Uber is one of the most popular taxi services, conveniently accessed through customer’s smartphones. Its services have expanded to 57 countries, and it is estimated worth has erupted to more than $40 billion.
However, it has generated dispute and resistance around the world, as the company’s operations continue to raise the question of public safety, negligent hiring, inadequate supervision, and workers' rights.
A family is suing after their daughter was tragically struck and killed on New Year’s Eve in 2013 by an Uber employee. The case in San Francisco Superior Court is Ang Liang Liu et al. vs. Uber Technologies et al., 14-536979.
Sofia Liu, 6, lost her life after being hit by driver Syed Muzzafar, 57, in a San Francisco crosswalk. Her mother, Huan Kuang, and 5-year-old brother, Anthony Liu also suffered injuries. The young girl’s family filed a lawsuit against the driver and the company, claiming the online mobile application used both by riders and drivers, counteracts with California’s distracted-driving laws.
The Police Report
San Francisco police cited the crash occurred at eight p.m. when Muzzafar, driving a Honda sports utility vehicle, failed to yield to the girl, her mother, and brother as they crossed Polk Street in a crosswalk near the Civic Center.
The Uber driver was arrested, on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Muzzafar is out of jail on bail and has not been charged.
Liu’s Family Files Charges
The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, cites that the driver of the vehicle who was at the time an Uber contractor was operating the companies UberX app when he lethally struck Sofia Liu and was waiting to receive and accept a ride request. If the law allows, Muzzafar would qualify as an agent or employee of Uber at the time of the deadly accident, and would also hold Uber accountable for Sofia's death.
That is a substantial claim because employers are usually held liable for the acts of their employees or representatives if done within the scope of their employment. The Liu’s contend Uber is responsible for Muzzafar’s behavior since he was using the companies app at the time of the accident.
However, Uber officials argue two points:
- 57-year-old of Union City was not providing services on the company’s primary UberX system because he did not have a passenger with him
- Drivers of Uber are categorized as independent contractors, not employees
Uber Application Promotes Distracted Driving
Another primary piece to Liu’s lawsuit is that the Uber application conflicts with California’s laws against distracted driving. Since it is obligatory for Uber X drivers to view the app and then quickly respond to requests for rides, drivers may spend time looking at their smartphones when their attention should be focused towards the road.
Breaking traffic laws that are structured to prevent injury and death-like Sophia's catastrophic accident- can steer a court to find the driver’s actions as negligent.
If Sofia’s family can prove her death was caused by Muzzafar’s negligence, both himself and Uber can face charges for a Wrongful Death Suit.
Commercial Liability Insurance Designed To Protect Riders
Also, last year it was decided by the California Public Utility Commission that Uber X and other “ride-sharing” services carry at least $1 million in commercial liability insurance for each driver, particularly for this type of incident.
Many believe such regulations solve and minimize legal uncertainties while also protecting riders. However, Joseph Lavitt, a law professor at UC Berkeley, says the new rules are vague leaving room for questions.
Though the rules instruct Uber to have insurance when drivers are “in transit to or during trips arranged through the Uber app,” the rules do not explain whether another job- related activities like checking fares are included, Lavitt said.
Since there are loopholes and “gray areas” left open, the issue could boil down to a detailed investigation about what Muzzafar was doing at the time of the accident.
The Liu’s lawsuit claims wrongful death, negligent hiring and supervision, negligence with a motor vehicle, and infliction of emotional distress. The suit asks for unspecified damages. It was reported the girl’s mother had spent weeks in a hospital and may never recover full use of her eye after reconstructive surgery.
Both the defense and the plaintiff bring forth solid points to sway the case in either direction. While the driver should undoubtedly be held liable for the death of Sofia, certain statutes and regulations may place barriers upon Uber's liability.
If nothing else the outcome of Sofia’s suit could weigh heavily on how technology companies like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar-popular ride service organizations should be regulated, and to what degree they should be held liable for the future actions of their drivers.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one due to the carelessness of another person or company, you may have a valid Wrongful Death Suit. The Brown Firm is well-versed in the laws and statute of limitations involving your injuries after suffering an accident that wasn't your fault. We will happily support you and answer any questions you may have about your accident.