Shocked driver before crash

By: Attorney Ken Harrell

With the increased number of Uber and Lyft drivers on the road, accidents involving these cars are going to happen. Not surprising. All of us are fallible and make mistakes. During the weekend I used Uber extensively in Atlanta, I would be surprised if five of my drivers were age 30 or older. If you have a lot of 20 year-olds driving for you, you are going to have accidents.

There is a screening process that Uber uses for its drivers but it’s far from intensive. Typically, Uber obtains the prospective driver’s motor vehicle record (driving record) and criminal record. It requires at least one year of driving experience (three years if the driver is under the age of 23).

Uber and Lyft both make their money off of volume sales. The more drivers they have, the more money they can make. There is no incentive to have a hyper-intensive screening process. (I know the screening can’t be that daunting since my youngest son has driven for them. I love him but the world’s greatest driver, he is not.)

My Own Experience Riding Uber, is It Safe?

Don’t get me wrong, I love using Uber (and I love Airbnb as well for many of the same reasons). Those of you who have lived in Charleston for some time can recall when Charleston was a terrible cab town. I can recall several times when I found myself downtown after having dinner and a few drinks and it took me well over an hour to catch a cab to take me back to Mount Pleasant. The scarcity of reliable cab service almost certainly resulted in several people driving after drinking because they grew frustrated trying to catch a cab.

I have several lawyer friends who handle DUI cases as part of their business. Many of them comment that the number of DUI cases they sign up annually has markedly decreased since the advent of services like Uber and Lyft. When you consider that, there’s no question that these ride services have made our highways safer by reducing the amount of drunk driving in our communities.

While I’ll occasionally use an Uber in Charleston if I’ve had more than a couple of cocktails during a night out, I rely on it for transportation whenever I’m traveling. I recently spent Super Bowl weekend in Atlanta and likely used Uber over 20 times over the course of a long weekend. I have had a myriad of experiences using Uber. Most of them have been very positive. However, I have also had a few that left me scratching my head. My mom, my sister and I once got an Uber ride in New York after a Broadway play. I don’t know if our Uber driver was impaired but I do know that his car reeked of pot. That said, my Uber rides in NYC have certainly seemed safer to me than my New York cab rides.

Your Uber Driver is Not Perfect

However, not everything is rainbow and butterflies. Here’s a specific case in point our law firm is handling. Our client is a 46 year-old Myrtle Beach woman. In April of 2017, she was a passenger in her mother’s van as they ran errands. While doing this, a 25 year-old Uber driver recklessly turned left into the path of their van, causing a horrific crash. Both of our client’s van’s airbags deployed and our client shattered her right wrist. Two surgeries and over $60,000 in medical costs later, our client continues to experience problems with pain and decreased grip on a daily basis.

Fortunately, one benefit to accidents involving Uber and Lyft is that they often have far higher insurance coverage in effect (through the companies) than the average South Carolina driver carries. If an Uber or Lyft driver is on the way to pick up a rider or engaged in a for-hire trip, both companies provide $1 million of liability, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. I’ve written previous articles on how uninsured and under-insured coverages work. Suffice it to say that these insurance coverage amounts are yet another reason why I strongly recommend using a ride service over using a cab service. (Many cab companies in South Carolina carry minimum limits insurance and we’ve had experiences with some cab companies which were uninsured.)

The Driver is Liable for Any Damages the Passenger Suffer

Do understand that just because Uber and Lyft have this extensive coverage in place does not mean that they will be easy to work with in getting a case resolved. We have had more experience at the Joye Law Firm dealing with cases against Uber than against Lyft (likely because Uber traditionally had more drivers than Lyft, although that is no longer the case.) I wouldn’t say that Uber is as bad to deal with as the unholy Bermuda Triangle of Geico, Allstate and Progressive but they’re pretty close.

Bottom line, if you’ve been injured by a negligent Uber or Lyft driver, or while a passenger in a Uber or Lyft vehicle (even if the accident wasn’t the fault of the hired driver), hire an experienced personal injury law firm to help you. There are a number of complicated issues in these cases, including what coverage apply and stacking issues.

About the Author

Ken Harrell joined Joye Law Firm in 1994, and has been the managing partner since 2006. With 30 years of experience, he protects the rights of injured South Carolinians, including cases involving workers’ compensation, car accidents, and defective products. Ken also leads the firm’s referral practice, helping to ensure that our clients receive the best possible representation. He is a past president of South Carolina Injured Workers’ Advocates, and has served as the co-chairman of this organization’s legislative affairs committee for 12 years.

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