Rideshare Accidents in Montgomery County
Rideshare service use has exploded over the past 10 years. Though this service is convenient and is often credited for reducing the number of driving under the influence (DUI) cases on the roads, car accidents still occur, including those involving rideshare vehicles.
There were 104,472 car accidents in 2020 in Pennsylvania, a sharp decrease from the 125,267 vehicle accidents reported statewide in 2019.
Montgomery County saw the same kind of drop in collisions, with 6,949 accidents reported for 2020, down from 9,115 in 2019. But that still represents 19 accidents a day in the county.
How many of these accidents involve rideshare services? That is unknown. It is not a number that can be found on state or county statistics reports. Unlike a taxi service, a rideshare car is often not marked or numbered, so it would be hard to track if there were a spot for it on the state statistics reports.
A tricky part of seeking compensation for injuries from an accident on a rideshare serve trip is that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft are independent contractors using their own vehicles and are expected to have their own car insurance, but the companies do have liability insurance for drivers on the clock who are driving customers. Therefore, figuring out how to get compensation for injuries in a car accident involving a rideshare service is not always an easy task.
The good news is that in the cases of either Uber or Lyft drivers, Pennsylvania law requires them to have insurance for all their drivers to operate in the state.
Those who are injured in a rideshare accident should consult an experienced car accident lawyer. Victims need an expert’s legal opinion and the knowledge of how to seek adequate compensation for a case that would be complicated in any state, but with existing Pennsylvania laws, even more so in this state.
What It Means to be On the Clock
There are a couple of wrinkles between Pennsylvania’s law requiring rideshare companies to carry insurance when customers are using their service in the state and the ways that rideshare companies have around covering the cost of accidents for which their drivers may be involved.
These are a few things to keep in mind for those involved in a rideshare car accident in Montgomery County:
On the clock. If the driver is using the ride share application and accepted the customer on the application, this would mean that driver is officially on the clock for work. In this case, those who are injured by the accident would turn to the insurance from the rideshare company. This simplifies the legal process. But it brings a natural question about the driver needing to be on the phone application while driving, and how that naturally would create problems for the driver’s attention being focused on the road.
The driver as an individual. If the rideshare driver has picked up a fare but is not using the rideshare application, that driver is not on the clock. In this case, the injured parties will need to seek compensation from the driver’s personal auto insurance policy.
The contingent policy. If the driver is using the application and has a customer in the car but did not yet accept that ride on the application, the injured parties will be covered by a smaller policy that both rideshare firms carry, which will likely offer smaller amounts of compensation, usually capping off at $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident.
Requirement for insurance. Uber and Lyft drivers are required to have car insurance; they must inform the insurance company that they are a ridesharing driver. The insurance rates for an Uber/Lyft driver will be higher because of the increased risk. If it is a situation in which the injured parties must file a claim with the driver’s own insurance, when an Uber or Lyft driver has the application off and is not officially on the clock, minimum limits in Pennsylvania for injury are $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident, and the minimum property damage liability coverage is $5,000. The private insurance limits might be the only coverage available when the application is off for the rideshare service.
If the driver has no insurance, it is illegal for him or her to be driving and it also is against the company rules, and the contingent policy does not apply for the rideshare companies. In this case, injured parties could be looking to get compensation from their own medical coverage under their own policy. The other option is to go after the driver in court for personal injury, but this might not pan out, particularly if the driver has no money.
Pennsylvania’s Choice No-Fault Insurance
Along with New Jersey and Kentucky, Pennsylvania is one of three choice no-fault states, so there are a few things for victims to keep in mind if they were involved in an accident and are seeking compensation for medical bills and/or vehicle damage. The insurance policies of vehicles involved in any given accident can be either a fault or no-fault policy for personal injuries resulting from an accident. Policyholders decide if they want to choose the no-fault option when they sign up for the insurance.
In a typical two-car accident, the drivers will collect the insurance information of the other party and place a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. But with no-fault coverage, drivers first file a claim with their own insurance. If one driver has a fault policy and the driver responsible has a no-fault policy that provides an amount insufficient to cover injuries, the driver not at fault will likely collect under their own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
For those who selected no-fault insurance, the advantages are that the driver is covered regardless of who caused the accident and that payouts for medical bills are quick, as insurance companies and police departments are not investigating the cause and which party was more at fault.
With no-fault insurance options, it is mandatory to include personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Initial medical bills are covered by the auto insurance company, up to the limits of the driver’s coverage. Pennsylvania insurance law requires that drivers have at least $5,000 in medical coverage.
