Austin Uber Accident Lawyer
Since the genesis of Uber in 2009, the popular ridesharing company continues to grow. Users across the nation and around the globe use the app for its convenience and affordability in hailing a ride to their favorite locations. Austin and Uber have a sorted history, which resulted in the popular rideshare company pulling out of the market for a few years. Uber joined the fight against an Austin city ordinance requiring rideshare drivers to get a criminal background check with fingerprints. When the city refused to modify the law, Uber left Austin until May 2017. Uber returned to Austin after Texas passed a rideshare regulation bill superseding the city’s rules.
Proponents of rideshare companies argue Uber saves lives by keeping drivers off of the road, especially at night. This very well might be true in Austin, considering it is home to the University of Texas, consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top party schools, as well as the famous Sixth Street Entertainment District. Yet, lax regulations for rideshare drivers put Uber riders and other motorists at risk.
If you have sustained injuries in an Uber accident as a rider or a driver or occupant of another motor vehicle, Texas law entitles you to seek compensation for damages related to your accident and injuries in civil court. Contact the experienced Uber accident lawyers at The Law Offices of George Salinas in Austin at (512) 851-1004 for a free consultation to discuss the details of your case and learn how we can assist you.
Texas Rideshare Regulations
In May 2017, the Texas legislature passed House Bill 100, establishing regulations for transportation network companies, more commonly referred to rideshare companies. The comprehensive and lengthy bill covers issues about permits, fares, and administrative regulations. Below you will find additional regulations related to driver requirements and insurance requirements for Uber drivers in Austin and across Texas:
Uber must verify the following before they allow a driver to sign onto their app in Texas:
- The driver must be 18 or older.
- The driver must have a valid driver’s license in Texas or any other state.
- The driver must have proof of registration and insurance for each vehicle he or she uses for Uber.
Additionally, Uber must conduct, or have a third party conduct a local, state, and national criminal background check on new drivers and repeat the check each year, which includes:
- A criminal record search
- A search of U.S. Department of Justice’s national sex offender site
- A review of the applicant’s driving record
If the background check reveals any of the following violations within the three previous years, Uber cannot permit an individual to log into their app as a driver:
- More than three moving violations
- Fleeing a police officer
- Reckless driving
- Driving without a valid license or with an invalid license
If a potential Uber driver has been convicted of any of the following crimes within the preceding seven years, Uber cannot permit them to drive:
- Driving while intoxicated (DWI/DUI)
- Use of a vehicle to commit a felony
- Felony crime with property damage
- Fraud or theft
- An act of violence or terrorism
- A sex crime requiring the individual to be listed on the national sex offender public website
Some states require Uber to insure their drivers. Texas wants Uber drivers insured, but it doesn’t matter whether the driver provides coverage or Uber provides coverage. Texas insurance law requires coverage for rideshare drivers based on whether the driver is signed into the app and transporting passengers or between rides. The following minimums apply:
- Between rides - $50,000 in coverage for bodily injury or death for each person, $100,000 per accident, and $25,000 property damage liability
- During rides - $1,000,000 in aggregate coverage for death, bodily injury, and property damage for each accident
Uber does not insure drivers who aren’t signed into the app. When drivers are signed into the app, Uber’s coverage meets the required minimums under Texas law. Additionally, Uber also provides at least $250,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as well as contingent collision and comprehensive coverage up to the cash value of the vehicle.
Causes of Uber Accidents in Austin
Many scenarios might give rise to an Uber accident in Austin. Causes of Uber accidents are the same as any other motor vehicle accident, except Uber drivers are more likely to certain risk factors due to the nature of the job. Here are some common causes of Uber accidents:
- Speeding. Uber drivers are rushed to give as many rides as possible while they’re signed into the app, and riders want to be picked up and dropped off in a timely fashion. This creates an affinity towards speeding and also driving too fast for conditions. Accidents involving speeding often lead to more damage, more injury, and a high likelihood of death.
- Tailgating. An Uber driver following another vehicle too closely is often an artifact of being in a rush. Drivers don’t have the space or distance to react when a car makes an erratic maneuver, stalls, or stops suddenly. This often results in rear-end collisions, which can results in serious injury even at low speeds.
- Distracted driving. Driving while distracted remains a common cause of all car accidents, but Uber drivers have additional distractions beyond things like adjusting the radio, grooming, daydreaming, and cell phone use, which is illegal in Austin. Uber drivers must engage with the app on their phone and deal with passengers. Obnoxious, drunk, or even chatty passengers can distract a driver and lead to an accident.
- Drowsy driving. Uber drivers are at risk for driving while fatigued, falling asleep while driving, resulting in an accident. Uber prohibits drivers from giving rides for more than 12 hours per day. Yet, this restriction does not include time between rides or take into account other jobs. It’s not uncommon for an Uber driver to drive for another ridesharing company, consistently switching between apps and driving for an unsafe length of time.
