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Uber Sued After Fatal Crosswalk Crash

Have you heard of the Uber ride-sharing/taxi-cab program? A downloadable app connects you to a fleet of drivers in the Atlanta area who will pick you up and drop you off for a fee that is charged to your credit card. According to Yelp, Atlanta-area users have had reported positive experiences with the hybrid of a taxi and car rental service.

But, a fatal New Year's Eve accident has given rise to the first (that we know of) wrongful death lawsuit against the ride-providing company. A 6-year-old girl was hit by a driver who had been taking fares for Uber prior to the crash while in a San Francisco crosswalk with her mother and brother. The little girl did not survive her injuries.

There are many complex liability issues that arise in this wrongful death case that have required the family to fight for justice against a driver who may not have any or adequate insurance and a company that is denying it has any responsibility for the pedestrian accident. If the private driver was considered to be acting as a taxi service, his insurance company may deny that the accident was a covered event under his policy. Typically commercial drivers - like taxi services or trucking companies - are required to carry more costly insurance that would provide benefits in this scenario.

Uber has denied that the driver was working for the company at the time of the crash and that it should not be financially responsible for the wrongful death lawsuit. The transportation network company claims that the driver "was not providing services on the Uber system during the time of the accident." The driver's Uber account has been deactivated; he is currently facing vehicular manslaughter charges.

It's not uncommon for the law to fall behind as technology advances. We will have to see how liability is apportioned in this app-based car service case. This wrongful death case is being heard in California; an application of Georgia law may or may not yield the same outcome.

Source: San Jose Mercury News, "Uber sued for wrongful death of 6-year-old San Francisco girl," January 27, 2014

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