There's a new way to get around these days - on-demand transportation services such as those provided by Uber Technologies. Arizona residents can use the company's app, which provides an opportunity for drivers without commercial licenses to earn a few dollars transporting folks who request a ride online. While working to convince regulators the idea is safe, the company now must defend itself in a wrongful death lawsuit filed this week.
In the complaint, the family of a six-year-old claims the driver was logged into the application when he struck the mother, brother and sister. The 57-year-old driver has not yet been charged. The accident is still under investigation according to his lawyer. Reportedly, he was waiting to be contacted by a rider when he turned into the intersection where the fatal accident took place.
The complaint is the first wrongful death action against the company. It has faced criticism in some cities for using drivers who have only regular licenses. The company maintains the driver was not providing a trip on the Uber system at the time. They deny insurance to the driver because there was no passenger in the car when the family was hit. The parents allege Uber has control over the drivers because they must adhere to company-conducted driving and background checks, vehicle inspections and formally apply as drivers. Negligence is also part of the claim, with unspecified damages requested.
According to plaintiffs' counsel, the decision in this case will determine if a company such as Uber can externalize business costs to the people and property on the streets around their drivers. Another aspect involves negligent conduct due to the alleged distracted state of the driver using a mobile phone--the subject of ever-growing laws and ordinances across the country.
Compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one is deserved no matter who or what entity ends up bearing the responsibility. A fatal accident is a tragedy. Gaining a clear understanding of what options are available to survivors and planning for recovery allow for the best future security.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "Uber sued over 6-year-old’s traffic death" No author given, Jan. 29, 2014