Disclaimer - By publishing this information on this Web site, the Boston, Massachusetts law firm of Altman & Altman LLP is not claiming to represent any clients or cases mentioned here. The content provided is designed to inform readers and is not intended as legal advice.

A statute of limitations is a state-specific limit placed on the amount of time that can transpire between when an incident occurs and when the plaintiff can file a complaint about the incident. Both civil and criminal cases may be subject to a statute of limitations.

Statutes of limitations in criminal cases are generally longer than those in civil cases. In some criminal cases, such as murder and rape of a child, there is no statute of limitations. This means that a 50-year-old woman can come forward about having been raped as a child, and her attacker can still be punished for the crime.

When it comes to civil cases such as personal injury lawsuits, however, the statute of limitations is typically only a few years. In MA, if anyone suffers injuries or property damage in a motor vehicle accident, their lawsuit must be filed within three years of the crash. A MA personal injury attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

What About Wrongful Death Claims?

Things get a bit trickier if someone is killed in an auto accident. Although the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is still three years in MA, the clock on these cases doesn’t start running until the victim dies. If the death occurred on the day of the accident, the three-year clock would begin on that day. If, however, the victim dies from related injuries weeks or months after the accident, the three-year countdown would begin on a different date than that of the accident.

Discovery Rule

In MA, there is one main exception to the three-year statute of limitations on car accidents. It’s called the “discovery rule.” In rare instances, the injured party in an auto accident may be temporarily unaware that he has been injured, or that the accident caused his injuries. Take Bob, for example. Bob is involved in a crash caused by a teen who was texting while driving. Although the accident was serious, Bob insists that he wasn’t injured, and the teen’s insurance covers the damage to the vehicle. About three weeks later, Bob goes to the hospital complaining of serious pain in his side. During a medical examination, doctors discover that one of Bob’s ribs is broken. Under the discovery rule, the date that the broken rib was discovered is the date that the three-year clock starts ticking.

Don’t Miss the Deadline

If you wait too long and miss the three-year deadline, the court will likely refuse your case. We cannot stress enough the importance of acting in a timely manner if you have been harmed due to another’s negligence. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident. Continue reading

We all know that distracted driving is a problem, and that smart phones and other electronic devices only make it worse. But what about other types of distraction, such as eating and daydreaming? According to a recent report, nearly 3,500 people die annually in distraction-related auto accidents, and another 400,000 are seriously injured. Although many of these accidents involve a hand-held electronic device, some do not. What other forms of distraction are taking lives on U.S. roadways each year? Read on to find out.

Types of Distraction

When it comes to driving in Boston,  there are three types of distractions. These are visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions take your eyes off the road. manual distractions take your hands off the wheel, and cognitive distractions take your mind off driving. Texting and using social media are so dangerous because they involve all three. A Boston motor vehicle accident attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Top 10 Causes of Distracted Driving Accidents

  • Daydreaming: If you are mentally focused on something other than the road, your risk of a crash increases dramatically. For this reason, it is important to avoid getting behind the wheel if you are not in a state of mind to focus on the road. If a serious life event is causing you distress, you may want to take a break from driving until you feel better.
  • Talking, texting, and using social media: Basically, this refers to any use of an electronic device. Although hand-held devices are most distracting, even hands-free devices can take your mind and vision from the road. If you have to make or receive a call or text, pull over in a safe location before doing so. To resist the temptation to glance at a text, put your smart phone on drive mode before you hit the road.
  • Rubber-necking: Allowing yourself to be distracted by accidents, police stops, construction sites, or nearby drivers can be deadly.
  • Passengers: Interacting with passengers causes about five percent of annual distracted driving-related accidents. This is especially true when young children are involved. To reduce the risk of this type of accident, make sure that children are safely buckled, do not turn around while driving, avoid reaching in the backseat to give them a toy, and do not allow them to eat while you are driving.
  • Adjusting vehicle controls: You can become manually, visually and cognitively distracted when you change the radio station, adjust the vehicle’s temperature, put on or take off your seat belt, and adjust your mirrors.
  • Eating and drinking: Consuming food and drinks contributes to two percent of distracted driving-related accidents each year. A MA auto accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by a distracted driver.
  • Reaching: When we take our eyes off the road to reach for a map, food, an electronic device or a child’s toy, we can become dangerously distracted.
  • Smoking: Lighting, smoking, putting out and accidentally dropping a cigarette are all forms of distraction.