If the injuries from the vehicle accident are severe, disabling, or result in a death, the no-fault rules no longer apply and the injured party can file a claim against the other driver.
Of course, with accidents, the medical bills are a big part of the expenses, but there are other losses to consider, such as loss of work or having a reduced work schedule while recuperating. Wage loss coverage may be included in a driver’s own auto policy. Under Pennsylvania law, if a driver has this coverage, they would be able to apply for and recover lost wages caused by the accident up to the limits of their coverage. The first five days are the standard deductible in Pennsylvania, so those will not be part of the lost wage payments.
What if the Rideshare Driver is Uninsured?
For injuries in a situation in which the rideshare service driver does not have insurance, victims may need to turn to uninsured motorist coverage on their own policies. This is often referred to as UM on insurance documents. It is not mandatory for insurance to offer it, so auto insurance holders should check with their insurance company whether or they have that coverage and review policy documents.
Pennsylvania’s Modified Comparative Negligence Law
If a driver-selected the no-fault insurance option, he or she must wait for the results of police and insurance company investigations to get compensation for any property that was involved in the accident because Pennsylvania has modified comparative negligence laws. Therefore, although an injured party may get the money needed for medical care straightaway, he or she may well be waiting to pay back a mechanic or body shop for the damaged vehicle.
Pennsylvania is one of 33 states with laws that determine what percentage of damage claims are paid out to each driver based on how much of a role in the accident each driver had. In some states, this is referred to as contributory negligence instead of comparative.
What does this mean? If the driver is found to be less than 50 percent at fault for the accident, he or she can collect damages, minus the percentage that they are found to be at fault. This would mean a person who is found to be 25 percent at fault can get 75 percent of the damages sought back from the other driver.
Drivers found to be more than 51 percent at fault cannot collect damages from the other driver’s insurance company.
If the other driver is found to be 100 percent at fault for the accident, that driver’s insurance carrier will pay for the losses suffered by the victim.
If a car accident case makes it to court, the comparative negligence rule guides the court and insurance claim adjusters.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations
Although there is much to keep in mind for those involved in a car accident in Pennsylvania, it is best to act quickly. There is a statute of limitations of two years for filing a lawsuit involving a car accident.
The complexities of Pennsylvania car accident laws underscore the need for an experienced car accident lawyer. Victims and their families have enough to worry about in recuperating and, unfortunately, far too often, in mourning. For the victims, it is best to let a talented advocate do the fighting for them.
Reasons for Car Accidents
The drop in car accidents in the county and the state for 2020 attests to the number of accidents in Montgomery County and in Pennsylvania being linked to the number of vehicles on the road. As Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccinations increase and businesses and shops reopen, in a limited fashion for now, those numbers are likely to increase.
According to the United States Census Bureau statistics, the average, one-way commute time is 26.1 minutes, with most of those workers driving in alone.
For those who work five days a week full time, that commute time translates to nine days of the year behind the wheel, and that is just time spent getting to and from work.
Although the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) estimates that more than 90 percent of all accidents are caused by human error, there are some driving behaviors that seem to make an accident far more likely. Some of those are as follows:
Distracted drivers. Distracted driving is listed as a primary cause of 788 accidents in Montgomery County in 2020, or about 12 percent of the 6,949 total accidents. It is down from the previous year, when the county reported that 1,108 car accidents were the result of distracted driving.
In the state of Pennsylvania, distracted driving is listed as the reason for 10,826 accidents, down from 13,776 in 2019, which was already a drop from 2018, when PennDOT reported 14,202 distracted driving accidents.
This downward trend in a behavior consistently linked to car accidents can be credited, at least in part, to massive efforts by government agencies, road safety advocates, cell phone manufacturers, and auto manufacturers to reduce cell phone use while driving. This was done by public awareness campaigns, advertisements, and features such as the Bluetooth technology and talk-to-text technologies such as Siri on the iPhone.
Distracted driving is often pictured in public outreach campaigns as texting and driving, which certainly accounts for a lot of distracted driving incidents. In practice, there are a lot more distractions for a driver than the phone.
One of the most frequent causes for a distracted driving car accident is getting lost in thought, allowing the mind to wander from the road, according to a study done by TeenSafe in 2018.
Looking back to check on children in the back seats is a very common distraction, which has been cited in research to make an accident 12 times more likely and is done frequently by many parent drivers. In a 2012 Monash University study from Melbourne, Australia, researchers found that the average parent took his or her eyes off the road an average of three minutes and 22 seconds for a 16-minute trip. That is a lot of time not focusing on what is going on in front of and around the vehicle.
