Uber Accident Attorney in STL
The expansion of the private transportation industry by Uber has drastically changed the way we travel. St. Louis quickly welcomed the business opportunities presented by ride-hail companies and the emphasis on summoning Ubers instead of driving drunk. However, Uber passengers and fellow drivers quickly learned that recovering damages after Uber accidents presented problems.
Private auto insurance companies generally disclaim coverage for crashes occurring when drivers use personal vehicles as taxis. Further, Uber Industries Inc. does not employ Uber drivers; it only provides the platform linking independent drivers with ride requests. The experienced St. Louis Uber accident lawyers at The Dixon Injury Firm know how to handle legally complex rideshare crash cases to maximize available damages.
Most Common Uber Driver Mistakes
Riding with Uber isn’t too different from paying a friend to drop you at Lambert Airport or anywhere else in the Metro or Metro East area. Drivers use their personal vehicles to provide rides through the Uber app. Although Missouri law requires rideshare providers to undergo criminal background and driving records checks, Uber drivers do not need commercial operator licenses or special defensive driving training.
They are subject to the same traffic violations commonly resulting in car crashes, including:
- Unsafe lane changes
- Drunk driving
- Running red lights
- Failure to yield
- Texting while driving
- Drowsy driving
- Bad weather
- Following too closely
However, Uber drivers must constantly interact with the Uber application and GPS while entertaining passengers to ensure higher ratings. Many drivers must also operate in heavy traffic, late-night, and poor weather conditions, which are situations most riders don’t want to drive in.
These factors combined—fatigued driving, bad roadway conditions, and cell phone use—are among the leading causes of car accidents in St. Louis. In fact, the CDC estimates that driver distraction contributes to over 400,000 crash injuries and 2,800 accident fatalities annually. As such, Uber drivers are constantly faced with higher-than-average risk factors when providing rideshare services.
Injuries Commonly Resulting from Uber Crashes
Rideshare passengers often sit in the back seat, and many do not wear seat belts. Uber drivers may also speed to increase their daily profits, but this also increases accident injury risks.
As such, Uber crashes can result in the following serious personal injuries:
- Ruptured/Herniated Discs – The effects of gravity weaken the spinal column over time. In many Uber accident cases, claimants suffer from painful slipped and herniated spinal discs. Multiple herniations often press on delicate nerves and impact the claimant’s ability to walk, stand, drive, or move without pain.
- Whiplash – This common term refers to neck strains that occur when the crash force throws passengers’ heads forward and then backward. While whiplash generally heals within a few weeks, it’s painful and often prevents claimants from driving or using computers. Even this soft-tissue injury may result in thousands of dollars in lost wages.
- Paralysis – While low-speed accidents may result in soft tissue injuries and minor herniations, high-speed Uber crashes could sever the spinal cord. This irreversible damage prevents brain signals from traveling below the area of damage, often resulting in paraplegia or quadriplegia.
- Concussions – Also called “mild” traumatic brain injuries, concussions frequently accompany serious whiplash and herniated discs. They occur when the crash force internally propels the brain into the skull, bruising the brain itself. Concussions may result in brain swelling and hemorrhaging, leading to more serious injuries, but they more commonly result in confusion, nausea, lost consciousness, and migraines.
- Severe Traumatic Brain Injuries – High-speed vehicle impacts cause more crash force to travel through the body. As such, these frequently result in severe brain trauma and brain stem damage. Such injuries often cause long-term disabilities, comas, or vegetative states.
- Burns – Passengers in unfamiliar vehicles, such as Ubers, often struggle to open doors during car fires. Locking mechanisms and handles differ, and concussions often contribute to confusion. This may result in widespread burns, infections, and even amputations following car fires.
- Fractures – Broken bones often result in months of lost wages, frustration, and extensive rehabilitation. Many fractures even require surgery.
- Death – Nearly 40,000 people are killed in traffic accidents each year. Many die instantly from brain injuries, spinal cord trauma, or smoke inhalation. However, some claimants suffer for months before passing away from accident injury complications.
Claimants suffering from serious injuries following Uber crashes should discuss their financial recovery options with a local personal injury lawyer. Attorneys may help claimants and their families file initial insurance claims to cover immediate expenses and recover damages from negligent parties following the crash.
Distinguishing between Uber Drivers and Uber Technologies Inc.
