Ride share service Uber has reached a confidential settlement agreement with the family of a 6-year-old girl who was killed after being struck by an Uber driver in a crosswalk in San Francisco New Year’s Eve 2013.
The girl’s mother and younger brother were also struck, but survived. At the time of the crash, the driver was logged into the Uber app and was available to provide rides, though he wasn’t technically on a trip. Uber had fixated on this point in arguing it was not responsible because the driver was in between trips.
The case has raised questions about how liability should be apportioned in cases where these low-cost transportation services are being utilized.
In a typical case involving a taxi or livery cab, usually a car accident attorney could seek to hold the company or vehicle owner accountable by way of vicarious liability principles. However, most ride share companies insist they are brokers, not employers. Those who drive for them are independent contractors, they insist, not employees, and that makes a difference in how liability is determined. Plus, the vehicles being driven in ride share services are, by and large, private vehicles owned by those drivers. Those private vehicles are insured by private auto insurance policies, unlike most commercial vehicle policies that require larger premiums. Plus, most personal auto insurance policies won’t cover a driver who is working.
While some of those ride-sharing services say they carry $1 million in commercial liability coverage, those plans are considered excess coverage. That means it only kicks in if there is a valid insurance plan in place to start. If a driver’s insurance won’t cover damages resulting from a wreck, the excess policy might not kick in either – or at least, that’s what they’ll argue.
In the end, this leaves riders who are injured while using the service vulnerable, though some ride sharing firms insist their policy will cover riders for injuries if the driver’s insurance does not.
Cities across the country are wrangling with the question of how to license and regulate these drivers. The services began cropping up in larger cities about a decade ago, and have gained increasing popularity.
In the fatal crash involving the young girl, the company did not admit liability, but did say they hope the settlement allows her family to heal.
Florida too has seen its share of ride-sharing car accidents in recent years.
An Uber service driver and passenger were injured in May when the SUV rolled over onto its roof while traveling to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Another driver from the service was involved in a wreck in March. It is alleged the driver, age 75, struck a motorcyclist in Palm Beach. Motorcyclist, 19, said he sustained injuries, but has had a difficult time getting insurance information from the ride-sharing service to defray the cost of his medical bills, which have exceeded $75,000. The motorcyclist is now suing the ride share service to recover his costs. That case is pending.
Uber is a $40 billion company. Although it’s one of the largest in Florida, a number of others have gained popularity as well.
If you are injured in a crash involving a driver with Uber, Lyft or some other ride-sharing service, expect there will be complications. Trust your case to an injury lawyer with experience.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Uber settles wrongful death lawsuit in San Francisco, July 15, 2015, By Dan Levine, Reuters
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