On March 18, 2018, in Tempe Arizona, a woman pushing her bike across the road at the intersection of Mill Avenue and Curry Road was struck and killed by an Uber self-driving vehicle in autonomous mode, marking a milestone in the Autonomous Vehicle revolution: the first human killed by a robo-car. Early reports state that the pedestrian was outside of the crosswalk at the time of the fatal collision.
Three years ago the New York Times covered the tragic death of Sophia Liu, the first pedestrian killed by a negligent Uber driver. Uber asserted it could not be liable for the collision that occurred on December 31, 2013, because its driver was not transporting a passenger at the time of the collision. Uber’s assertion that it bore no legal responsibility, if successful, would have been devastating for the Liu family. The driver had only the minimum insurance on his personal policy and no other assets. The bill for medical services alone for the family exceeded $500,000.
When they first began operating, Uber and Lyft failed to carry adequate insurance coverage for their drivers and were not governed by basic safety regulations applicable to other types of paid transportation networks, such as taxis. Under the law, Uber, Lyft and other such application-based, rideshare carriers are called Transportation Network Carriers “TNC.”
This week’s question comes from Phillip B. in Mountain View who asks, “My girlfriend was riding in an Uber vehicle in Southern California when the car was hit by a truck that was changing lanes. The Uber driver did nothing to cause the accident. The truck never stopped and no one got a license plate number or other identifying information. She was hurt in the collision, has racked up medical bills and missed time from work. She is going to have a tough recovery time. At the time of the collision she was riding with a friend who had the Uber account. Can she seek compensation for what happened to her and if so, from who?”
This week’s question comes from Aimee K, from the Outer Richmond, who asks: “I have been an Uber driver for the past two and a half years. I heard that Uber entered into a settlement that stated that we are employees and should have been compensated more than we were. Is this true, am I going to get some money from this?”
Aimee, the short answer is yes there is a class action in which there is a proposed settlement but it did not establish that Uber drivers are employees.
This week’s question comes from Janice G. in San Mateo who asks “I was being driven home from the airport to my house in San Diego in one of those shuttle van services. After dropping off two others I was the last passenger. I had given the guy my address when I got into the van. The driver, a middle aged guy started creeping me out as he asked me about myself such as whether I was single, married, had a boyfriend, etc.
This week’s question comes from James T in Freemont who asks: “I was traveling in a limo in LA with a colleague when, suddenly, the driver blacked out, slumped forward, and hit a wall. I had to jump over the seat and steer the car off the road. I got banged up pretty bad in the accident but we could have been killed. It turn out that he has a seizure disorder. He told me that this hadn’t happened before while driving. He said he had been up late on a job the night before. He was vague as to whether the company knew about his disorder. What are my rights? Who is responsible for the harm caused to me? I’m in physical pain and this has been very upsetting. I’m even having nightmares.
Rideshare company Uber recently filed a response in the Sofia Liu wrongful death case.
A wrongful death claim was filed against the company by San Francisco lawyer Chris Dolan on behalf of the family of Sofia Liu, a 6-year-old girl who was killed on New Year’s Eve when she and her family were run over by a Uber driver named Syed Muzzafar.
Most recently, multiple taxi and limo companies in San Antonio and Houston have sued the companies for violating local vehicle-for-hire ordinances.
Recent expansions in cities such as Cleveland have also drawn criticism due to safety and insurance concerns. The Ohio Department of Insurance issued a consumer alert advising would-be riders to use caution when deciding to use ride sharing or “transportation networking” companies.
A pedestrian in Nob Hill was hit by a Lyft car last week. The accident happened on Friday and is one of many recent accidents involving ride-share services such as Lyft and Uber.
A passenger was reportedly in the car when it ran into an elderly woman around 1:30 p.m. on Friday. Venture Beat reports that the woman’s leg was fractured and that she was rushed to San Francisco General Hospital for treatment.