If you're a passenger in an Uber or Lyft, and the rideshare vehicle is involved in a traffic accident, it's crucial to get prompt medical attention for any injuries or discomfort you're feeling. That's true not just for the sake of your health, but to protect your rights in any car accident case you decide to make.
Many attorneys have stories about clients coming into their offices saying they felt no pain at the scene of their car accident, or later the same day. But the following morning they woke up feeling intense discomfort in one or more parts of their body. These stories are credible—they're not examples of healthy people looking for a payout. Many times, people involved in car accidents don't even know they've been injured. One reason for this is that your body responds to pain signals and the stress of the accident by producing morphine-like hormones called endorphins. Endorphins (and adrenaline) can mask pain until your body and mind have had time to recover from the stress of the accident. It might take several hours or even several days for injuries or serious discomfort to fully register.
So, whenever you feel symptoms of injury after a car accident—pain, numbness, dizziness, not feeling like yourself, whatever it is—get medical treatment. Don't assume that your injuries will clear up on their own. Do the safe thing and get checked out.
Your health is paramount, obviously. But getting medical treatment is important to protect any personal injury claim you decide to file in connection with your Uber/Lyft accident. In any car accident case, the specifics of the plaintiff's injuries are critical. They shape the value of the case, making treatment and diagnosis essential first steps.
The nature and extent of injuries goes straight to the heart of the plaintiff's losses ("damages" in legalese). An Uber/Lyft passenger injury case almost always includes both "economic" damages—covering the cost of necessary medical care, lost income, and other quantifiable losses—and "non-economic" damages—applying to pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and similar, more subjective consequences of the plaintiff's injuries. (Learn more about how much your Uber/Lyft passenger injury case is worth.)
Most lawyers will not start a personal injury lawsuit until they have confirmed that a potential client has verifiable injuries that can be linked to the underlying accident. Some attorneys will arrange for a health assessment (a physical examination and imaging tests) for potential clients. Other times attorneys will order medical records from the potential client's doctor or hospital and send the material to medical experts for evaluation.
If your doctor does not think you have a diagnosable injury stemming from your rideshare vehicle accident, but a lawyer's medical expert thinks you do, you can take the expert's report to your own doctor for a follow-up exam, or seek a second opinion from a different doctor.
Defendants are usually entitled to see whatever medical information the plaintiff's lawyer has that's relevant to the case. If you have a case, your lawyer will probably need to provide the defense with a list of facilities where you've been examined or treated. The plaintiff's lawyer usually hands over this kind of information as "answers to interrogatories," part of the discovery phase.
When the defense attorneys decide they want to look at specific medical records the plaintiff's lawyer hasn't already provided, the plaintiff often has to give authorization allowing the release of further medical information. Because of privacy regulations, each authorization must be specific to the facility, so the plaintiff might have to sign a lot of forms.
Sometimes the defense asks for medical information by issuing a subpoena to a facility. If they take this route, they have to notify the plaintiff's attorney. If the request is for something inappropriate or irrelevant, the attorney can try to block the subpoena or review records first to protect the plaintiff's privacy.
Normally, the defense can also have its own medical expert examine the plaintiff (this step is called an "independent medical examination"). The plaintiff's attorney helps arrange such an exam and should protect the client from any improprieties, such as medical tests that aren't related to the plaintiff's claims.
If you have a rideshare passenger injury case and it gets to the point of a deposition (or even trial), the defense will ask you about your health generally, your accident injuries, your diagnosis, and your treatment. Sometimes plaintiffs' deposition (and trial) answers differ from their written answers to interrogatories because of a mistake in memory. These small discrepancies are normal and extremely unlikely to affect the plaintiff's case. If you have a case, you don't need to prove that your diagnosis is correct or even understand the medical details; expert witnesses will weigh in on those subjects.
It's not always clear where ultimate financial responsibility will rest in these types of cases—with the liability or uninsured motorist insurance coverage that both Uber and Lyft carry and provide to their drivers, with the rideshare driver (whose personal car insurance policy likely won't cover an accident that occurs after a passenger has been picked up), or with the driver of the other vehicle (if that's where fault for the car accident lies). If you're considering an injury claim after a rideshare vehicle accident, having an attorney on your side can make a big difference. Learn more about finding the right lawyer for you and your Uber/Lyft passenger injury case.