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Lyft Crash Results in Traumatic Brain Injury Lawsuit

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Oregon Lyft Crash Lawyer

The following is a summary of a recent outcome in a claim against Lyft's insurer Indian Harbor, State Farm Insurance, and a Lyft driver. This is one of several serious / catastrophic injury cases our law firm has handled against rideshare companies such as Uber, Lyft, or their insurers.

Our client sustained serious injuries when struck while riding in a Lyft rideshare vehicle. Our law firm navigated complex factual, medical and insurance issues on behalf of this client in a case that has now been ongoing for several years.

The facts are contested by all four parties. This post provides our client's factual and legal claims that remain disputed by the defendants.

In this litigation we alleged that our client and two of her friends went for a mother’s night out.  Having drank some alcohol, they responsibly chose to use a rideshare driver to drive them home.  Deposition testimony by all three women provide a consistent description of the facts that happened with the rideshare driver and the crash.

One of the women had hailed a vehicle via the Lyft app.  Not knowing this, our client had hailed a vehicle via the Uber app.  Another of the women told the client to cancel the Uber ride because the other friend had already requested a rideshare car. As a result, the client cancelled her Uber request.  Our client did not know whether her friend had hailed a driver via Uber or Lyft.

The friend's request for a ride via the Lyft app was accepted by a Lyft driver – the Defendant driver - who drove both for Uber and Lyft.  Given the Lyft app’s function, the Lyft driver's name, his vehicle type and color, and license plate number was provided to our client's friend.  The Lyft driver's vehicle, working on behalf of Lyft, was identified as their assigned Lyft vehicle. She began looking for that vehicle.  

The GPS tracking feature of the Lyft app allowed her to see the Lyft driver approaching their location.  Similarly, the Lyft app allowed the Lyft driver to see the location of the woman using Lyft.  This function was working, and was used by Defendant driver because after hailing the Lyft vehicle from the front of their location, the three women walked eastward.  Despite their change in position, defendant driver pulled up to their location at the curb.  

Before getting inside our client asked if he was their “Uber” driver.  He confirmed he was.  It was only at that point, when Defendant driver had accepted the friend's Lyft request, was identified by the Lyft app as their driver with vehicle type, color and license plate number, tracked them by GPS in the Lyft app, and then confirmed he was their driver that the women got into his vehicle.  All three women believed they were getting into a rideshare vehicle.  The other two women, who were admittedly both intoxicated, got in the back, while our client (who was not intoxicated) got into the front passenger seat. 

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Just after starting the ride, the defendant driver noted that his phone had died and asked the women where they were going. Then, he asked them to pay cash. Our client, who was not intoxicated, knew that he would be getting paid through the rideshare app, and found this request very concerning.  She again questioned the defendant driver if he was their “uber” driver, and he again confirmed he was.  At that point the driver announced he would take two of the women to a house in Portland and then take one to Beaverton by herself.  It appeared to all three women that the defendant driver was attempting to isolate one of the women who was intoxicated by dropping off the other two first. Our client again asked if the defendant driver was their “uber” driver. It was only at that point did he admit he was not.  Our client asked that the driver pull over to allow the women out of the vehicle.  

Just prior to the Lyft driver pulling over, their vehicle was hit by an underinsured vehicle driven.  The other driver appears to have been driving at a high rate of speed, and struck the front passenger side of the Lyft vehicle near where out client sat, causing extensive damage to the front end of the Lyft vehicle causing the airbags to deploy. Our client struck her head on the right side window and then rebounded to hit the driver's seat.  

The other driver was going at such a rate of speed that he then continued on over the curb taking out a parking sign and coming to rest fully on the sidewalk, wedged between a hedge and a tree.  

Upon impact, the Lyft vehicle then spun and went into a parked vehicle, again striking the front passenger side where out client was sitting. This impact pushed her into the front windshield, but this time the airbag had already deflated, providing no barrier to her striking the windshield with her head. She appeared to remember the impact, but then our client describes a period of time between the final impact with the parked car that she does not recall (called anterograde amnesia.) The next thing she remembers is opening her eyes and everyone had left the vehicle. She was transported to Emanuel Hospital ER with a visibly fractured right clavicle. The ER staff focused on the clavicle and neck pain, but did not diagnose a concussion. The client noted glass in her chest and inside her clothes but she did not know that her head or body had struck the front windshield with sufficient force to leave an impact "star" in the windshield. The insurers disputed that the impact site was caused by the client's head or body.

The client's doctors diagnosed injuries including a mild Traumatic Brain Injury, Superior Canal Dehiscence (a type of inner ear injury caused by a fracture of the superior semicircular canal and/or skull base), a complex clavicle fracture, a humerus fracture (missed for several months), herniated cervical discs, and other injuries. The injuries have left her with ongoing permanent injuries that impact her brain, visual system and the balance functions of her inner ear. Her quality of life is significantly impacted.

Client was unaware whether she had been riding in an Uber or Lyft vehicle that had been hailed by her friend. Both Uber, Lyft and its insurer, Indian Harbor Insurance, denied the client insurance coverage and offered $0 before litigation. Given the complexity of her injuries, her first lawyer suggested that she move her case to our Portland law firm given our experience in Oregon courts representing people with traumatic brain injuries, inner ear injuries, and other complex traumatic injuries.

