UBER / LYFT ACCIDENT? WHO’S ON THE HOOK?

By: Jonathon W. Douglas, Partner

The proliferation of rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft raise interesting issues related to liability and insurance coverage when a rideshare company vehicle is involved in a car accident. According to articles published on www.businessofapps.com, Uber drivers complete approximately 15 million trips each day and Lyft had tallied 1 billion rides given as of September 2018. http://www.businessofapps.com/data/lyft-statistics/; http://www.businessofapps.com/data/uber-statistics/. These staggering numbers illustrate the significant impact rideshare companies are having on our day to day lives. Even if you are not a rideshare user, the fact is when you are out on the road, the likelihood of being involved in a car accident with a rideshare vehicle is on the rise. We have handled many Uber and Lyft accidents on behalf of our car accident clients. When handling Uber and Lyft-related car accident cases, our injury clients have many of the same questions regarding insurance coverage and whether they will be covered for their injuries related to their Uber or Lyft car accident. The intent of this article is to address frequently asked questions by Uber and Lyft car accident victims.

I WAS IN A CAR ACCIDENT WHILE RIDING IN AN UBER OR LYFT

When you are riding in an Uber or Lyft, you are covered for injuries that you incur as a result of the Uber or Lyft driver’s negligence or the negligence of another driver. Florida Law requires that a rideshare company carry $1,000,000 in bodily injury liability coverage as well as Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage for drivers while the driver is actively engaged in providing a rideshare service. If the Uber or Lyft driver’s negligence causes you injuries, the $1,000,000 in bodily injury liability coverage kicks in. If the Uber or Lyft driver was not the at-fault driver, the primary insurance to cover your injuries would come from the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability coverage. If the at-fault driver does not have adequate insurance coverage to compensate you for the injuries sustained as a result of the car accident, then the Uber or Lyft Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage will kick in.

Florida lawmakers took a big step in protecting the users of rideshare services when they enacted Florida Statute §627.748.  http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0600-0699/0627/Sections/0627.748.html. This statute regulates Transportation Network Companies (TNC) – TNC is the legal term for a rideshare company such as Uber or Lyft. This statute requires certain insurance coverage to be carried by the TNC on behalf of its drivers. The statute also imposes certain insurance requirements for TNC drivers. The most impressive part of this statute is that even if the TNC driver’s own insurance coverage lapses or doesn’t provide the required coverage while the TNC driver is engaged in providing a rideshare service, the TNC must provide the required coverage. This statute is a reflection of the very real impact rideshare companies are having on our society.

AN UBER / LYFT DRIVER CAUSED A CAR ACCIDENT THAT INJURED ME

When an Uber or Lyft driver causes an accident and you are not a passenger in the Uber or Lyft but in another vehicle, on a motorcycle, bicycle or perhaps a pedestrian, the analysis of what insurance coverage is available is two-fold. If the Uber or Lyft driver was on the way to pick up a ride or actively providing a ride, the rideshare company carries a $1,000,000 bodily injury liability policy to protect others from the negligently-operated Uber or Lyft vehicle. However, if the Uber or Lyft driver was online but waiting on a request, the driver’s own bodily injury liability coverage applies to accidents the Uber or Lyft driver causes. In Florida, there is a requirement that Uber and Lyft drivers carry a minimum of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per occurrence in bodily injury liability coverage.

As you can see, the key determination regarding insurance coverage in this scenario is to establish whether the Uber or Lyft driver who caused the accident was engaged in providing a ride (actually driving someone or on their way to pick up a ride) or whether they were logged on to the rideshare platform, but waiting to accept a rideshare request.

THE UPSIDE FOR UBER AND LYFT ACCIDENT VICTIMS

The good news for drivers and riders in the State of Florida is that if you are involved in a car accident, motorcycle accident, bicycle accident, or pedestrian accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver, there are laws in place which require certain minimum insurance requirements for the Uber and Lyft drivers. The requirements will help protect the people who have been injured as a result of an Uber or Lyft driver’s negligence or while riding in the Uber or Lyft and the rideshare driver is not at fault.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an Uber or Lyft accident, contact Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid and Douglas for a free consultation.

Hurricane Michael Insurance Claim?