Traditional car accidents generally involve two drivers and vehicles. In most cases, the negligent driver and vehicle owner (if different) are liable for accident injuries. The driver has liability for acting carelessly, and the vehicle owner is liable as a matter of law. Additionally, employers are vicariously liable for car accidents caused by working employees. Most pre-Uber ride-hail accidents involved vicarious employer liability on the part of the taxi company or registered vehicle owner liability for limo corporations. Uber works differently.
Uber markets itself as a technology company, not a transportation company. It provides the network and payment platform – the Uber or UberEats application – that connects available drivers with local ride requests. Missouri law refers to these corporations as transportation network companies (TNC). As such, Uber drivers do not work for Uber Technologies.
They’re independent contractors under Mo. Rev. Stat. § 387.414, provided Uber:
- Does not mandate minimum driving and availability hours
- Agrees in writing that the driver is an independent contractor
- Does not prohibit or penalize drivers for working with multiple TNCs, such as DoorDash or Lyft
- Does not prohibit or penalize Uber drivers from working in other lawful occupations
Corporations are not generally liable for the negligence of independent contractors. Uber also does not own the vehicles used for transportation. As such, Uber is not typically responsible for paying damages related to St. Louis Uber accident injuries. The law even explicitly states that TNCs do not employ TNC drivers unless otherwise agreed to in writing (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 387.432). This arrangement, combined with the fact most private auto insurers disclaim rideshare accident liability, is problematic for passengers and pedestrians injured by negligent Uber drivers.
Options for Recovering Financial Damages Following St. Louis Uber Crashes
Because Uber makes money when riders utilize its application, Uber riders generally have more options for recovering damages following rideshare accidents. However, third parties involved in collisions with active Ubers might all demand personal injury damages in St. Louis.
Suing Uber for Negligent Hiring
Uber users reasonably expect to ride with vetted and safe drivers. As such, many injured passengers want to hold Uber accountable for rideshare injuries. Experienced Uber accident attorneys might help injured Uber passengers recover damages directly from Uber or another TNC if the company violated Missouri transportation network company laws.
Under the state’s 2017 TNC legislation, Uber must conduct the following safety checks before allowing drivers to use its platform:
- Check that the driver is properly licensed and the vehicle property registered
- Ensure the driver is over the age of 19
- Conduct local, state, and national criminal background checks
- Ensure the applicant is not a registered sex offender
- Obtain and review the applicant’s driving record
- Ensure the vehicle has proper liability insurance
- Ensure the vehicle meets general safety and fitness standards
Uber may not permit applicants to become Uber drivers if they committed disqualifying crimes or had multiple traffic offenses over the past three years. Disqualifying crimes include sex crimes, certain reckless driving offenses, and violent offenses. Injured passengers might hold Uber directly liable for negligently allowing dangerous drivers onto its platform. Experienced Uber accident lawyers frequently begin their investigations by requesting all relevant driver records and inspecting them for disqualifying offenses.
Suing the Uber Driver for Personal Injuries
Uber drivers don’t have special legal protections. Negligent Uber drivers are still responsible for personal injuries and accident damages. However, rideshare drivers seldom have the resources necessary to compensate injured claimants for accident injuries. Large personal injury claims might send individual drivers into bankruptcy, which could directly impact your litigation and compensation rights. Most Uber accident lawyers do not recommend demanding accident damages directly from drivers.
Holding Uber Accountable for Zero-Tolerance Drug & Alcohol Violations
Studies indicate that drunk driving accounts for one in three fatal car crashes in the United States. As such, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 387.418 requires TNC companies to adopt a zero-tolerance substance abuse policy. If riders report potential drunk or impaired driving, including driving under the influence of marijuana, Uber must immediately suspend drivers from the platform during the investigation. It must also keep detailed records of drunk and impaired driving reports for two years and suspend drivers if investigations reveal DWIs. The law might place liability on Uber if drivers who aren’t suspended after DWI reports cause accidents.
Making Insurance Claims with Uber’s Umbrella Liability Policy
To protect Uber drivers from personal injury judgments, Uber provides their drivers with up to $1,000,000 in liability coverage. Drivers trigger this policy while logged into the Uber application and actively waiting for ride requests. If a negligent Uber driver injures you during this waiting period, Uber provides up to $50,000 worth of injury insurance per person with a maximum of $100,000 per accident.
The legal landscape changes once drivers accept a ride request. From the time they accept the request until they drop off their passengers, Uber drivers carry $1,000,000 in liability coverage. This coverage kicks in if the Uber driver negligently causes an accident injuring passengers or third parties. Attorneys must generally request rideshare records from Uber to show the driver was actively engaged in providing services when the accident occurred.
