Whose Insurance Covers Accidents With Uber, Lyft Drivers?

Real-time ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft found a marketplace for themselves in Chattanooga ever since riders are using these services as alternative methods of transportation.  Compared to the traditional taxi services, there are a few minor differences in how Uber and Lyft operate and handle requests from riders.

The steps for using Uber and Lyft services are fairly easy and are as follows:

  • A rider uses an application on their smartphone to request a ride from Uber or Lyft.
  • The nearest driver will receive the request and drive to the address where the rider is waiting to be picked up.
  • The Uber or Lyft driver transports the rider to their destination.

All billing is handled through the company’s app and the average charge is about 20 to 30 percent less than taxi services.  While this may seem like an ideal way for riders to save both time and money, there are some potential problems with these rideshare operations in the event that the driver is involved in an accident.

Both Uber and Lyft have liability insurance coverage for their drivers, but this insurance is not always reliable when accidents occur. For rideshare drivers and their passengers to be covered under the company’s liability policy the driver must be:

  • Be “signed in” to the company’s web application and available to accept ride requests.
  • Have accepted a ride request and be en route to the location where the passenger is waiting for pickup.
  • Be en route from the pickup location to the passenger’s destination.

At any other time, the company’s liability insurance will not be enforced and the driver’s personal auto insurance will be held responsible for covering any damages that are the result of the car accident. While this may sound straightforward, this is a problem that both the rideshare driver and his or her passenger should keep in mind.

All personal auto insurance policies are not responsible for any damages that occur if the vehicle is being used for “commercial purposes,” such as a rideshare service.  If an accident occurs and the driver was working as a rideshare driver, the policy will refuse to cover any damage claims.  Thus, the driver will be personally liable in the event of an accident.

Due to this potential lack of coverage, anyone involved in an accident with a rideshare driver should contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after an accident to discuss their options to recover damages.

Snapchat Auto Accident Cases Take a Surprising Turn

We know we’re not supposed to be using our smartphones when driving, but can you blame the smartphone and the content provider when using their app causes an accident?

Recently, a Tennessee court official answered that in a surprising way.

Snapchat is a popular smartphone app that lets users share photos and videos. One of its more controversial features is a “speed filter,” which allows you to show how fast you were traveling when the picture was taken.

In September 2015, Christal McGee was allegedly trying to reach a speed of 100 miles per hour to post a picture when she collided with a car driven by Wentworth Maynard. The force of the impact drove Maynard’s car across four lanes of the highway and into an embankment. Maynard sustained permanent brain damage and cannot walk as a result of the accident. McGee, who sustained only superficial injuries, was undeterred, Snapchatting “lucky to be alive” from her stretcher after the car accident.

That may sound like an open-and-shut case against McGee, but the court balked at finding Snapchat liable. Judge Josh Thacker dismissed Snapchat from the case, citing the 1996 Communications Decency Act which states, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Judge Thacker interpreted this to mean that Snapchat should not be held liable for what its user, McGee, published.

This would make more sense if McGee was looking at her own already-published content, or that of another user, at the time of the accident, but she was not. She was distracted by Snapchat’s app and Snapchat’s proprietary speed filter, not uploaded content. The Maynard’s attorney stated that they were considering an appeal.

Snapchat is not the only app creating problems. We are already seeing stories about the Pokemon Go app, which allows users to chase virtual creatures in the real world using their smartphone. While the app is not supposed to work while driving, it will operate at a low speed and has already been blamed for many collisions.

If you are involved in an auto accident with a distracted driver, it’s important to select a tech-savvy attorney to represent you. Tricia Dennis and Russell King are committed to thoroughly investigating these types of accidents and excited about being part of the process of developing new law that protects the victims of distracted drivers. Please give us a call to discuss how we can help.

How Motorcycle Helmets Affect Your Accident Case

If you were in a motorcycle accident but not wearing a helmet, can you still collect damages from the at-fault driver?

This is a question that comes up quite often when clients are discussing their cases. In brief, the answer is “Yes, but with a very important restriction.”

First, the motor vehicle laws in Tennessee and Georgia require that anyone riding a motorcycle must wear a helmet. Not wearing a helmet has no bearing on your right to sue for damages because the accident would have happened regardless of what you were or were not wearing.

Although not wearing a helmet will usually result in nothing more than a traffic citation, not wearing a helmet can influence your lawsuit for personal injury damages after an accident.

Both Tennessee and Georgia have adopted a legal doctrine known as the “premodified comparative negligence, 50% bar rule.” This doctrine can be quite complicated but can be explained in general terms as follows.

If you were injured in an accident, you have the right to seek damages from the person who caused the accident even if you were partially at fault. However, if the jury that hears your case finds that you were partial to blame for the accident, any damages that you are awarded will be reduced by the percentage of your contribution to the accident.

For example, you were in a motorcycle accident and not wearing a helmet. The jury hearing your case awards damages of $100,000 but determines that you were 40 percent to blame for that accident.  In the end, you will receive only $60,000 in damages ($100,000 – 40% = $60,000).

If that same jury determined that you were 60 percent responsible for the accident, you would receive nothing. The law in Georgia and Tennessee prohibit awarding damages to anyone responsible for 50 percent or more of the accident.

Determination of negligence in motorcycle accident cases can be difficult since there are factors that must be considered but aren’t always in a police report. Questions of negligence in motorcycle accident cases should always involve a motorcycle accident attorney with experience in such matters.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact Dennis & King today for your free consultation.