Ridesharing Services Required to Purchase Personal Injury Insurance

California Governor Signs  Insurance Bill for Ridesharing Services Into Law to Cover Passenger Personal Injury

shutterstock_1155408-2In September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that would require ridesharing companies like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar to purchase insurance covering for their drivers, and to cover personal injury and wrongful death in the event of an accident while the driver has a fare.

Although Uber has argued for the past year with local and state governments across the country regarding the nature of the service, many state governments either will not allow ridesharing services to move into their area, or place tough restrictions on them. Uber has often claimed that the company is a mobile app, not a taxi service, and the application allows drivers to connect with people who need rides. However, much discussion about the nature of ridesharing services has ensued because the drivers are independent contractors of the mobile app companies, which means they are not employees. State governments believe the ridesharing companies are therefore taxi services.

This means that ridesharing services need increased insurance coverage in the event of a car accident, which can lead to personal injury or death.

Until very recently, ridesharing services relied on their drivers’ personal insurance coverage – in fact, the companies would not hire drivers that did not have automobile insurance – but those plans only cover a certain dollar amount of damages in a car accident, including medical bills due to personal injury. And, many insurance companies will not cover damages from a car accident if the driver has accepted payment for the ride, because the automobile insurance is for personal use, not business use.

Uber and Lyft have purchased better insurance for their drivers since the complaints began, but until California signed the bill, the ridesharing services’ employee drivers fell into a legal gray area, where their insurance companies could deny coverage, but they were not required to have commercial driving insurance.

California’s ridesharing insurance law requires ridesharing companies to cover their employee drivers as soon as those drivers turn their app on to find fares, so the driver is covered whether they have passengers or not. The personal injury insurance must cover at least $50,000 per person, $100,000 in the event of a wrongful death or personal injury, and $30,000 for property damage. The bill also requires an excess $200,000 of “just-in-case” coverage.

“We have agreed to a compromise that provides clarity for the ridesharing community in California,” Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson said in a statement. Uber did not immediately respond.

The bill was championed by California assembly person Susan Bonilla, who said the bill “creates a personal insurance firewall to ensure personal insurance auto policyholders will no longer subsidize the commercial activity” of ridesharing companies.

The Strom Law Firm Defends Victims of Car Accident Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Cases

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed because of an accident, whether it was caused by distracted driving or DUI, the attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. The sooner you hire one of our accident lawyers, the sooner we will be able to investigate your case and the stronger your case will be. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case, so do not hesitate to call us. 803.252.4800

SC Paid $5 Million for Car Accidents Caused by Bad Roads

car accidents

South Carolina Spent $5 Million on Car Accidents and Personal Injury Claims Caused by Bad Roads

car accidentsLast year, a statewide survey showed that South Carolina has some of the least up-kept roads in the nation, which can result in accidents leading to South Carolina car accident and personal injury claims. Now, information obtained about the extent of the damage caused by the state’s poor road maintenance shows that South Carolina paid at least $5 million to motorists last year due to bad roads.

Records from South Carolina’s Insurance Reserve Fund showed that the state paid $5.1 million in personal injury, wrongful death, and car accident claims, along with another $2.3 million in legal fees. That was just 2014 – the preceding three years saw the state pay out $18.7 million in personal injury and car accident claims to motorists.

According to a report released on January 15th by TRIP, a Washington, DC-based national transportation organization, 46% of South Carolina’s roads are in such poor condition that they can cause vehicular damage, car accidents, traffic congestion, and personal injury or wrongful death. Deficient roads cost drivers in the state at least $1,250 per year in the form of car repairs, lost time, and fuel delays. The bad roads in the state cost motorists an estimated $3 billion every year – a financial investment that, if paid in taxes instead of personal injury or car accident costs, could go a long way to fixing the problem.

