The family of a six-year-old girl who was struck and killed during a traffic accident in San Francisco involving an Uber driver is now suing the company for wrongful death. But Uber claims that because the driver didn’t have anyone in his car at the time, the company isn’t responsible.
The driver was using the Uber app at the time, which allows drivers to find and accept fares. He’s also been named in a civil suit, reports Ars Technica.
Uber’s argument is that because the driver “was not providing services on the Uber system during the time of the accident,” the company is not responsible.
It’s unclear if Uber would be liable if there had been a passenger in the car during the accident.
Ars points out that in Uber’s Terms of Service the company stresses — in all caps, no less — that it’s not liable for basically anything. It’s just a means to an end:
THE COMPANY DOES NOT PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES, AND THE COMPANY IS NOT A TRANSPORTATION CARRIER. IT IS UP TO THE THIRD PARTY TRANSPORTATION PROVIDER, DRIVER, OR VEHICLE OPERATOR TO OFFER TRANSPORTATION SERVICES WHICH MAY BE SCHEDULED THROUGH USE OF THE APPLICATION OR SERVICE. THE COMPANY OFFERS INFORMATION AND A METHOD TO OBTAIN SUCH THIRD PARTY TRANSPORTATION SERVICES BUT DOES NOT AND DOES NOT INTEND TO PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES OR ACT IN ANY WAY AS A TRANSPORTATION CARRIER AND HAS NO RESPONSIBILITY OR LIABILITY FOR ANY TRANSPORTATION SERVICES PROVIDED TO YOU BY SUCH THIRD PARTIES.
. . .
IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COMPANY AND/OR ITS LICENSORS BE LIABLE TO ANYONE FOR ANY INDIRECT, PUNITIVE, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR OTHER DAMAGES OF ANY TYPE OR KIND (INCLUDING PERSONAL INJURY, LOSS OF DATA, REVENUE, PROFITS, USE, OR OTHER ECONOMIC ADVANTAGE).
Our hearts go out to the family and victims of the tragic accident that occurred in downtown San Francisco on New Year’s Eve. We extend our deepest condolences.
We work with transportation providers across the Bay Area. The driver in question was not providing services on the Uber system during the time of the accident. The driver was a partner of Uber and his account was immediately deactivated.
We are committed to improving the already best in class safety and accountability of the Uber platform, for both riders and drivers.
But though the driver didn’t have a passenger in the car at the time, his lawyer points out that he was logged into the Uber system. likely via the app, and therefore ostensibly would’ve accepted a fare if one had come up.
“It appears that Uber is willing to hang out to dry both my client as well as the [victim's] family,” said the driver’s attorney. “If [Uber is] unwilling to cover one of their drivers while he’s logged into their system, it seems that that would be hanging him out to dry because he would be potentially liable civilly for the accident and the fact that he was logged into their system at the time could jeopardize his personal insurance coverage and would deny the [victim's] family the benefit of Uber’s stated insurance policy.”
The lawsuit also points to the law in California regarding using a phone while driving. Namely, that you’re not allowed to do it.
California Vehicle Code 23123 states, “A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking and is used in that manner while driving.”
The point here being that you’ve got to actually use the phone to access the app, of course. But the app is how drivers find their fares, which would make it necessary for them to use it. Of course, a driver could pull over to do so, but some drivers would likely balk at pulling over every couple of minutes.
It’s unclear whether Uber has a policy requiring that drivers pull over to use the Uber app to see and accept fares. If any Uber drivers out there want to fill us in, we’d love to know more: firstname.lastname@example.org