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Popular Ride-services Company Facing Wrongful Death Lawsuit

People here in Tennessee and across the U.S. are more than likely familiar with Uber, the technology company behind the smartphone app that connects people looking for a ride with freelance drivers looking to collect a fare. What they not be familiar with, however, is that Uber is currently facing a wrongful death lawsuit that could fundamentally change the way it — and other ride-service companies — do business.

The lawsuit was filed by the family of a young girl who died while crossing the street with family members this past New Year’s Eve.

According to the complaint, the girl, along with her mother and brother were crossing the street at a crosswalk near the Civic Center in San Francisco at around 8 p.m. on Dec. 31, when a sport utility vehicle failed to yield the right of way, striking both the girl and her mother.

Sadly, the girl was killed in the collision, while the mother had to be hospitalized with serious personal injuries. It was later determined that the SUV driver was contracted with Uber, meaning the company took a portion of every ride booked in exchange for his ability to use their system.

The wrongful death lawsuit, which names both the driver and Uber as defendants, alleges that the SUV driver was logged onto the Uber phone app at the time of the fatal pedestrian accident and actively waiting for a fare.

It goes on to claim that the design of the Uber phone app not only directly contributed to the death of the six-year-old girl, but also violates the state’s distracted driving law, which permits only hands-free talking and listening.

Specifically, the lawsuit claims that the design of the Uber phone app is such that Uber drivers must physically interact with the app by tapping the screen at least once to accept fares and that this motion, which requires the driver to divert their attention for a few seconds, is in violation of state law.

According to legal experts, some interesting issues will likely be examined during the trial, including what technically counts as compliance with the state’s distracted driving law and whether a contracted driver between fares is considered covered under a ride-services company’s state-mandated insurance coverage.

It should be noted that the first-of-its-kind wrongful death lawsuit, which also alleges negligent hiring and supervision, infliction of emotional distress, and negligence with a motor vehicle, is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

Stay tuned for updates on this fascinating case…

If you have been seriously injured in a car accident or are mourning the wrongful death of a loved one in a pedestrian accident, remember that you may be able to hold the negligent parties accountable for their actions. An experienced legal professional can advise you of your rights and explore your options.

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle, “Uber sued over girl’s death in S.F.,” Kale Williams and Kurtis Alexander, Jan. 28, 2014

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