“The South Carolina Department of Transportation manages the 41,000 miles of state funded roads with the third lowest motor fuel user fee in the nation.  With an estimated additional $1.5 billion needed per year for the next 25 years to “get to good”, they are currently having to do the best they can with what they have,” said Eric Dickey, vice president of Davis & Floyd, Inc. and chairman of the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads (SCFOR).

“To me it’s a large chunk of money. Would we rather continue to pay out funds like this and put people in danger rather than come up with a viable solution to fix our roads and bridges?” said Rep. Chandra Dillard, a Greenville Democrat who sits on a House committee studying the state’s infrastructure needs.

Sen. Ray Cleary, a Georgetown County Republican who has spearheaded road-funding efforts in the Senate, said he was unaware that people could sue the state due to road quality-related personal injury and car accidents. “In the last five years, we’ve raised the cost of fixing the roads in South Carolina by $14 billion,” he said. “If that’s not a waste of taxpayer money, then what is? Why aren’t people like the Tea Party demanding these roads be fixed?”

“These conditions are only going to get worse if greater funding is not made available at the local, state and federal levels,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Congress can help by approving a long-term federal surface transportation program that provides adequate funding levels, based on a reliable funding source. If not, South Carolina is going to see its future federal funding threatened, resulting in fewer road and bridge repair projects, loss of jobs, and a burden on the state’s economy.”

The Strom Law Firm Can Help with South Carolina Car Accidents and Personal Injury Caused By Bad Roads

Our car accident lawyers are prepared to fight for compensation in the courtroom, and will defend your right to compensation for your past and future medical bills; lost wages and future earnings; your pain and suffering; and, in the event of a fatal car accident, even wrongful death. Contact the South Carolina accident attorneys at the Strom Law Firm, L.L.C. today for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case and how we can help. 803.252.4800

Uber Driver Faces Criminal Charges Tied to Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Suit

personal injury and wrongful death

Criminal Charges Filed against Uber Driver Related to Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claim

personal injury and wrongful deathIn the continuation of one wrongful death lawsuit, an Uber driver in San Francisco has been charged with vehicular manslaughter after hitting a 6-year-old girl at a crosswalk last New Years’ while checking the Uber mobile app.

Syed Muzzafar was charged with vehicular manslaughter on Monday, December 29th. On New Year’s Day this year, Muzzafar was reportedly checking the Uber mobile app to pick up a fare when he struck several members of the Liu family as they were crossing at a crosswalk. He injured two, and killed Sophia Liu, 6 years old. Uber now faces a wrongful death lawsuit from the family as well.  Uber maintains that Muzzafar was actually off-duty at the time of teh accident, meaning that the company denies liability for the wrongful death accident. The company also maintains that it is against employment policy for drivers to check the mobile app while driving, because that can lead to dangerous distracted driving accidents.

“The last thing I saw before the Uber driver killed my little girl, and forever changed my life, was him looking down at his phone,” Huan Kuang, the girl’s mother, is quoted as saying in a statement issued by her attorney on Tuesday. “The driver is a man who was working to feed his family and he did wrong, but Uber is the one who makes the drivers look at their phones as part of the way they do business. Uber is just as responsible as Muzzafar, but they say they are not.”

“The design and use of these mobile applications requires drivers to violate the law as they have just seconds to respond to instant messages from Uber or they will lose the fare and receive negative ratings and possible termination of their driver status,” the Liu family’s attorney said in a statement.

Uber has been accused not only of implicitly encouraging distracted driving, which can lead to personal injury and wrongful deaths, but of also failing to screen drivers according to state standards. This can also lead to serious injuries for passengers, including a case involving the rape of a 22-year-old woman.

In Chicago, an unidentified 22-year-old woman said she used the Uber mobile service to catch a ride in November, after a party with coworkers. She was picked up by driver Maxime Fohounhedo, who asked her about 20 minutes later to sit in the front seat with him as he was unfamiliar with the area. Then, he assaulted her in the vehicle and she blacked out; later, she woke up later in an unfamiliar apartment with him on top of her. Fohounhedo has been criminally charged with sexual assault and criminal sexual abuse. However, he is only the latest in a string of accusations against Uber drivers, claiming assault and rape.

