Should Uber Be Responsible If A Driver Attacks A Passenger?

Image courtesy of (Tiffa Day)

When you think about things that could go wrong while paying an amateur cabdriver to drive you around, there aren’t a lot of possibilities. Maybe there could be a car crash, you could be bitten by a spider in the car, or the driver might grope you. One problem you may not have anticipated: the driver hitting you with a hammer.

One San Francisco man claims that it happened to him a few weeks ago. When he questioned the driver’s route, taking the freeway instead of driving through the city. That’s irritating, but not a reason to turn to violence…and why was there a hammer stashed in the car to begin with?

An attorney representing the passenger who was attacked described the driver as “agitated,” saying things like “I’m tired of people who don’t know where they’re going. Maybe you guys should just get out,” and attempting to boot the passenger and his companions from the car along the freeway, far from their destination. The group claims that he stopped the car a second time, and when the third passenger didn’t get out of the vehicle quickly enough, struck the victim with the claw end of his hammer.

The driver and alleged hammerer has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious bodily injury, and he was freed on bail. The victim may or may not lose the use of his left eye. And Uber fans and consumer advocates are left asking: exactly what rights are we signing over when we sign up for a ridesharing app?

This is all a pretty new business, after all. CNET points out that while Uber assures riders that the service is safe and that drivers have been through background checks, the company’s terms and conditions that nobody reads when signing up for the app state that customers are ultimately climbing in cars with strangers at our own risk.

You understand, therefore, that by using the application and the service, you may be exposed to transportation that is potentially dangerous, offensive, harmful to minors, unsafe or otherwise objectionable, and that you use the application and the service at your own risk.

While ride-sharing drivers are independent contractors, are the services they work for obligated to give them any training or fixed rules on non-violent ways to deal with conflicts with passengers when they arise? It will be interesting to see whether Uber is found to have any legal responsibility in this case with the hammer.

How risky is your Uber ride? Maybe more than you think [CNET]
Victim of alleged Uber hammer attack may lose eye [San Francisco Chronicle]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.