The case also involved disputed insurance coverage from the client's own auto insurer. This client had three separate auto policies with State Farm at the time of the crash that covered her with insurance for injuries sustained as a result of the negligent conduct of an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist. While State Farm did provide medical coverage under all three of the insurance policies under the policies' Personal Injury Protection coverage, it made a $0 offer on one of her auto policies, and denied Underinsured Motorist coverage for two of her policies.

Our office had obtained $195,000 in compensation from the at fault drivers before filing the lawsuit in Oregon State court.  The defendants removed the case from state court to federal court.

The insurance company offers for her Underinsured Motorist claims before our office filed the lawsuit, were $0 from Indian Harbor - denying coverage, and $0 from State Farm on one policy and denial of coverage on two separate auto policies. 

After the lawsuit was filed, State Farm then acknowledged insurance coverage for their policyholder under all three auto insurance policies based upon the Oregon Supreme Court's decision in Batten v. State Farm, 368 Or 538 (2021). Approximately three years after the injury, State Farm insurance offered $250,000 out of their total coverage of $750,000. 

Lyft's records produced during the lawsuit, reflect that Lyft driver (the Defendant driver) accepted the ride placed on the Lyft app by the client's friend. Deposition testimony of all three women details that the Lyft driver found them using the Lyft app, but then turned it off after the women were in the car. 

Indian Harbor Insurance had denied the client insurance coverage as a Lyft passenger, despite Lyft having records showing her friend's ride request being accepted by the Lyft driver.  After the lawsuit was filed by our law firm, Indian Harbor Insurance on behalf of Lyft then accepted insurance coverage on a $1,000,000 underinsured motorist insurance policy. Months later, Indian Harbor then claimed that the policy for the Lyft driver was only $50,000 because he had cancelled the ride while the client and her friends were in the vehicle. Lyft's records indicated that despite a history of accepting and then cancelling rides through the Lyft app, his driving privileges had not been revoked and in fact he was continuing to drive for Lyft several years later during the time of his deposition. Approximately one year after the lawsuit had been filed, Indian Harbor offered $50,000 on the claim.

Upon mutual consent of the parties, the damages in this federal court case were determined in a binding arbitration by two senior lawyers and a retired judge. During arbitration Lyft's insurer improperly showed surveillance video it had not disclosed as required by the Federal Rules of Evidence. The surveillance which was done over many months, regularly went to the clients house and waited for her to come out, followed her driving, followed her into dark parking garages, recorded her in a store buying a present for her hospitalized son, and filmed her at a restaurant with her children. 

The defense for Indian Harbor then falsely claimed that plaintiff counsel had created a traveling educational seminar series fraudulently building up fake traumatic brain injury claims nationwide, when in fact, Dr. DeShaw had been lecturing for free to doctors and lawyers in one event in Florida several years before, just as he has in well over 100 free lectures for health care providers, lawyers, injured people he doesn't represent, the Veterans Administration staff, the Brain Injury Alliance of Oregon, and the Oregon legislature over the course of his career educating professionals, the public, and lawmakers on the topic of traumatic brain injury and other traumatic injuries. In addition, defense counsel also raised Dr. DeShaw's own medical history and treatment, in a desperate attempt to discredit the impact of the client's injuries.

The defense's sole medical expert during the arbitration was Tarvez Tucker, MD of OHSU. During the arbitration, it became evident that the defense did not disclose Dr. Tucker's main report to our office or the arbitrators, in which some of the client's injuries were admitted. It is unclear whether the IME company, MedConnect Pro, didn't provide the negative report to the defense lawyers, or whether it was withheld by defense counsel. Instead, two short reports were produced to our office and the arbitrators denying the injuries and disclaiming others were outside her scope of practice. In live testimony, she then disputed those same injuries. She acknowledged the fractured clavicle and "soft tissue" injuries of the spine that she opined was deserving of a few weeks of treatment. She opined that the neurosurgery that the client had undergone for the Superior Canal Dehiscence, performed at St. Vincent's Hospital, was unnecessary and unrelated to the crash. She also testified that despite significant ongoing symptoms, the client needed no ongoing care, and further that approximately $200,000 of past medical care was unnecessary.

The three arbitrators evaluated the case at $2,550,000.

Given that both insurers refused to make any offer on a $2,550,000 case before the client had to file a lawsuit to get compensation, both State Farm Insurance and Indian Harbor Insurance now face insurance bad faith claims under the Unfair Settlement Practices Act (ORS 746.230) and Moody v. Oregon Community Credit Union, 371 Or 772 (2023), as the case returns to federal court.

If you need a Lyft crash lawyer in Oregon, our law firm has extensive experience with serioius injury cases against rideshare companies and their insurance companies. If you are seeking an experienced Oregon traumatic brain injury lawyer, or a lawyer with experience in a traumatic Superior Canal Dehiscence or neurosurgery, please call our office for a free consultation at (503) 227-1233.

About the
Author

Aaron DeShaw is a personal injury lawyer at DeShaw Trial Lawyers, a law firm representing injured people with serious injuries including brain injuries and other catastrophic injuries. He has individually, and in association with other law firms, obtained over $1 Billion for his clients. Learn more about Aaron and the Firm.