The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Cases

Although many of the people we represent in these cases are from right here in South Carolina, our lawyers routinely take clients from throughout the Southeastern U.S. and, in certain types of product liability or pharmaceutical cases, from across the country as well. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed through no fault of your own, you may have a personal injury or wrongful death case. Contact the South Carolina wrongful death attorneys at the Strom Law Firm, LLC today for a free, no-cost consultation today. 803.252.4800

Distracted Driving and Tractor Trailers Don’t Mix

tractor trailer

Distracted Driving Leads to Tractor Trailer Accident off Maine Highway

tractor trailerOn Monday, October 27th, a tractor trailer ran off the road and leaked fuel into the mud after crashing. State troopers say the accident was caused by distracted driving.

Reportedly, the driver, Steven Haggan, was unfamiliar with the type of tractor trailer he had been assigned, and became distracted while trying to find the switch to de-fog the side mirrors. The truck, full of wood chips, drifted off the road, but Haggan didn’t notice until he hit the rumble strip. He did not have time to prevent the distracted driving crash by that point, and ran into some trees along the side of the road.

Haggan was not injured, and the Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection were called to the scene of the tractor trailer accident to clean up. Haggan has been issued a summons for distracted driving.

Tractor Trailer Spills Frozen French Fries After Distracted Driving Leads to Accident

Another distracted driving accident in Maine, which occurred over the weekend, involved a tractor trailer carrying frozen French fries.

Charles O’Halloran was driving the refrigerated truck near Bangor, when he reportedly became distracted by a water bottle in the cab, which caused him to run over the side of the road and into a stand of trees, spilling the fries across the road.

The Maine Department of Agriculture officially condemned the thousands of pounds of spilled fries, which were then hauled to the local dump.

Distracted Driving Accidents and Injuries in South Carolina

According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2012, 421,000 people were injured in car accidents involving a distracted driver; 3,300 of those people died from their injuries. Research from the University of Buffalo suggests that as much as 10% of pedestrian visits to the emergency room are caused by distracted drivers. The Department of Transportation estimates that, despite multiple reports of how deadly distracted driving can be, as many as 660,000 Americans are on their phones in some form while driving, every single day.

Distracted driving includes:

  • texting and driving
  • talking on or playing with a cell phone
  • eating or drinking
  • talking to passengers
  • grooming or putting on makeup
  • reading books, newspapers, or even a map
  • using a PDA or navigation system
  • watching a video or playing on a computer or tablet
  • playing with the radio, a CD or an iPod

It’s a common occurrence to see distracted drivers cruising down South Carolina roads and interstates.  Whether the distraction is eating, putting on makeup, talking on a cellphone, or even just daydreaming, the effects of a South Carolina distracted driving accident can result in life altering and even deadly consequences.

If you have been injured by a distracted driver, the South Carolina distracted driving accident attorneys at the Strom Law Firm, L.L.C. will fight for fair compensation for your injuries.
 Our South Carolina car accident lawyers are prepared to fight for compensation in the courtroom and will defend your right to compensation for your past and future medical bills, lost wages and future earnings, your pain and suffering, and, in the event of a fatal car accident, even wrongful death. Our attorneys offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your personal injury case for distracted driving, so contact us today. 803.252.4800.

FedEx Faces Personal Injury and Negligence Lawsuits for Crash

personal injury

Fatal Northern California Crash Between Bus and FedEx Truck Ends in Personal Injury and Negligence Suits

personal injuryTwo people have filed personal injury and negligence lawsuits against FedEx for the company’s responsibility in a fatal crash in Northern California on April 10th.

The first lawsuit involves a wrongful death and negligence accusation filed by the family of victim Jennifer Bonilla, a 17-year-old high school student from Los Angeles.