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Although all drivers are at risk for motor vehicle accidents, drivers for ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft seem to be disproportionately prone to accidents, even as they face other challenges.

For starters, working shifts for Uber and Lyft drivers can be excessively long, sometimes lasting all day and going late into the night. Add to that the constant stress of  rush hour deadlines, customer satisfaction, and navigating Boston traffic from customer to customer, and you have the perfect recipe for distraction.

Are Uber and Lyft Bad for the Driver?

When an Uber or Lyft driver has an accident, safety isn’t the only concern. Their source of income is also on the line.  When a ride-sharing driver is no longer able to work due to on-the-job injuries, lost wages and an onslaught of medical bills can financially destroy the driver.

Ride-sharing drivers often live under the pretense that Uber or Lyft will protect them if an accident prevents them from working. But, this is simply not true. They are independent contractors, not employees.

With the rise of ride-share apps, there has been a rise in accidents. A Boston personal injury attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been involved in an Uber or Lyft auto accident.

Are Uber and Lyft Bad for the Passenger?

Uber and Lyft drivers need to submit a background check before transporting their first customer. If the background check reveals a criminal history or bad driving record, they won’t be approved to drive for the company. But this doesn’t automatically mean that Uber and Lyft contractors are good drivers, or even good people. From fatal collisions to assault and rape, Uber and Lyft drivers have been linked to multiple acts of negligence and criminal behaviors. A MA auto accident lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in an Uber or Lyft accident.

Common Causes of Uber and Lyft Accidents

As with any motor vehicle accident, Uber and Lyft accidents can occur at any time, and for any reason. But the most common causes of these accidents include:

  • Lack of sleep: Uber and Lyft drivers often work excessively-long shifts, seven days a week. Such long hours can cause fatigue, which may result in a lack of the concentration needed to operate a vehicle. On a positive note, however, Uber has recently added a rule that drivers cannot put in more than 12 hours in any 24-hour period. The ride-share company is also sending alerts to drivers to take breaks and rest. Even so, a 12-hour work day can result in a fatigued driver.
  • Poor vehicle maintenance: If the vehicle has maintenance issues that could cause an accident, and the driver knows it, he or she could be held liable for any resulting injuries or damages. Maintenance issues may include improperly inflated or bald tires, a cracked windshield, faulty brakes, and worn out brake pads.
  • Negligent drivers: Careless or distracted drivers also cause Uber and Lyft Poor driving behaviors, such as speeding and aggressive driving, have been linked to multiple Uber and Lyft accidents.
  • Drivers who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs: Although not as common, there have been reports of Uber and Lyft drivers who have transported customers while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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Driverless cars will likely be the main mode of transportation in the future, but that future may be a bit more distant than expected. A self-driving taxi pilot project in Las Vegas ended with less-than-desirable results last week. After only a few hours of shuttling people around the city, the driverless van collided with a delivery truck as it was backing into an alley to make a delivery. According to the initial investigation, the human driver did something that the robot car couldn’t have anticipated.

Last Wednesday, the pod-like shuttle was on day one of offering complimentary rides around a small loop in Vegas. No one was injured in the collision, but it is cause for concern. It also brings to light a glaring issue that designers of driverless vehicles have yet to figure out – how can self-driving vehicles effectively interact with those driven by humans?

“This is exactly the kind of real-world scenario that this pilot is attempting to learn from,” said John Moreno, AAA spokesman. “This is one of the most advanced pieces of technology on the planet, and it’s just now learning how to interact with humans and human driving.”