- Drinking while impaired. Texas has strict laws about Uber drivers who drink and drive. The law requires Uber to suspend a driver from access to the app while they conduct an investigation. It’s unlikely your Uber driver will drink and drive, but as a rider, you have a chance of being hit by another motorist. Drug impairment might also cause an accident, especially in the case of drowsy Uber drivers taking substances to keep them awake for more driving.
- Poor maintenance. Many states require Uber drivers’ vehicles to undergo an annual inspection, but Texas does not. Uber drivers who don’t maintain their vehicle put riders and other motorists at risk when a mechanical breakdown or tire blowout causes an accident.
Steps After an Uber Accident in Austin
- Seek medical treatment. Even if you don’t get an ambulance ride the hospital after an Uber accident, you should still get checked out by a doctor. This provides proof of injury which serves as leverage for negotiating with an insurance company and evidence for the court should your case go to trial.
- File a police report. When a severe accident occurs, law enforcement will typically show up at the scene of the accident as a result of an emergency call. In other cases, you might need to call the police and have them come to the scene of the accident. While you are waiting, take the time to gather contact information of other drivers, occupants, and witnesses.
- Take photos. If you aren’t immobilized because of the accident, use your cell phone to take pictures of damage to the cars, visible injuries, road hazards, license plates, and anything else you think might help your case.
- File a report with Uber. Uber requires their drivers to report accidents, but you should also file a report to make sure the driver has complied. You can report accidents on Uber’s website.
- File an insurance claim. Texas is a tort liability state, meaning the at-fault driver is responsible for damages after a car accident. If an Uber driver hit your vehicle, you should still report the accident to your insurance company. Many companies require a report in situations where their coverage might apply. Failure to do so might cause your carrier to cancel your policy. Additionally, settling with the other company might take some time; your carrier might pay for repairs to your vehicle and seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s carrier.
- Hire an attorney. Insurance companies will go the extra mile to avoid paying claims, settlements, or court-awarded damages. An experienced Uber accident attorney can guide you through the claims process and initiate a lawsuit to ensure you get full and fair compensation for losses related to your accident and injuries.
Seeking Compensation After an Uber Accident in Austin
If you are another motorist or occupant injured as a result of an Uber driver’s negligence and poor choices behind the wheel, Texas law permits you to sue for damages to recoup your losses. Uber accident cases often include multiple parties, making them especially complex. If you sue, you might recover the following damages in a settlement or if the court finds a verdict in your favor:
- Medical costs including ambulance services, emergency room visit, surgery, radiology, follow-up visits, and medication;
- Future medical expenses when an injury results in permanent disability or requires extensive treatment and/or recovery;
- Rehabilitation costs including physical therapy and other specialized service, and assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, crutches, canes, and artificial limbs;
- Lost wages when Uber accident victims have to miss work due to injury and hospitalization;
- Lost earning capacity when an injury prevents an individual from returning to their job, requires them to reduce their hours, or requires them to change careers; and
- Pain and suffering and other non-economic damages for severe injuries such as scarring and disfigurement, loss of consortium, and others applicable to a specific case.
Comparative Negligence in Texas Uber Accidents
When you sue for damages after an Uber accident, you can expect the defense to use multiple tactics to avoid liability. Insurance companies might outright deny your claim, downplay your injuries, or claim you had a preexisting injury. Another common defense strategy includes shifting the blame to the plaintiff, which takes advantage of Texas courts applying comparative negligence to personal injury cases.
Comparative negligence assesses the extent to which a plaintiff might have contributed to the accident and injuries. If the court finds the plaintiff was partially at fault, they reduce awarded damages accordingly. For example, the defense might argue you were drinking and yelling at the Uber driver from the back seat causing a distraction, so the court finds you are 40 percent at fault for the accident. If you sued the driver for $1,000,000, Texas law prohibits you from collecting no more than 60 percent, or $600,000.
Texas applies a modified version of comparative negligence with a 51 percent threshold. This means plaintiffs who are 51 percent or more at fault for an accident cannot collect any damages at all, motivating the defense to place as much fault on the plaintiff as possible.
Hire an Uber Accident Attorney in Austin Today
An experienced personal injury attorney who has experience with Uber accidents anticipates defense strategies and knows how to effectively negotiate with insurance companies, while remaining prepared for litigation if necessary. A lawyer can also investigate your accident and gather relevant evidence and documents to support your case, including witness states, police reports, and medical records.
Contact the skilled attorneys at The Law Offices of George Salinas in Austin or call us at (512) 851-1004 for a free consultation to discuss the details of your Uber accident. Under Texas law, you have two years to take legal action before the statute of limitations runs out. We understand the physical, emotional, and financial stress that comes with being involved in a car accident and are here to help you through this difficult time. If you choose us to represent you in your Uber accident claim, we handle cases on contingency, recovering attorney fees only from any compensation we secure for you.