Although claimants cannot generally sue Uber Technologies for driver negligence, they may demand Uber insurance coverage. Obtaining valuable settlements after Uber accidents requires detailed demand letters containing medical records, paystubs, police reports, photographs, and witness testimony. Experienced St. Louis Uber accident lawyers frequently work with Uber’s liability carrier in Missouri and might help injured riders, drivers, and pedestrians recover needed damages following rideshare crashes.
Damages Potentially Available After Uber Accidents
Over 90 percent of viable accident injury claims settle with liability insurers after attorneys make demands. During settlement negotiations (or litigation as necessary), claimants injured by negligent Uber drivers may demand economic and non-economic (pain and suffering) damages.
Economic damages include the claimant’s calculable past and future losses such as:
- Lost income, including salary, business profits, and anticipated commissions
- Lost employment benefits
- Hospital and surgical bills
- Doctor and chiropractic costs
- Home or in-patient nursing care
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Medications and medical equipment
- Medical transportation expenses (even Ubers to and from doctors appointments)
- Daily household help
Pain and suffering damages cover the real but incalculable losses commonly associated with traumatic Uber accident injuries.
Non-economic awards may include the following:
- Emotional anguish
- Inconvenience, frustration, and interruption of life
- Lost enjoyment of life and previous hobbies
- Physical pain and discomfort
- Loss of consortium (spousal companionship)
Insurers generally estimate these damages by multiplying the claimant’s economic damages based on the seriousness of the injury. Factors including the claimant’s previous hobbies and disability level generally increase or decrease pain and suffering settlements. Insurers do not pay punitive damages, which are jury verdicts meant to punish extremely reckless offenders, but claimants might demand these damages from offenders in drunk driving and Uber driver assault cases.
Uber Accident FAQs
Uber and related rideshare services forever changed the private transportation industry. St. Louis has been an Uber hub since the beginning, with rideshare services benefiting residents and tourists alike. However, passengers and drivers injured in Uber crashes often struggle to recover personal injury compensation due to complex rideshare liability laws. The experienced Uber accident attorneys at The Dixon Injury Firm frequently receive the following questions about St. Louis Uber crash injuries.
Q. Are Uber accidents somehow different from car accidents?
A. There’s nothing factually unique about Uber crashes. Because using rideshare services is similar to riding with a friend, Uber drivers are prone to the same accidents as everyday drivers.
These common crashes and crash-related factors include:
- Rear-end collisions
- T-Bone accidents
- Merging mistakes
- Unfamiliarity with roadways
- Texting while driving
- Failure to yield
However, Uber accidents legally differ from traditional car crashes because passengers pay for these transportation services through a third-party application (the Uber app). This creates unique insurance and personal injury liability issues because, unlike licensed taxi and limo services, Uber does not employ Uber drivers. Drivers operate as independent contractors (1099s), which generally prevents Uber from being vicariously liable for driver negligence.
Further, most private car insurance policies explicitly deny coverage to passengers injured when drivers use personal vehicles like taxis. Riders aren’t generally familiar with these legal nuances, so it’s understandable that injured Uber users want to demand damages from Uber. An experienced rideshare crash lawyer might help injured claimants recover needed damages under special laws applicable to St. Louis ride-hail services.
Q. When can I hold Uber liable for driver negligence?
A. Missouri law specifically emphasizes that Uber drivers are independent contractors and not Uber employees (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 387.414 & Mo. Rev. Stat. § 387.432). However, Uber could lose the legal protections provided by this status if it overregulates drivers.
Drivers might become Uber employees, thus triggering potential vicarious liability, unless Uber:
- Does not have minimum hourly driving requirements or mandate on-duty hours
- Contracts with the driver in writing that he/she is acting as an independent contractor
- Does not penalize or prevent Uber drivers from working with competitors like Lyft
- Does not penalize or prohibit drivers from engaging in other lawful work
Uber may incentivize drivers to work certain hours or days, such as offering higher weekend rates, and may also prevent drivers from working with competitors while actively driving with Uber. For example, it could prohibit drivers from maintaining available status with Lyft while completing trip requests with Uber because this creates potential liability issues. These regulations do not change the driver’s legal status. However, experienced Uber accident lawyers will review Uber policies and driver communications to determine the driver’s legal work status when the accident occurred.
