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Lyft’s Underinsured Motorist Carrier Denied Claim Due to Passenger Not Wearing Seatbelt

The rideshare company, Lyft, owns an underinsured motorist insurance policy that covers its drivers and riders while using its platform. If a driver or passenger suffers damages from another motorist who lacks sufficient coverage, the policy kicks in to supplement medical and repair expenses. However, for one Lyft passenger, the underinsured motorist policy was difficult to access. The carrier refused to cover his damages because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Jon C. Teller of Wilshire Law Firm represented the passenger, securing an $824,000 arbitration award.

As the Lyft vehicle attempted to make a left turn, the underinsured motorist collided with the front of the car opposite the driver. The passenger, a tall young man in his 20s, was jolted backward. His head slammed into the roof, generating downward force on his spine and shoulder. Even though the accident occurred at low speeds, it was enough to inflict serious injuries. Ultimately, the passenger required cervical fusion and shoulder arthroscopy surgeries to repair the damage.

The passenger contacted Jon C. Teller to navigate the complex web of insurance policies to cover his medical expenses. The underinsured driver paid out their $15,000 policy limit immediately. However, when Jon approached Lyft’s underinsured motorist carrier, they pushed back. First, they brought in a medical expert to downplay the accident, claiming it was no different than a game of “bumper cars”. Next, they asserted the passenger’s injuries stemmed from degradation, not trauma. Then, they argued that the passenger wouldn’t have sustained his injuries at all had he been wearing a seatbelt.

The Defense offered to settle the matter for $450,000. Jon declined.

John challenged the Defense's theories and enlisted his own experts, including a biomechanical engineer, an accident reconstructionist, and an orthopedic surgeon. They analyzed the forces the passenger was subjected to and concluded that a seatbelt would not have prevented his neck and shoulder injuries. However, persuading others of his argument was tricky. To fully demonstrate his point, he reached out to DK Global to take the case one step further with a visual demonstrative.

The animation started by demonstrating a virtual model of the passenger in the back seat of the Lyft vehicle. It then progressed to two divergent scenarios — one where the passenger was wearing a seatbelt during the collision and another without. In both cases, the passenger's head was seen violently hitting the seat, causing severe trauma to the head and neck area upon impact.

John showcased the animation during arbitration. Despite the Defense’s constant challenges, the arbiter ultimately awarded an astounding $824,000.

John C. Teller, a partner at Wilshire Law Firm, is an accomplished trial attorney, having successfully obtained over $115 million in personal injury settlements for his clients across the US. A member of the prestigious Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, in 2020 and 2019, Jon’s cases included two of the top 50 highest-value personal injury settlements in California with a $35 million verdict for an 81-year-old man who was rear-ended on the freeway and a landmark recovery of more than $28,000,000. In 2020, he was recognized as the “Consumer Attorney of the Year” by the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC) and was consecutively named “Top 40 under 40” by The National Trial Lawyers.

Wilshire Law Firm, PLC was founded in 2007 by Bobby Saadian. Bobby has been selected among the “Nation’s Top One Percent” of attorneys by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel (NADC). Notably, Bobby has been recognized with a Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating of “AV Preeminent” for his legal expertise.


"DK Global is always there to answer the phone and answer emails. They are there and understand what it means to put a presentation on for a judge or a jury."
Jon C. Teller - Wilshire Law Firm
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