The huge vehicle crash occurred in early April on an interstate outside of San Diego. A FedEx truck veered across the road and collided with a school bus full of high school students headed to see Humbolt State University. Both the bus and the FedEx truck were engulfed in flames. Ten people were killed – five students, three adult chaperones, and both drivers. Over 30 other people were injured.

“We remain focused on providing support to those affected and cooperating with the authorities as they conduct their investigation,” FedEx said in a statement, according to CNS. “This is not the time for us to discuss potential litigation.”

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed on Tuesday, April 22nd, in Los Angeles Superior Court, and accuses both FedEx and the driver of negligence, and claims that FedEx trucks have a history of vehicle fires. The latter claim was based on the accusation after the accident that the FedEx truck was on fire before hitting the bus.

“Look at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, they’ve recorded FedEx having 679 moving violations in the last two years,” Plaintiff’s attorney King Aminpour said.

The plaintiff filed for $100 million against both FedEx and the driver’s estate.

The second personal injury and negligence lawsuit came from one of the crash survivors, Evelyln Guzman. She filed the suit in Glenn County on April 14th, four days after the crash. The personal injury filing does not have an exact amount listed for the suit, only that the plaintiff seeks more than $25,000 in compensatory damages.

Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Litigation from Car Accidents

car accident can transform a routine drive into a life-changing catastrophe. Every year, thousands of drivers end up in a South Carolina car wreck, and on average about 800 of them will lose their lives.

Typical causes of car accidents include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, automobile defect, failed maintenance, failing to be careful, speeding, running stops signs or stop lights, failing to yield the right of way, not paying attention because of using cell phone or PDA, adjusting radio or DVD player, or eating while driving.

If a loved one dies as a result of the negligence, reckless, or intentional conduct of another, you may be entitled to bring a claim for wrongful death. A wrongful death lawsuit asserts a claim against a person who can be held legally responsible for a death.  Surviving family members may be entitled to damages; money that can help with the expenses caused by the loss of their loved one.

A South Carolina wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation for:

  • medical bills and funeral expenses
  • loss of income
  • loss of consortium and loss of support.

The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Cases

Although many of the people we represent in these cases are from right here in South Carolina, our lawyers routinely take clients from throughout the Southeastern U.S. and, in certain types of product liability or pharmaceutical cases, from across the country as well. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed through no fault of your own, whether from a defective product or in a car accident, you may have a personal injury or wrongful death case. Contact the South Carolina wrongful death attorneys at the Strom Law Firm, LLC today for a free, no-cost consultation today. 803.252.4800

Uber Faces Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California

Famous Internet Car-Sharing Service Uber Goes to Court in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

UberIn San Francisco on New Year’s Eve, a family was struck by an Uber driver while crossing a crosswalk – the mother and brother were injured, while a 6-year-old was killed. On Monday, January 27th, the little girl’s family will file a wrongful death lawsuit against Uber, not just the driver, in Superior Court in California.

The case could define responsibility in the “sharing economy,” dominated by websites and mobile phone apps that act like vendors for “self-employed” drivers, room-renters, and other services.

Uber hires drivers under contract to act like a taxi service for as many hours a week as the driver wishes to be available. However, the drivers are not, strictly speaking, employees of the company, but independent contractors – therefore, responsibility for personal injury or wrongful death cases could shift to the individual and not the company.

The family’s attorney, Chris Dolan, argues that in this case Uber is liable in the wrongful death case, in part because the company makes some money from their drivers’ fares, and also because California law states that using phones or devices while driving is illegal unless the device is set up to be hands-free. Uber, which is based in Silicon Valley and therefore falls under California law, has put its drivers in the position of breaking the law, because the mobile app is not set up to be used hands-free.

“Uber shares in the profits of its drivers and must share in the responsibility for the harms they cause,” said Dolan in a prepared statement. “The use of the Uber app by drivers violates California laws designed to eliminate driver distraction. Drivers are constantly interacting with their mobile devices creating serious risk to both passengers and the community … Uber’s claims that they are not responsible for injuries caused by Uber drivers who are logged on to the system but not carrying a fare flies in the face of hundreds of years of law. New technology does not eliminate well-established legal principles.”

