You and your friends decide to end your late night and go back home after having a few drinks. You did not drive because you knew you would be consuming alcoholic beverages. Luckily, Uber and Lyft exist, making finding a way home as simple as hitting a button on your phone. Your driver arrives at your designated location and takes you and your friends home safely.
This scenario is often a typical and ideal Uber and Lyft ride. Many individuals use Uber and Lyft as a means to avoid drinking and driving or getting a DUI. Unfortunately, in some instances, the driver is the one doing exactly that.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is one of the most reckless things that a driver can do. It can make it even worse when a driver puts other people’s lives at risk who are in the vehicle with them. If you are ever in a situation in which your Uber or Lyft driver is driving under the influence with you in the car, make sure you take the steps necessary to ensure your immediate safety and protect your legal rights later on.
Signs of an Impaired Driver
You rarely get into an Uber or Lyft with the initial thought that your driver has been drinking or is drinking an alcoholic beverage. Since vehicles are such a small space, you may be able to smell alcohol immediately upon entering the vehicle. This should be your first warning sign to get out of the vehicle.
If your driver has his or her windows down, you may not be able to smell alcohol right away, but you could have other suspicions that your driver may be intoxicated as you enter the vehicle. You may begin communicating with your driver and notice that your driver has:
Slurred speech. If you begin communicating with your driver and he is slurring or making incoherent statements, it could point to intoxication.
Poor balance and clumsiness. Your driver may lose a grasp on the wheel or not be able to properly use their cell phone.
Delayed reflexes. Your driver may not react immediately once you enter the vehicle or begin talking to him or her.
Some individuals are very good at hiding physical signs of intoxication or impairment when interacting with others. This may be the case with your driver as well. They may begin driving already when you notice other signs that may point to an intoxicated Uber or Lyft driver, including:
Quick acceleration or deceleration
Weaving or zig-zagging across the road
Driving anywhere other than on a road designated for vehicles
Almost striking an object, curb, or vehicle
Stopping without cause or erratic braking
Drifting in and out of traffic lanes
Signaling that is inconsistent with driving actions
Slow response to traffic signals (e.g. sudden stop or delayed start)
Straddling the center lane marker
Driving with headlights off at night
Driving slower than 10 mph below the speed limit
Turning abruptly or illegally
This is where the situation becomes extremely dangerous. Not only is the driver’s life at risk, but you, anyone with you, and other people on the road are also at risk if an accident occurs due to the driver’s intoxication or impairment.
Who Do You Contact?
If you are able to safely, try to exit the vehicle as soon as possible. Ask the driver if he can pull over and let you out if it is in a safe area. In addition, you should immediately contact law enforcement and notify them of the situation. Give them the driver’s name, license plate number, and car make and model. The police can put out a warning and, hopefully, pull over the drunk driver in order to ensure your safety and the safety of everyone else on the road.
You should also immediately notify the company they are driving for. If the driver picked you up drunk or under the influence, it could happen to someone else. Uber and Lyft do not allow drivers to be under the influence while working for their companies and driving, so its ideal that the driver is not allowed to continue working.
Who Pays for Damages if an Accident Occurs?
Make sure to seek medical attention immediately if you are in an Uber or Lyft accident. Even if you do not believe you were injured, some injuries take time to manifest or could be internal. At this point, you may be wondering who will end up paying the bills for your hospital visit, ongoing medical treatment, and possible rehabilitation from your injuries.
Drivers for Uber and Lyft are required to carry insurance while driving for the companies. If you are injured in an accident caused by a drunk or impaired driver, the driver’s insurance company will end up fronting the cost for your medical bills. However, if the driver’s insurance policy does not cover the full extent of your bills, Uber and Lyft have insurance policies which will supplement the additional costs for your injuries, if needed.
When someone acts with gross negligence, or a disregard and the complete neglect for the safety of others, an injured party may be awarded punitive damages. This type of compensation is awarded with the purpose to punish an individual’s wrongdoing and deter future negligent acts.
Someone injured by a drunk driver, for example, could be awarded punitive damages. This is an additional settlement on top of compensation an injured party would get from an insurance company. If you are injured by a drunk Uber or Lyft driver, your personal injury attorney can help you seek compensation from punitive damages on top of an insurance settlement.
Why You Need to Hire an Attorney
It can be an absolutely terrifying experience realizing that your Uber or Lyft driver is under the influence of alcohol or another substance. The first and most important step is ensuring your safety and the safety of those with you. Make sure you do whatever you can to exit the vehicle in a safe way, contact the police, and obtain an attorney who can represent you if you are injured in an accident.
Remember that not hiring an experienced ridesharing accident attorney could hinder you from obtaining the full amount of compensation that you are entitled to. Not only could you be entitled to a settlement from the driver’s insurance company or from Uber/Lyft’s own insurance, but you could be awarded additional punitive damages from the driver.
Whatever the situation in which you are injured in an Uber or Lyft accident, you do not want to go through a personal injury case alone. The seasoned ridesharing accident attorneys at Shevlin Smith have over 130 years of legal experience advocating on behalf of our clients in the Fairfax and D.C. area.
Get experience on your side you can rely on. Contact Shevlin Smith at (703) 721-4233 for a free consultation to discuss your case.