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Fatal pedestrian accident prompts lawsuit against ride-sharing co.

There are many ways to get where you’re going in the Bay Area, and new modes of transportation are popping up all the time. In San Francisco, for instance, real-time ridesharing services by companies like Uber have provided creative alternatives to taking a taxi or riding the bus.

But when it comes to companies and services like real-time ridesharing, liability for auto accidents can be a complicated issue. In San Francisco, a recent auto accident that killed a 6-year-old girl has prompted a wrongful death lawsuit against Uber.

According to the complaint, the 57-year-old driver struck the victim in a crosswalk while providing ride services through Uber; a claim which the company disputes. He was reportedly logged on to the Uber app at the time.

The dispute may center, in part, on what types of actions signify that a driver is working for Uber at any given time. The attorney representing the family noted that “whether or not a fee-paying passenger is in the car, if the driver is on the app and GPS, they are providing a benefit to Uber and their use of the app creates an unlawful risk of distraction that leads to the very type of injury and death we see here.”

The company shares in the profits every time its software connects those in need of transportation to drivers willing to transport them in private vehicles. The plaintiffs’ attorney argues that because Uber shares in the profits of its drivers, it also needs to share in liability when those drivers cause accidents.

This lawsuit is important not only because it involves the death of a young child, but also because it could potentially set a precedent for similar real-time ridesharing liability lawsuits in the future. Should Uber be held liable? What do readers think?

Source: San Jose Mercury News, “Uber sued for wrongful death of 6-year-old San Francisco girl,” Terry Collins, Jan. 27, 2014

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