Hurricane Michael formed from a tropical disturbance off of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. As a loosely organized tropical system, it rapidly formed into a hurricane on October 7, 2018, and subsequently made landfall in the Florida Panhandle at Mexico Beach on October 10, 2018, as a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane. While most Floridians were spared any significant damage from Hurricane Michael, the Florida Panhandle, specifically the cities of Mexico Beach and Panama City, suffered the worst of this major Category 4, almost Category 5, hurricane. To put the power of this hurricane in perspective, Hurricane Michael was the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the United States only behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille in 1969. It was the strongest in terms of maximum sustained winds since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. All of these unfortunate stats mean that the Florida Panhandle has been decimated by this force of nature.

Hurricane Michael Insurance Adjusting

While the nation and most of Florida watched as the Hurricane Michael narrowed its sights on the Panhandle, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people were going to be devastated by this hurricane. Not only from the damages it has incurred, but the impact it would have on their lives and livelihoods. In times such as these, home and business owners often take some relief in the fact that they have insurance policies in place for hurricane and flood damage. They hope that once the wind subsidies and waters recede, their insurance companies will pay insurance benefits to repair their home or business. Unfortunately, this belief is all too often untrue. Homeowners and flood insurance companies do their best to adjust the claims which will be forthcoming after Michael however; they will be flooded with these claims. As a result, claims will be wrongly underpaid or outright denied. The causes of these underpayments and denials are far-reaching but may result in the fact that the insurance companies enlist ill-prepared field adjusters and claims handlers which results in poor coverage decisions on behalf of home and
business owners. Unfortunately, the home and/or business owner is left with dealing with the harsh reality that an insurance company may not be fully covering what it is legally obligated to cover. In order to help the victims of Hurricane Michael, I have put together a list of items a home or business owner may find helpful in facilitating their own insurance claim. Provided the insured has performed everything they’re supposed to under the policy, then it is up to the insurance company to do the right thing. If the insurance company refuses to do the right thing, Property Damage Attorney Jonathon Douglas stands by ready to assist in any way possible.

What to do for your Hurricane Michael Insurance Claim

Most insurance policies typically have a section entitled “Your Duties After Loss”. These duties are directed at the policyholder and should be complied with to avoid any sort of coverage issues that the insurance company may try to assert. A trick in this paragraph is oftentimes found in the first sentence wherein the insurance company sometimes states that “we have no duty to provide coverage under this policy if the failure to comply with the following duties is prejudicial to us.” This is sample language from an HO-3 Homeowner’s policy; however, it illustrates the potential for a “gotcha”-type tactic insurance companies can use to avoid providing insurance coverage. Generally, an insured (homeowner or business owner) must perform the following:
  • Give prompt notice to the insurance company or your insurance agent.
  • Provide reasonable access to the property to allow the insurance company to inspect the loss.
  • To the extent reasonable, retain damaged property and allow inspection of same prior to disposal.
  • Protect the covered property from further damage. This means you must take reasonable emergency measures that are necessary to protect covered property from additional damage and you must keep an accurate record of repair expenses.
  • Cooperate with the insurance company during the investigation of the claim.
  • Prepare an inventory of damaged personal property in the format requested by the insurance company.
As often as the insurance company requires:
  • Provide records and documentation insurance company requests
  • Submit to recorded statements when requested
  • Submit to an examination under oath if requested
  • Allow samples to be taken of the damaged or undamaged property
  • Execute any and all authorizations for release of information requests by the insurance company
  • Provide the insurance company with a proof of loss form when requested

Cooperating with your insurance company is imperative to facilitate the adjustment of the claim. While you may fully cooperate with the insurance company, this does not guarantee or ensure the insurance company will fairly and accurately adjust your claim. Remember, there is always the option to get a second opinion on the value of your claim. St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon Douglas and his team focus on providing homeowners and business-owners evaluation and analysis of their insurance claims and will provide the much-needed second opinion related to your Hurricane Michael insurance claim. Don’t settle for what the insurance company initially offers to pay or their initial coverage decision! Call us now for a free consultation.

What To Expect When Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney In Florida

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Hiring a personal injury attorney in Florida requires a few steps regardless of the accident that occurred. A personal injury attorney who helps on your case needs as much information as you can provide, and you will find that the attorney can initiate a case for you. The suit that you file should follow all the steps below. You must abide by the rules for these cases in Florida, and you might find that the case is resolved quickly because of the work that your lawyer did.

