With the recent phenomenon of ride-sharing in an Uber or Lyft, has come an increased emphasis on the safety of their passengers. While taxis continue to lose market share, Uber and Lyft and their younger customer base, have dramatically increased the number of people taking rides. With this increase in passenger-carrying vehicles, comes an increase in auto accidents. Over the past few years, injuries to rear-seat passengers who are not wearing seatbelts have raised an alarm with many auto safety groups.
According to a recent article by Jenni Bergal “You don’t buckle up in the back seat of ride-hailing cars and taxis? That could be a fatal mistake,” federal statistics show that while 90% of drivers and front-seat passengers use seatbelts, that figure drops to 76% for those passengers in the back seat. This research was confirmed in her numerous interviews with Uber and Lyft drivers that approximated the same general numbers. The disparity of the use of seatbelts from the front seat to the back seat is what is causing concern and more injuries. In a 2015 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it was found that unrestrained passengers in the back seat were eight times more likely to suffer an injury compared to restrained back seat passengers. Further, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, using seatbelts saved 15,000 lives in 2017 alone. The significance of these studies is that people need to buckle up in an Uber or Lyft regardless of where they are sitting.
Florida Law on Seatbelts in an Uber or Lyft:
Under Florida Statute 316.614, also known as Florida’s Safety Belt Law, all drivers of vehicles and front-seat passengers must wear seatbelts. But, what about the seatbelt requirements for the back seat passengers? Surprisingly, only children 17 or younger have to wear seatbelts in the rear seat. That means it is perfectly legal if you are 18 or older to not wear a seatbelt in Florida if you are in a rear seat. However, as mentioned in the above, that does not mean that it is a good idea or safe not to be seatbelted- it just is not illegal.
Additionally, Florida law allows a defendant in an Uber or Lyft accident case to blame you if you have been injured and weren’t wearing your seatbelt. This is called comparative negligence. It means that the amount of your damages can be reduced by the percentage of fault that not wearing a seatbelt caused. For example, assume your injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering totaled $100,000. Assume that you were in the back seat of an Uber or Lyft and were not wearing a seatbelt. Assume that the defendant argued that your injuries could have been prevented if you simply wore a seatbelt. If a jury buys that argument, it can reduce your $100,000 by any amount that it determines to be appropriate. Thus, not only is wearing a seatbelt safe, it could affect the amount of money that you receive.
What Should You Do After an Auto Accident in an Uber or Lyft?
Uber and Lyft accident cases are still relatively new in the legal field. These cases are constantly being developed and adjusted. But, we have handled numerous cases thus far and certain patterns have emerged. First, since the companies don’t have a phone number you can call, make sure you report the accident via the app. Once you report the accident, you will be called very quickly and asked a litany of questions about what happened. During this call, be polite, but don’t go into detail about your injuries. Always get a claim number.
Also, make sure that you take a screenshot of the ride you were on. We recently handled a Lyft case where the history of our client’s ride was deleted as soon as she reported the accident. While we were able to eventually track down the claim and it worked out, you can imagine how worried we were when all proof of the ride disappeared. In other words, don’t trust Uber or Lyft to make things easy on you-always protect yourself.
Other important steps to take after the accident are to photograph the vehicles involved in the crash. If you can get a picture of the drivers and the license plate numbers, that can be extremely helpful. Lastly, take down the contact information for the drivers of the vehicles and any witnesses to the accident. Again, relying on the police or on Uber or Lyft is a risky proposition.
Finally, we always advise seeking medical treatment as soon as possible after an Uber or Lyft accident. Not all injuries rise to the level of going to a hospital, but if you have any question, err on the side of caution and get checked out. Regardless of where you go for treatment, it is vitally important for you to see someone quickly. Insurance companies will penalize you and pay you less for every day that you wait to be seen. And, unfortunately, trying to go to a doctor and not being seen, simply doesn’t count. The truth is that insurance companies do not care about your well being, they just care about how much they might have to pay you. So, don’t give them any excuses to pay you less money by waiting to see a doctor. If you have any questions about what doctor or treatment facility to get treatment, we have a list of excellent and trustworthy medical professionals that we can refer you to.
Contact an Uber or Lyft Accident Attorney
At St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we specialize in representing people who have been injured while riding in an Uber or Lyft. We are familiar with the technology of the apps and know how to handle each claim. We have handled countless Uber and Lyft cases and we are sure that we can help you as well. If you have been injured while a passenger in an Uber or Lyft, please contact us immediately for a free consultation. Time is of the essence for these types of cases, so for the sake of your health and the value of your claim, please try not to delay.