Robots Don’t Understand Nonverbal Communication

The reality is, humans use nonverbal communication signals when driving every day. The truck, which was backing up when it shouldn’t have been, collided into the driverless pod stopped behind it. Had a human been driving the pod, he or she would have likely given in to the truck’s nonverbal request to “get out of my way,” by backing up. Had there not been another vehicle behind the pod, it may have done the same. However, the pod appeared to freeze in place, unable to determine how to react – can’t move forward, can’t back up.

According to a reporter who was on board at the time of the incident, a human would have probably responded differently. “We had about 20 feet of empty street behind us (I looked) and most human drivers would have thrown the car into reverse and used some of that space to get away from the truck,” wrote Jeff Zurschmeide, a reporter for Digitaltrends.com. “Or at least leaned on the horn and made our presence harder to miss. The shuttle didn’t have those responses in its program.”

Police arrived at the scene, issuing a ticket to the truck driver.

The purpose the the AAA-sponsored pilot program is to expose riders to driverless technology and determine how these vehicles perform in real-world situations. There is a human operator on board during the pilot rides, but the incident simply happened too quickly for the operator to react. A Boston car accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

The Las Vegas pilot project incident isn’t the first crash involving a driverless car. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) criticized Tesla Inc.’s semi-autonomous systems in September, referencing a fatal 2016 accident involving the Tesla Model S. The Model S allows the driver to go “hands-free” for an extended period. Basically, it can steer itself. Unfortunately, a driver in Florida was killed when his Model S, which was steering itself at the time, crashed into a truck. NTSB ruled that, although the human drivers were the main cause of the accident, the autopilot design was a contributing factor.

This recent self-driving accident in Las Vegas shows the difficulties that driverless vehicles have when it comes to nonverbal communication. This type of communication occurs with great frequency between human drivers every day. The truck driver may not have seen the pod, but it’s more likely that he expected it to move.

“He probably had an expectation that the shuttle would back off and allow him to do his thing,” said Duke University robotics professor Missy Cummings. “Obviously that doesn’t work. There wasn’t the logic inside this little shuttle to anticipate this.” A MA auto accident attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

Harsh winters and less-than-ideal driving conditions are a fact of life in New England. If we could all avoid driving when roadways are covered with snow and ice, winterizing our vehicles wouldn’t be so important. But the reality is, most of us can’t avoid driving when the weather outside is frightful. The need to commute to work, shuttle the kids to and from school and sports practices, and run errands doesn’t go away during the winter months. Read on for more information about how to dramatically reduce your risk of being involved in a winter weather-related motor vehicle accident.

Don’t Get Left Out in the Cold

Follow the tips below to ensure that your vehicle is ready for winter driving conditions.

  • Check your windshield wipers. The life cycle of a wiper blade is not particularly long; they generally need replaced every year. Get new wipers if you’re due, and make sure that your wiper fluid is full while you’re at it.
  • Get an oil change and ensure that you use the right type of oil for the season. Oil thickens when the temperatures drop, so you may need a thinner oil than you would use during summer months.
  • Keep your gas tank as close to full as possible during winter months. If you get stranded, you can’t run the heat if your car runs out of gas. A Boston auto accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a car accident.
  • Take your vehicle in for a check up. Winter weather can take a toll on batteries, belts, and hoses. To give your car a chance, it’s a good idea to ensure that these parts are in solid, working order at the start of the season. Repair shops can determine if your battery is strong enough to hold a charge, and that your belts and hoses don’t have excessive wear and tear. If you have four-wheel drive, your mechanic can also make sure that it’s working properly.
  • Good tires are essential during winter months. Poor inflation and / or tread can result in poor traction, a situation which is only made worse when roads are covered in snow, slush, or ice. Tire pressure generally drops with outside temps. Consult your owner’s manual to determine what your tire pressure should be, and fill it to that level. Keep in mind that over-inflated tires can be just as dangerous as under-inflated tires. Also ensure that your tires have adequate tread. “Bald” tires can be deadly any time of year, but especially in winter. If it’s time to invest in new tires, consider getting snow tires.
  • Put an “emergency kit” in your truck. If you have an accident or break down on a less-traveled roadway or late at night, you may be stranded for a few hours or more. Keep yourself safe and comfortable by storing the following items in your car during winter months:
  • Blankets
  • Boots, gloves, and scarf
  • Set of warm clothes, including socks
  • Bottles of water and non-perishable snacks
  • Flashlight
  • Snow shovel
  • Ice scraper
  • Flares
  • Spare tire
  • Jumper cables
  • Tools to change a tire
  • First-aid kit
  • A bag of sand or kitty litter for traction if stuck in snow
  • If you do get stranded, stay with your vehicle unless you know exactly where you are and how to quickly walk to safety. If you have cell reception, call for help. Light your flares and place at both ends of your vehicle. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a car accident.