From making sure children are not hitting each other, to trying to drive while downing breakfast on the way to work, human beings tend to look for ways to get things done while they are operating a motor vehicle. In truth, driving is not a time to multitask. For example, eating food while driving doubles the chances of a distracted driving accident when the driver is operating a manual transmission vehicle. The best way to get to the destination safely is to keep eyes and focus on the road and hands on the wheel.
Lane departure. Moving into another lane without proper signaling and adjusting for traffic patterns, often referred to as drifting, caused 1,801 accidents in the county in 2020. It is not often discussed in traffic safety public outreach, but this is a substantial risk on the roads every year. In Montgomery County, lane departures caused 2,474 accidents in 2019 and 2,599 crashes in 2018.
Statewide, 31,494 accidents were attributed to lane departures in 2020, down from 38,277 in 2019 and even more so from the 41,776 accidents chalked up to this driving error in 2018.
Impaired drivers. Impaired driving includes those driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance. This accounted for 554 of the accidents in Montgomery County last year. This is down from 2019, where 680 accidents in the county listed this as a cause; and 2018, which attributed 674 accidents as the result of impaired driving. Thankfully, more and more drivers are opting not to get back behind the wheel when under the influence of a few drinks, or drugs, either illegal or legal, that impede reaction times and focus. It is important to remember that even over-the-counter medication or prescription drugs can impair a person’s ability to drive safely.
In the state of Pennsylvania, the numbers of impaired drivers also dropped in 2020, with 9,782 collisions being attributed to this behavior. In 2019, a total of 11,304 accidents were reported to be the result of an impaired driver; in 2018, 11,281 accidents listed a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol as the reason for the accident.
Single vehicle accidents. This type of collision made up about 33 percent of Montgomery County accidents for 2020, with 2,190 cases reported for the year. It is a decline from 2019, when 2,474 single vehicle run-off-the-road accidents were reported. However, the drop is misleading, as Montgomery County reported 9,115 collisions in 2019, so the share of collisions attributed to one car going off road was less in 2019.
Statewide, single vehicles running off the road made up 39,441 car accidents in 2020; in 2019, that number was 43,291; 2018, it was 46,768. Again, this may seem like a drop, but this marks an upward trend for single vehicle crashes from the number of accidents in total, which had declined to 104,472 statewide from 125,267 in 2019 and 128,420 in 2018.
Speeding. Ignoring the speed limit accounted for 179 of the car accidents in Montgomery County in 2020. This driver behavior makes up a substantially smaller portion of the county’s accidents for the year and is a drop from the 200 reported speeding-related car accidents for 2019 countywide.
Aggressive driving. A total of 383 accidents in Montgomery County were attributed to this common problem on the road, down substantially from 462 in 2019.
In the state of Pennsylvania, 5,615 accidents were attributed to aggressive driving in 2020, down from 6,748 in 2019 and 6,670 in 2018.
Aggressive driving has come to be associated with the term road rage by many, which is certainly one aspect of the aggressive driving category. But the state of Pennsylvania lists other behaviors associated with aggressive driving, such as the following:
- Racing to avoid red lights or ignoring stop signs
- Frequent lane changes
- Failing to yield oncoming vehicles, such as those coming off a ramp into the highway
- Illegal U-turns
It can be seen that a lot of what is termed as aggressive driving encompasses the other reasons for accidents. In this case, PennDOT is calling the behaviors aggressive because the acts could injure others. They also happen every day on the roads, and many drivers are guilty of it at one point or another.
Vehicle failures. This accounted for 258 accidents in 2020 for Montgomery County. These types of accidents can become a products liability lawsuit, as the manufacturer and seller may be held responsible. This type of accident was down from 2019 numbers, which showed 298 vehicle failures causing accidents.
Statewide, there were 5,510 accidents attributed to vehicle failures in 2020, with 5,933 of these accidents in 2019 and 5,827 collisions in 2018.
Hitting a fixed object. This accounted for nearly a third of Montgomery County car accidents in 2020, with 31,998 accidents occurring by a car hitting not another vehicle but an object that was not moving.
Montgomery County Car Accident Lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. Help Victims of Car Accidents Recover
If you or a loved one is involved in a car accident, consult with the Montgomery County car accident lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. With over 15 years’ experience in personal injury law, Anthony C. Gagliano III was raised in Norristown and has opened his own practice in Center City Philadelphia, serving clients who have been injured in car accidents. Mr. Gagliano’s mission is to seek justice and compensation for victims and their families. Call us at 267-861-7100 or visit our website to set up a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients in Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Delaware County, and Norristown.