Sophia Liu, 6, was the victim of driver Syed Muzzafar, 57, on New Year’s Eve. Muzzafar was arrested following the child’s death on charges of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and failure to yield to pedestrians in a cross walk. He reportedly cooperated in full with police investigators, and later posted bail. Muzzafar worked full-time as an Uber driver, supporting four children on his income.

The family’s wrongful death lawsuit states:

“[Uber] derive[s] an economic benefit from not only having USERS transported by DRIVERS collecting a portion of the charge for transportation, it derives an economic benefit, and competitive advantage, by displaying the location of available vehicles near the USER’s location. USERS seeing the ready supply of UBER and/or Uber X vehicles have greater consumer confidence that they will be able to obtain one-to-one prearranged transportation services rapidly and are therefore more likely to be repeat customers… Therefore, regardless of whether a DRIVER actually has a USER in their car, is on the way to a USER who has engaged the DRIVER through the APP, or simply is logged on to the APP as an available DRIVER, UBER… derives an economic benefit from having DRIVERS registered on the service.”

The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Wrongful Death Cases

Although many of the people we represent in these cases are from right here in South Carolina, our lawyers routinely take clients from throughout the Southeastern U.S. and, in certain types of product liability or pharmaceutical cases, from across the country as well. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed through no fault of your own, you may have a wrongful death case. Contact the South Carolina wrongful death attorneys at the Strom Law Firm, LLC today for a free, no-cost consultation today. 803.252.4800

Don’t be a Distracted Driver

Turn on the news any given day and you will hear about a car accident or another state that has passed a “No Texting While Driving” ban.

Accidents caused by distracted driving are a common occurrence. While everyone knows that cell phones and GPS devices can cause you to be distracted while driving and potentially result in a car accident, do you recognize external distractions?

The most common form of distracted driving is distraction caused by texting, talking, or otherwise using a cell phone or media device. While you may think you are only diverting your attention away for a second and it’s no big deal, your inattention may cause an accident.

Another cause of distracted driving may be outside noise or distractions. Driving with your windows down could potentially cause an accident. The windows may cause papers to fly around or bugs to enter in the vehicle. The noise from a crowd outside a vehicle may also cause distractions.

Heated discussions can also divert your attention. It is important to recognize that when you are talking with your children or significant other you may become so focused on the heat of the moment that you lose sight of what is happening on the road.

Lastly, eating, drinking, and applying makeup are major causes of distracted driving. If you are hungry, pull over and eat. If you are putting on makeup, do it before you get behind the wheel.

A distracted driver can be due to many things. Taking your eyes off the road for even the shortest period of time can cause an accident. Avoid distracted driving at all costs.

If you or someone you know has been in a South Carolina car accident involving a distracted driver, call us at 803-252-4800.   The South Carolina Accident attorneys at the Strom Law Firm will fight to obtain the compensation you deserve.

Teens Die in Train Accident During Dangerous Game of ‘Ghost Train’

South Carolina Deadly Train Accident Lawyers

Two Missouri high school girls died in a deadly train accident while their car was parked in the middle of train tracks during a deadly game of what the teenagers called “Ghost Train.”

15-year-old Victoria E. Swanson and 17-year-old Haley Whitmer, were playing a game with three other teens. They would drive out to a popular set of railroad tracks, fog up the windows and tell ghost stories.

According to police, the teenagers had played the game many times before. The idea was to let your mind play tricks on you and if a real train appeared, to simply drive away.

But when the teenagers heard the train coming and tried to drive away, the Jeep wouldn’t restart. While the others in the car were able to escape, Swanson and another girl panicked and weren’t able to get out of their seatbelts in time.

In a heroic act of bravery, Whitmer ran back toward the car to try and help them just as the train smashed into the vehicle.