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According to recent research, car crashes are one of the top causes of death for U.S. teens. Fortunately, the vast majority of these deaths are easily preventable. Research conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) concluded that this risk is highest during the first 18 months after a teen becomes licensed to drive. In fact, novice teen drivers have four times the risk of their more experienced counterparts.

“Teen drivers, particularly novice ones, are overrepresented in U.S. fatality and injury crash statistics. The extraordinarily high teen crash rates are unacceptable and it is our core mission to save lives,” said Charlie Klauer, a VTTI researcher and head of the institute’s Teen Risk and Injury Prevention Group. “We believe that we can reduce these high crash rates through education, engineering, and enforcement for all of the risks that face teen drivers.” A Boston motor vehicle accident lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a car accident.

Primary Risk Factors

The combination of inexperience and the feeling of invincibility among teen drivers can be a recipe for disaster. Inexperience can only be solved with time and practice. If possible, new drivers should avoid driving at night, with non-adult passengers, and on the interstate for at least the first few months. The feeling of invincibility common during the teen years is more of a challenge. The best way to combat this problem is through education, constant safety reminders, and the modeling of good driving behaviors. Remind your kids about the risks of speeding and distracted driving. They might seem annoyed, but studies show that parents who preach and practice safe driving behaviors have kids who do the same. The key risk factors of teen drivers include:

  • Distraction
  • Speeding
  • Hard braking
  • Driving at night

According to Klauer, increasing distractions brought on by the impact of mobile devices is one of the greatest risks affecting teen drivers today. And this risk doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

“One out of every five young drivers in the United States is involved in a collision within the first six months of driving, often because they are distracted. We cannot stress enough the importance of educating teen drivers, parents, and the public at large about potential risks and the best methods to alleviate them. That way, we can provide the guidance and best practices teen drivers need to stay safe on the roads,” Klauer said. A MA car accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in an auto accident.

Teen Crash Statistics

  • More than 5,000 teens between the ages of 16 and 20 die annually in car accidents.
  • More than 400,000 teens in the same age group are seriously injured in car accidents every year.
  • The risk of being killed in a car crash is highest for teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 19.
  • Teens make up approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 12 percent of all fatal auto accidents.
  • Teen drivers account for more about 30 percent of all total car accident costs in the U.S., that’s approximately $26 billion annually.
  • The motor vehicle accident death rate is more than one and a half times greater for male teens than for female teens.

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The dangers of driving drunk are well known. But what about driving tired? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatigued or drowsy driving leads to more than 100,000 reported accidents annually in the United States.

When it comes to driving, fatigue is an impairment, much like alcohol. One major difference between fatigued driving and drunk driving, however, is that fatigue cannot be easily measured with a breath or blood test. If you think a fatigued driver is responsible for your injuries, a Boston personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages.

Symptoms of Fatigued Driving

If you think you are too tired to drive safely, don’t get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, people often don’t realize they are fatigued until it’s too late. Below are some common symptoms of driver fatigue. If you notice yourself doing any of these things, pull over.