1. Where Does Your Evidence Come From? 

Evidence in your case must be collected as soon as possible. Your lawyer might ask you to take pictures of the scene, and they will ask you to save your clothes and shoes from that day. You might need to find eyewitnesses from the accident, and you must allow your lawyer to collate all this information. They will let you know what sort of case you have, and they will let you go if they have no case. Lawyers have an ethical duty to avoid all cases where evidence is not strong enough to proceed.

2. Can You Settle? 

There are settlements reached every day in court, and you might have a chance to settle out of court so that you can end the suit that your lawyer filed. Your lawyer might negotiate on your behalf, and they will explain why they are asking for the amount of money they are asking for. Someone who plans to settle out of court is giving up their right to sue in the future. If you are comfortable with the settlement that you have received, you can stop the suit right there.

3. Who Can Be Sued For Damages? 

You might sue a business because their negligence caused your accident, or you could sue a public entity for their negligence. Someone who owns property could be sued because of their negligence, and you might sue another driver if they hurt you in an accident. You must research who is truly to blame for the injury that you incurred, and you must ask your lawyer to look into who is truly responsible. Someone who plans to sue must also consider the ramifications of suing. Suing your employer could be tricky, or suing the local government might be difficult if they have a team of lawyers.

4. What Happens If You Go To Court? 

You must be prepared by your lawyer for an appearance in court, and you must ask the lawyer if they have a plan to present your case. You could ask for a lot of money at the trial, and you are dependent on a judge or the jury to give you the compensation that you deserve. You must ask your lawyer what your chances are, and there are people who are afraid of being in court because of past experiences. Ask the lawyer if they can get your ready or close out the trial so that you are not testifying in front of a large group of people.

5. How Does Your Attorney Get Paid? 

Your personal injury attorney does not get paid unless you get paid. There are a lot of people who will call an attorney hoping to have them look into a case, and the attorney will give you an assessment of the case. They will tell you what can be done to make your case more compelling, or they will give you a rate that you will be expected to pay when the case is closed. Do not sign off on anything until you know that the attorney has been incentivized to help you.

6. How Long Do These Cases Last? 

The cases that are brought up for settlement take time to negotiate because both sides need to figure out how much they are willing to pay or accept. Someone who is concerned with making money from this process to pay their medical bills or make up for lost salary might need to wait until they get a better deal. Your lawyer will fun everything by you, and they will not close the case until you are happy. The case could take months to get to trial if you have to go to trial, and you must be patient with your attorney if they are still collecting evidence.

7. Who Qualifies For A Lawsuit? 

Anyone can sue anyone for negligence at any time. You are not bound by local laws or statutes, and the only limitations are on the amount of the award that you are given. There are places where damages are capped, and your lawyer must have an idea of what that cap is so they know how to manage the case. Lawyers are familiar with the local justice system, and they also know the judges who will preside over your case. These connections make it easier for you to sue successfully, and you must find a lawyer who has been reviewed well by others.

8. The Case Supercedes Insurance 

Your insurance company can only do so much for you when you are injured. The case that you file will supersede the insurance company, and they will be asked to stand aside while your attorney handles everything. There might be cases when your attorney will come from the insurance company, but you must speak to them before accepting that assignment.

9. Call Aubrey Dicuss at BRDM to assist you with your case every step of the way.  

Aubrey is familiar with local laws, knows how to protect your rights, and will negotiate on your behalf. He will fight for the compensation that you know you deserve, and he will prepare you for anything that could happen. Aubrey might walk you through your settlement talks, or you could go to trial with your him because you know that you are entitled to compensation that will pay for your medical bills, your pain and suffering, and wages that were lost while you were disabled.

The Low Down on Real Estate-Why you need a Real Estate Attorney by your side.

