffered, including out-of-pocket medical expenses and lost wages associated with time off work. Non-economic damages are those that are awarded for pain and suffering and, in some rare cases, damages intended only to punish the defendant.
Compensatory damages include:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earnings
Meanwhile, non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages
- Loss of consortium (for spouses of the person injured)
The damages that will be recoverable in a particular case depend entirely on the circumstances of the accident. Your ride-share accident attorney should be able to review the facts of your case and provide you with a better idea of how much your claim may be worth.
At Premier Law Group, our expert ride-share accident attorneys will work with you to recover the compensation you deserve and support you through the claims process so that you and your loved ones can focus on getting better and moving forward. Call 206.285.1743 to set up a free consultation today!