  • Repeated yawning
  • Difficulty focusing, both visually and cognitively
  • Head nodding
  • Daydreaming
  • Drifting in and out of your lane
  • Rubbing your eyes
  • Frequent blinking
  • Hallucinating

Risk Factors for Fatigued Driving

Most of us have had at least one or two experiences with fatigued driving, but some people drive while drowsy on a daily basis. This is of special concern for long-haul truck drivers, late shift workers, and medical professionals who put in 12 and 14-hour shifts. Driver fatigue is also common among people with obesity, certain health problems, and those who smoke. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs are also notorious for causing driver fatigue. Talk to your health care provider about these risks if you are currently taking any type of medication. You may have a high risk of driver fatigue if you:

  • are between the ages of 16 and 29.
  • are a shift worker who works irregular hours, or at night.
  • have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, such as narcolepsy.

Fatigued driving can be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. In both scenarios, our reaction time is slower, our judgment is impaired, and our overall awareness is significantly decreased. We may also develop aggressive behaviors and become moody or irritable when fatigued, none of which support safe driving practices. When we are unfocused and agitated, the chance for a collision increases dramatically. Not to mention, fatigued driving can lead to falling asleep behind the wheel, which rarely ends well.

Fatigued Driving Statistics

The statistics below provide a deeper look into the problem of fatigued driving, and how you can avoid becoming a statistic.

  • Approximately one in 25 adults say they have fallen asleep behind the wheel in the previous 30 days.
  • Individuals who snore are more likely to fall asleep while driving.
  • More than 6,000 traffic fatalities annually are caused by fatigued or drowsy driving.
  • Men are nearly twice as likely as women to fall asleep behind the wheel.
  • Fatigued driving is more common among adults with young children in the household.
  • An Australian study revealed that being awake for 24 hours produces a level of impairment equal to that of an intoxicated person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10, which is well above the legal limit.
  • A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) revealed that only about one in five drivers pulls over to nap when fatigued.
  • Younger adults are less likely to pull over when tired than their older counterparts.

If you feel fatigue coming on while driving, protect yourself and anyone with whom you share the road. Pull over. A 20-minute nap may just save your life. A MA auto accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another driver’s negligence. Continue reading

It should be obvious, shouldn’t it? Using Facebook or Instagram while driving is a bad idea. But knowing what’s right and doing what’s right are two entirely different things. Unfortunately, statistics show that although we may know the dangers of using social media while driving, we’re still doing it. A recent survey sponsored by the National Safety Council revealed that 74% of those surveyed use Facebook while driving, and 37% use Twitter. YouTube and Instagram came in close behind. People are even playing video games while driving. Last year, a Maryland man crashed into a parked police car while playing “Pokemon Go.”

In 2008, Jennifer Smith’s mother was killed when a 20-year-old who was using her cell phone drove through a red light. “As I’m talking to new families, more and more of them are telling me, ‘It’s Snapchat,’ ” said Smith. “It’s Snapchat today, but then what is it tomorrow? You know, we’ve got the ‘Pokemon Go’ coming, and then it’s the next thing.” Smith works full time to lobby for legislation that will prevent accidents like the one that killed her mother. “Social networking while driving is not necessary and should not be done by anyone, in any way, who’s driving. Period. And somehow we’ve got to make the whole country understand that.” A MA auto accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by a distracted driver.

Distracted Driving Likely a Factor in One-Quarter of all Crashes in Massachusetts and Around the Country

Unfortunately, it looks like we have a long way to go before drivers – especially young drivers – change their distracted-driving habits. In a recent survey of 2,500 teens, nearly 70 percent admitted to using apps while they drive. Only six percent of those surveyed said they think that social media is the most distracting behavior while driving. But distracted driving kills an average of eight people every day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And that is likely a massive underestimation. Proving that an accident was caused by distracted driving isn’t an easy thing to do. The National Safety Council estimates that distracted driving is actually responsible for about 25 percent of all crashes.