She was able to free Kaitlyn Fowler, who is currently in critical condition at St. Francis Hospital in Cape Girardeau with serious personal injuries.

No one on the train, which was traveling from St. Louis to San Antonio, was injured.

The railroad tracks where the crash happened have long been the subject of ghost stories and urban legends. Locals say the teenagers were obsessed with sitting on the tracks and trying to catch a thrill.

The coroner said the teenagers weren’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the train accident happened, and that the Jeep must have had electrical issues.

According to the US Department of Transportation, there are approximately 5,800 vehicle train accidents each year in the United States. Train accidents typically occur at railroad crossings.  As a result of these train accidents, each year 600 people are killed and another 2,300 people are injured. Deadly train accidents are often the result of the railroad’s neglect, whether due to the negligence of the operator or improper maintenance of the railroad.

Questions about this article?  Contact the Strom Law Firm, LLC.  803.252.4800



Airbag Defects

With every passing year, airbag systems become more and more complex. For example, many systems now monitor seat position and belt use (or non-use) to determine when and if an airbag deployment is needed to protect the occupant in minor to moderate accidents. With this ever increasing complexity, the ability to identify and prosecute airbag defect claims becomes more difficult.

Developing trends in airbag litigation reveal that airbag defects can come in many forms. Consumers and attorneys evaluating an airbag’s role in their injuries should consider the possibility that the airbag failed to perform as intended.

Inadvertent deployments of airbags

Sometimes an airbag will deploy, or “fire,” when it is not intended. An airbag deploying without an accident is a classic example of an inadvertent deployment, and can be the basis of a claim when significant injuries occur.

Late deployments of airbags

Airbags are intended to deploy within milliseconds of the car’s computer sensing that a major crash occurred. Sometimes, due to sensor placement issues, faulty components, or airbag algorithm problems, the airbag can deploy long after it should. The result is that the occupant does not receive necessary protection until after the forces of the impact have already caused preventable injuries.

Failure of an airbag to deploy

Most manufacturers design airbags to deploy in moderate to severe accidents. Airbags are neither needed nor desired in low speed accidents, as the forces required to deploy an airbag in time may do more harm than good. However, as airbags become more complex, more and more fail to deploy. In these cases, consumers can sustain injuries that could have been prevented if the airbag had fired as intended and designed.

As Airbag Defect attorneys we can help

If you suspect an airbag defect is the cause of a serious injury or death, contact us for a free evaluation of your case. As airbag defect lawyers, we have experience in litigating accidents involving airbags, and stand ready to bring our knowledge and expertise to bear for consumers injured by defective airbags.

Commercial Trucking Accident Lawyers

18 Wheeler Accidents

18 Wheeler Accidents involving heavy commercial vehicles such as semi tractor trailers, flatbed or tanker trucks, buses, or construction accidents can often result in a serious injury or death.

Injuries sustain in these types of accidents can be disabling. Accidents involving heavy commercial vehicles can cause:

  • Hospitalization
  • Rehabilitation
  • Job loss
  • Extended leave of absence
  • Family issues

These are just a few of many problems that can result from a serious injury involving an accident with commercial trucking.

Our attorneys can help you gain the compensation you deserve. We understand how to analyze the employment, corporate, and contractual relationships, and we may be able to reveal many more defendants who are responsible for compensating you for your damages.

Whether you were injured in a bus accident, tractor trailer accident, or any other commercial trucking accident, we can help.

With careful analysis and investigation we will look at critical factors including:

  • Commericial truck crash cases
  • Maintenance and equipment records for the vehicle
  • Oversize and overweight loads
  • Weather, road, and grade conditions
  • Drivers’ conditions

We can also analyze the many layers of insurance coverage for corporate defendants.

Do not hesitate to contact us concerning injuries you may have received as a result of a commercial trucking accident. Trucking companies are aggressive in their representation. Protect your rights by hiring an experienced attorney.

Contact the Strom Law Firm at 803-252-4800.