Q. Does Uber have to perform safety and background checks on St. Louis drivers?
A. Yes. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 384.420 requires Uber to conduct thorough local, state, and national criminal background and driving records checks. Uber must also check the national sexual offender registry and ensure applicants have valid driver’s licenses and duly registered vehicles.
One minor traffic infraction won’t disqualify drivers from working with Uber, but rideshare companies may not allow drivers to provide services if background checks uncover:
- Either one serious or three minor moving traffic tickets in the past three years
- A drunk driving (DWI) conviction within the past five years
- A violent crime, second drunk driving offense, sexual offense, or vehicular crime over the past seven years
- The applicant appears on the national sexual offender registry
- The application does not possess a valid driver’s license, registration, or vehicle insurance paperwork
Additionally, Uber vehicles must meet certain safety standards, and the Uber app must show a picture of the driver, his/her vehicle, and the license plate number. These requirements reduce the likelihood of car accidents, assaults, and imposter vehicles. Following these statutory standards generally prevents riders from holding Uber directly liable for car accidents. However, Uber might be financially responsible for accident injuries and assaults resulting from insufficient background and safety checks.
Q. What should I do if I think my Uber driver is drunk or high in St. Louis?
A. Uber allows passengers to report safety violations through the application and may immediately end the trip and accommodate riders. Alternatively, ask the driver to pull over and call 911 as necessary to protect yourself and others. Studies indicate that drunk driving causes one-third of car accident fatalities and increases risk-taking behaviors, such as speeding. Missouri adopted a zero-tolerance substance abuse policy for transportation network companies (TNCs) and TNC drivers.
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 387.418 requires Uber to immediately suspend drivers if it receives reports of potential substance abuse and drunk driving violations. This suspension must last through the investigation and becomes permanent if Uber confirms the substance abuse allegations. Passengers or third parties injured by drunk or high Uber drivers might demand damages from the driver and even Uber if it violated § 387.418.
Q. Is Uber liable for crashes if it forces drivers to use their phones during trips?
A. Distracted driving contributes to over 400,000 reported car accident injuries and 2,800 fatalities each year. Because cell phone use generally involves physical, visual, and cognitive distraction, it commonly contributes to distracted driving crashes. Most Uber drivers must constantly interact with their cell phones while driving. They receive ride requests, confirm arrivals, navigate to requested destinations, and receive payment using Uber and connected GPS applications. Uber generally provides distracted driving disclaimers, and traffic laws may permit drivers to use hands-free GPS systems. As such, injured passengers cannot typically hold Uber technologies liable for contributing to distracted driving accidents in this manner.
Q. How do I recover financial damages after an Uber accident?
A. Many injured riders and third parties are understandably confused about what to do following an Uber accident. Over 90 percent of viable car accident claims settle with liability insurers. However, multiple insurance companies often share liability for Uber crashes depending on driver status.
Specific regulations dictate which insurance company has primary liability following Uber driver negligence, but this depends on the driver’s status when the crash occurred.
- Off Duty in Uber Vehicle – If an off-duty Uber driver causes a car accident, claimants must follow traditional auto liability laws. This means filing a claim with the driver’s personal auto insurance policy. Attorneys may request driver access records to determine the driver’s work status when the crash occurred.
- Logged On but Not Actively Engaged – Many TNC drivers wait outside local airports, concert halls, or stadiums for trip requests. They generally remain logged on and available in the Uber app while waiting for work. Some drivers continuously circle the airport or city during this period. If an Uber driver negligently causes an accident while logged on but without active requests, injured third parties must file their primary claims with the driver’s personal liability policy and secondary claims with Uber’s umbrella insurance policy. Uber provides an additional $50,000 of individual personal injury liability coverage in such cases.
- Actively Engaged with Uber – Once an Uber driver accepts a trip request, he has coverage from Uber’s $1,000,000 liability policy until completing the trip. This bodily injury coverage applies as soon as drivers accept the request, even if they’re still driving to the pickup location. It ends when the driver drops the passenger/delivery off, the driver abandons the trip, or the requester cancels the request. As such, riders injured in Uber accidents may file primary claims with Uber’s umbrella bodily injury policy. Injured third parties, including pedestrians and other drivers, may also demand damages from this policy once attorneys prove the driver’s status.
