The 101 on handling accidents.
The more time drivers spend on the road, the more likely they are to be in an accident. For that reason, it’s vital that you understand how to protect your interests at the scene of a crash, where your actions and words can literally make or break a lawsuit or insurance claim down the road.
Before we dig in, let’s quickly discuss some basics of traffic and injury law. Every driver has a duty to act cautiously and safely on the road. We all know the rules: stop at red lights; don’t speed; yield to drivers with the right-of-way. That said, most crashes occur when drivers fail to obey these basic maxims. In the law, we call that “breaching one’s duty of care.”
When a person breaches his duty to drive safely and injures someone, the injured person can file a lawsuit and/or an insurance claim against the at-fault driver. Generally speaking, insurance companies defend the person who caused the crash. The insurance companies will pay legal costs, attorney’s fees, and any verdicts or settlements levied against the at-fault driver.
If you’re not at fault for the accident, you’ll need to decide whether to retain an attorney to help make the claim/file the lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Personal injury attorneys help injured drivers recover things like the costs of medical treatment, lost wages and pain/suffering from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. LegalRideshare specializes in these types of claims and has helped thousands of rideshare drivers and gig workers. If you’re unsure, you can always contact LegalRideshare for a free consultation about your options.
When we talk about how to handle an accident, fault is really a non-issue. It doesn’t matter who did what, whether the other driver abruptly braked or if you took your eyes off the road. The strategy remains the same. Below are the steps we recommend taking when an accident occurs.
The Driver Checklist For Handling Accidents:
- Ask if anyone is injured; if yes, call 911 immediately
- Call the police to make an accident report (reports made at the scene are ideal)
- Be polite but never admit fault or apologize to anyone
- Don’t move the vehicles until told to do so by the police (unless you’re in a dangerous spot on the road)
- Get the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all drivers, passengers and witnesses
- Exchange insurance information with the other driver(s)
- Take pictures of the scene, damage to the vehicles and any markings on the road (i.e., skid marks)
- Don’t exit your car if you’re in a dangerous or high-traffic area
If you or your passengers are injured:
- Call an ambulance, if necessary
- Tell the police you are hurt (report even minor pains)
- Seek medical treatment immediately (The longer you wait to see a doctor, the more difficult it will be to prove that the crash caused the injury)
- Be specific when describing your injury to medical providers, including when the pain started and how the pain feels
- Tell medical providers the exact mechanism of your injury (i.e., “I was involved in a rear-end collision today that caused my head to strike the steering wheel.”)
- Don’t be a hero. If you are feeling pain, get checked out.
(You can download the full driver checklist for handling accidents here)
Injury or No Injury?
The type of crash will determine the need for an attorney. Generally speaking, you don’t need an attorney to handle a property damage claim. The two insurance companies (yours and the other driver’s) will open claims and decide who is responsible for fixing/replacing the vehicles. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will cut the checks to repair/replace the damaged vehicles. While this might take some time, you can handle the process as well as any attorney. In so many words, the damages are what they are.
Injury claims are different. Decisions regarding fault are vital in determining whether a person will be compensated for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. It’s important to note that in most states the driver who caused the crash cannot collect damages for their injuries. As such, it’s important that the other driver, not you, is found at-fault.
Each state has unique injury laws. That said, they are almost always complicated and technical. For example, fault for an accident isn’t always an all-or-nothing proposition; it can be apportioned (i.e., Driver 1 is 70% at fault and Driver 2 is 30% at fault). Insurance companies may look at a simple rear-end accident and argue, “You’re partially to blame so we’ll only cover a portion of your bills.” A skilled lawyer will ensure that your claim is fairly evaluated based on the law and the facts.
How the Periods of Rideshare Affect the Outcome
Many rideshare drivers believe that they are “fully covered” when they are on the app. Unfortunately, it’s not so cut and dry.
Rideshare work is split into three periods.
Period One — The driver is logged onto the app but not connected with a passenger.
Period Two — The driver is connected with a passenger and en route to the pick-up location.
Period Three — The driver is transporting the passenger to the final destination.
The available insurance largely depends on the driver’s period of operation.
Generally speaking, drivers are well-protected during Periods Two and Three. The rideshare companies’ insurance policies offer drivers liability, underinsured/uninsured motorists, and continent collision coverage (more on this below).
During Period One, however, the driver is particularly vulnerable. The insurance limits are low and full of gaps. Drivers who sustain personal injuries or vehicle damage in Period One can find themselves with no recourse. What’s more, if a driver is deemed at-fault for an accident during Period One, he can be personally responsible for the damages caused to another person’s property/body.
Drivers are wise to purchase rideshare-specific insurance policies. Drivers should talk with their insurance agents to ensure they are fully covered at all times, regardless of whether they are on or off the app.
A brief point on the term “full coverage.” Just because a driver has insurance does not mean he is fully covered for any scenario. A full coverage policy includes bodily injury, property damage, uninsured/underinsured motorists, personal injury protection, collision, and comprehensive coverage. Most “cheap” or state minimum policies only provide liability coverage, meaning they only cover the damages caused to another person’s body or vehicle. If you’re unsure, you can ask your insurance company for your policy’s declarations page, which lists all the insurance coverage you currently have.
Your car is your livelihood. You need full coverage to protect yourself.
Imagine this: a rideshare driver causes an accident (or is hit by an uninsured driver). The driver’s personal insurance policy does not include collision coverage. As noted above, rideshare companies match the driver’s personal collision coverage. Therefore, in this scenario, there is no insurance available to fix the driver’s car.
Another example: a gig worker is injured by an uninsured driver, during Period One. If the gig worker does not have uninsured motorists coverage, he has no ability to recover the costs of medical treatment, lost wages, and pain/suffering. The gig worker is then injured, off work, and thousands of dollars in debt.
In sum, accidents aren’t just a slight inconvenience for gig workers. A simple fender bender can hinder your way of life. It’s vital to be prepared, respond quickly, take care of yourself and have the right tools at your disposal. That’s why companies like LegalRideshare are here to help get you back on your feet and back on the road.
Co-founder & Lead Attorney