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Who's responsible after an 'Uber' accident?

Ridesharing companies like Uber are growing in popularity in Arizona and the rest of the nation. Essentially, the companies use a smartphone app to set up people in need of a ride with drivers in their area for a small fee.

The drivers are just average citizens who use their own cars and get paid through the company’s network for the rides they provide. While the concept has been applauded for several reasons, a troubling side of the tech-based business was recently exposed following a fatal accident.

On New Year’s Eve, a family in California was crossing the street when they were struck by a drunk Uber driver. A 6-year-old girl was killed and two other family members were injured. The driver was not carrying a passenger at the time, but claims to have been using the Uber application in effort to find customers in need of a ride.

In the wake of the tragic accident, the family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Uber, but the company claims that it is not liable because the driver was not carrying an Uber passenger at the time of the drunk driving accident.

Additionally, the company is claiming that the driver is an independent contractor and not an employee of Uber, so they cannot be held vicariously liable for his negligent actions. Moreover, Uber’s million-dollar insurance policy only applies when the driver was carrying a passenger.

The case presents an important and complicated problem regarding ridesharing companies, car accidents and insurance liability. The ride-sharing companies, their drivers, taxi companies, the insurance industry and the general public all have conflicting interests.

Additionally, the issue raises questions about the safety of ridesharing networks that require drivers to constantly be on their phones to find people to pick up. It also poses an even broader question about liability when it comes to social media relationships.

Ultimately, these are issues that will likely see plenty of litigation in courts throughout the next several years.

Source: ClaimsJournal.com, "Baylor Researchers Study Traumatic Brain Injury Rehab Outcomes," Baylor Health Care System, Dec. 9, 2013

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