Social Media Slows Reaction Time More than Alcohol

In fact, according to a study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory and the Institute of Advanced Motorists, the reaction time for a driver who has been drinking is reduced by 12 percent; for someone on their smart phone, it’s a 38 percent reduction. And the use of social media is making things even worse. Kids are growing up in a society where it’s socially acceptable to post a picture of the congested traffic they’re sitting in on their drive home. Distracted driving is never ok. A Boston auto accident attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by a distracted driver. Continue reading

Every day thousands of people in and around the Boston metro area rely on the Massachusetts Bay Transit Association (MBTA) for transportation. MBTA provides several public transportation options, including busses, ferries, commuter rail, and the subway. According to the American Public Transportation Service, MBTA’s commuter rail service – nicknamed the “T” –  is one of the busiest in the nation. On the average weekday, more than one million people use its subway system. Unfortunately, with such high ridership – and some serious maintenance issues – MBTA accidents are relatively common. When an injury accident is a result of negligence, the victim may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

Common Carriers

According to MA state law, MBTA and other transportation companies are held to a higher standard of care due to their classification as “common carriers.” When this standard is violated, MBTA may be liable for resulting injuries and damages. Although some accidents occur due to the excessive speed of trains or busses, they are more likely to occur at MBTA train and subway stations due to unsafe conditions on platforms, stairs, or escalators. A Boston MBTA accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a MBTA-related accident.

Recent MBTA Accidents

In August, a female pedestrian was killed after being struck and run over by a MBTA swing-loader. The vehicle was being used in a three-month bridge project near the Central Street MBTA station. In 2016, a male pedestrian in Dorchester was hit by a MBTA bus, suffering life-threatening injuries. The victim later died. Also last year, the engine of an Orange Line MBTA train overheated, igniting some trash. Train cars quickly filled with smoke, and passengers had to break windows to escape. Fortunately, everyone survived, but three people were hospitalized.

Some of the Orange Line trains are decades old, and maintenance has been marginal at best. Sadly, the incidents above are just a few of the many MBTA-related accidents that have occurred over the last few years. Many have been fatal. So, what’s going on?

Drowning in Debt

Lack of funding and maintenance issues have plagued MBTA for years. The company is drowning in debt and has a repair backlog in the billions. “The problem we have is a problem of literally decades of disinvestment,” said former Massachusetts DOT director Jim Aloisi. But ridership only continues to grow. A MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a MBTA-related accident.

Types of Accidents

Accidents involving trains and subways often result in serious injuries, including head trauma, bone fractures, and internal injuries. Minor injuries, such as sprains and bruising, may also occur. In recent years, MBTA accidents have involved:

  • Trains colliding with vehicles
  • Pedestrian accidents involving trains and busses
  • Slip and fall accidents due to negligent maintenance of MBTA locations
  • Passengers falling when trains stop suddenly and unexpectedly
  • Negligent railway design
  • Lack of adequate warning signage for hazards or oncoming trains
  • Train derailment
  • Fatigued or distracted conductors and drivers
  • Hazardous cargo spills
  • Excessive speed

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Ride sharing apps like Lyft and Uber have taken cities by storm. Being able to herald a ride from anywhere at any time is not only incredibly convenient (not having to rely solely on the T is certainly a positive), it also makes the streets safer as fewer people are inclined to engage in inebriated driving when such a service is available. But what happens if your driver crashes and injures you? In such a case, our experienced Boston personal injury attorneys are here to help.

Drivers who sign up to be a part of Uber or Lyft must undergo checks for safe driving and background checks to ensure that they don’t have a history of criminal activity. For Uber, potential drivers must fork over a whole host of information, including their full name, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number, a copy of their driver’s license, vehicle registration, insurance policy information and proof of a valid, completed vehicle inspection. Drivers must also have reliable cars that do not pose a safety risk to passengers.

However just because these checks are implemented prior to the drivers earning employment with the companies, this does not ensure that they will be properly checked for continued safety standards throughout the length of their employment. Perhaps their car has experienced a recent mechanical issue that makes the car unsafe, but the driver does not disclose this fact to Uber of Lyft for fear of being let go.

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