Q. How much is my St. Louis Uber accident case worth?
A. The average car accident settlement is around $30,000. However, your unique case value depends on two primary factors: (1) the claimant’s overall financial losses and (2) available insurance. Most Uber drivers do not have sufficient funds to cover even moderate personal injury judgments, and Uber seldom bears direct liability for crashes.
As such, Uber maintains accident insurance to cover personal injuries and related damages. Injured riders or third parties must compare the true value of their Uber accident claims with their cases’ maximum applicable insurance value. Factors including comparative negligence and the number of victims injured in the crash may impact insurance availability.
Injured claimants can quickly estimate the value of their Uber crash claims by adding together their total lost wages and medical bills. These calculations may include future anticipated losses, such as estimated costs of upcoming physical therapy appointments and related expenses.
Additional recoverable damages may include:
- Reimbursement for necessary household assistance, like cleaning or grocery delivery services
- Medical transportation costs, including additional Ubers to and from doctors appointments
- Lost value of employment benefits, such as 401K contributions and healthcare premium payments
- Lost anticipated commissions, vested bonuses, and business profits
- Lost career advancement opportunities
Most claimants undervalue their accident claims by excluding certain recoverable damages. After calculating direct damages, claimants may demand reimbursement for their non-economic losses.
These pain and suffering damages may include:
- Physical discomfort, pain, and sickness
- Emotional anguish, anxiety, anger, and depression
- Lost enjoyment of previous hobbies
- Lost enjoyment of life
Insurers generally estimate the value of pain and suffering awards based on the overall economic value of your claims. For example, attorneys may advocate for triple the economic damages award after disabling Uber crash injuries. Spouses burdened by additional household, caretaker, and financial responsibilities may also demand damages. Uber crashes might commend higher-than-average settlements because of increased insurance availability. Only an experienced St. Louis Uber accident lawyer can estimate the realistic value of your injury claims.
Q. How long does it take to recover damages for Uber crash injuries?
A. Most viable Uber accident claims settle with insurers within fourteen months. However, this depends on the nature of the injury and assigned accident fault. Injured claimants without corresponding disabilities that require less than two weeks of missed work and/or recovery generally receive quick settlements from liable insurers. They may obtain settlement offers within a few weeks of submitting their medical records, police reports, and financial demands.
Claimants with short-term disabilities, which generally include treatable injuries causing a few months of missed work (herniated discs or broken ankles), often settle claims in the same manner.
It may take years to settle claims for long-term disabilities stemming from St. Louis Uber accidents. Seriously injured claimants or victims killed by negligent Uber drivers often incur substantial lost wages and medical expenses. Attorneys frequently hire economic experts to calculate the value of these damages before making settlement demands. Unfortunately, insurers often fight liability in high-value accident cases, making it necessary to file personal injury litigation. Speak with an experienced Uber crash law firm in St. Louis if you need quick compensation following car accidents.
Q. How long do I have to file litigation against negligent Uber drivers?
A. Most viable Uber accident claims settle with liable auto insurers, but sometimes it’s necessary to sue reckless or negligent drivers in civil court. Claimants have five years from the date of the accident, the personal injury statute of limitations, to sue negligent parties. Families of victims killed by negligent Uber drivers must file wrongful death litigation within three years of the date of death. However, injured claimants or their families must often file insurance claims immediately following the crash. It’s important to connect with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible to preserve your claims.
Q. How much does it cost to hire an Uber accident lawyer in St. Louis?
A. Reputable Uber crash law firms accept viable cases on a contingency fee basis. This fee structure means your personal injury lawyer doesn’t get paid unless you recover needed compensation following an Uber accident. Claimants generally owe nothing out of pocket, and law firms often front all necessary administrative and expert witness costs. In exchange, your lawyer generally takes a percentage of the overall settlement or verdict as his fee before reimbursing himself for expenses. Most claimants take home the majority of their accepted Uber accident settlement.
Benefits of Obtaining a Dedicated St. Louis Uber Accident Lawyer
Obtaining damages from high-value insurance policies and their corporate policyholders isn’t easy. Teams of risk management attorneys might lowball Uber accident claimants and discourage them from filing claims. Do not let corporations take advantage of you after ride-hail accidents. At The Dixon Injury Firm, our experienced Uber crash litigators know how to maximize our clients’ accident claims. We do so without any upfront costs to you.
Call our St. Louis office today at (314) 208-2808 or contact us online for your free and confidential Uber accident case analysis.
The Dixon Injury Firm
9666 Olive Blvd #202,
St. Louis, MO 63132