Taxi Cab Accidents: Who is Liable for Injuries?

A taxi cab's involvement in a car accident doesn't affect your ability to make an injury claim, but it could affect the outcome.

Especially in larger cities, it's not uncommon for a traffic accident to involve a taxi cab. For example, you might be involved in an accident where a taxi hits your vehicle, or you might be riding as a passenger in a cab when it's involved in a crash.

From a legal standpoint, the fact that a taxi is involved does not affect your ability to make a claim for your car accident injuries. It could, however, affect the outcome of your claim, in part because a cab driver is dependent on driving a cab for their livelihood, so they may be more prone to fight car accident liability far more vigorously than the average driver might. Let's take a closer look at these kinds of cases.

When a Taxi Hits Your Vehicle

If a taxi cab hits the car that you are driving (or one you're riding in as a passenger), that is a standard two-car accident case. The person bringing the claim must be able to prove two things in order to win the case: liability (who was at fault for the car accident) and damages (how badly the claimant was injured). Bottom line: If you can prove that the taxi cab driver was negligent, you're likely to win the case (although that's easier said than done; more on this later).

When You're Injured as a Taxi Passenger

If you are a passenger in a taxi cab that gets into an accident with another car, that is a standard passenger car accident injury case. In general, a passenger who gets hurt in a car accident usually has an easier case than a driver, because the passenger does not have to worry about proving liability. It is almost impossible to have a two-car accident without at least one of the drivers being deemed negligent. So the passenger can typically file a third-party car insurance claim (or a personal injury lawsuit) against one or both drivers, and let them sort out liability.

What to Do After the Accident

The first thing you should do after any car accident is get the names and contact information of all people involved in the crash, and of all witnesses. The second thing you should do is take pictures immediately -- of the accident scene, the cars involved, accident debris, or anything else that's relevant -- from as many angles as you can.

You should also call the police and ask that an officer be dispatched to the accident scene. Many states have a law requiring that local law enforcement be informed if a car accident causes bodily injury or more than minor property damage, but, especially after a taxi cab accident, you will generally want details of the crash preserved in a police report, so make sure law enforcement comes to the scene.

Filing an Injury Claim After a Taxi Cab Accident

Again, a taxi cab accident claim proceeds just like any other type of car accident claim. If you were a driver and the taxi hit your car, you can file a third-party insurance claim with the taxi’s insurer, or take the matter to court via a personal injury lawsuit. If you were a passenger in the cab, you would file claims with the insurers of all of the drivers involved unless one of the drivers was obviously not negligent. If the accident took place in a no-fault car insurance state, you would probably file a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or no-fault claim for your medical bills and lost earnings under your own coverage (if you have it) or against the insurer for the car you were riding in (since passengers are covered under a driver's no-fault coverage).

Problems in Settling Passenger Claims

Two problems can arise in taxi cab accident claims: 1) in a two-car accident where both drivers may be at fault, the insurers often dispute the extent of each driver’s liability, and 2) multiple passenger injury claims can exhaust the available insurance coverage. Let’s take a look at both of these situations.

In a two-car accident in which both drivers are at fault, the insurers often play hardball with each other and with the injured passenger, hoping that someone else will give up and accept a less-than-favorable car accident settlement.

Let’s assume that both drivers are equally at fault and the passenger’s claim is worth about $200,000. That means each insurer should pay about $100,000 to settle the case. But if one of the insurers believes that its driver is only 40% at fault, it may only be willing to settle for $80,000. Since the other insurer won’t want to pay $120,000 to settle, the case can’t get settled unless the injured passenger agrees to accept less than what the case is worth. Here, the passenger is basically being held hostage by the insurers' dispute. Usually, the insurers will come to an agreement, but not always, and sometimes not until the day the case is set to go to trial in civil court.

The second problem in settling taxi cab accident cases is where there are multiple injured passengers. In that situation, the total value of all of the injury claims may exceed the available car insurance coverage. That means each injured person will have to settle with the negligent driver for less than what his/her case is worth, or try to hold the driver personally responsible outside of the insurance realm, which can be extremely challenging. Once insurance coverage is exceeded, the challenge of collecting is akin to that of making a claim against an uninsured driver.

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