An interest in land is called real estate. The term interest the method by which a person deals with land. The person may own land, buy land sell land or lease land. All these terms show that the person has an interest in land. The transaction made to make the interest in land legal is called a real estate contract and once the contract is recorded in government records the person gets title to the land.
Real Estate Agents 
Real estate transactions are terms used for buying or selling land or land with buildings called the property. Real estate transactions are performed by real estate agents. These agents represent the seller of the property or the buyer of the property. Some states have laws that allow real estate agents to represent both the seller and the buyer.
Escrow 
An escrow agent is a person who holds the funds and documents relating to a property until real estate transactions are completed. The purpose of employing and escrow agent is to safeguard the interests of the seller and purchaser. The escrow agent is a neutral party who keeps the seller’s documents and the purchaser’s funds in safe custody till the transaction is completed. Purchasers will make a purchase agreement and deposit a sum towards earnest money to show their genuine interest in closing the deal. If the purchaser backs out without good reason, the escrow agent will pay the money to the seller. If the seller backs out the earnest money will be paid to the purchaser.
Title 
Title is a record to show that the seller owns the property that is being sold. The title passes to the purchaser once the real estate deal is closed. The purchaser of the property should do a title search at a title office and get title insurance at first. This is to ensure that no claim is made on the property after the deal is closed. The seller may not reveal hidden title problems like unpaid taxes or details of a person with a right to the property like a legal heir.
Real Estate Attorneys 
Though it is not necessary to take the help of a real estate attorney to close a real estate deal, it is wise to take the help of a real estate attorney. The attorney will be an expert at finding any legal hurdle in the property documents. The attorney will check the title and do a title search to ensure that there are no encumbrances or other problems with the title. There are many stages when to involve a real estate attorney. The title search stage, the property transfer stage, the contract review stage and the filing stage where the real estate deed needs to be filed at the county and state offices are stages when to involve a real estate attorney before closing a deal.
Mortgage 
Purchasers should get a pre-approval for a mortgage. Showing that they are pre-approved will show the seller that the purchaser is financially strong and closing the deal will be quicker. Mortgage lenders will lock the rates of interest to be paid by the purchaser on the mortgage if the purchaser is pre-approved and they can pay at a fixed rate regardless of the fluctuations in the market.
Costs for Closing 
Escrow companies charge fees for closing. It is important that the purchaser understands the exact costs involved in closing the deal. It is important that they negotiate with the escrow company nd make sure that no unnecessary fees are charged. Purchasers can also negotiate for a lower fees for many services of the escrow company.
Inspection of the Building 
If the property to be purchased is a building or home, the purchaser should inspect the home after giving the seller notice. The purchaser can back out of the deal if the building has serious structural or other problems. The inspection of the building by the purchaser is a prudent step before closing a deal.
Inspection for Pests 
The purchaser should get a specialist to inspect the property for pests. Normally mortgage companies expect a certificate from a specialist that a property is free of pest infestation.After Inspection 
After the purchaser inspects the property and gets a pest inspection performed, the purchaser can negotiate the price with the seller again if the inspections reveal problems. If the purchaser l needs to spend money on repairs, the purchaser can ask for a reduction or back out of the deal. Some sellers agree to make the repairs before the deal is closed.

Interest Rate 
The purchaser should negotiate with the lender to get a reasonable interest rate and ask them to lock the interest rate. This will protect the purchaser from rate fluctuations. The purchaser can pay a fixed interest rate till the mortgage is paid in full.
Time Frame 
Purchasers should set dates by which the seller should complete certain tasks. These tasks include disclosure of problems with the structure of the building and completion of repairs. The purchaser should also get a mortgage at an affordable interest rate within a certain date.
Escrow Funding 
At this stage of the transaction the purchaser will deposit the entire purchase amount with the escrow agent. The purchaser will pay the closing costs. In some cases, the seller will pay the closing costs.
Final Inspection 
The purchaser should make a final inspection or walk through of the property. The purchaser should ensure that all repairs are completed by the seller and the seller has not taken away anything that was agreed to be sold to the purchaser.
Closing the deal 
Closing the deal involves signing the papers. Purchasers need to be very careful at this stage. The documents will sometimes be more than 1000 pages. It is important the purchaser reads each page carefully to make sure that the interest rates are correct with no hidden charges. Finally, after documents are signed, the attorney will get the document recorded at the offices of the county and state recording offices.
 Contact BRDM’s own Andrew Pardun for all of your real estate transaction.  Having someone who knows the ins and outs of real estate law is beneficial to everyone involved, especially to you whether you are the buyers or the seller.