The family of 6-year-old Sofia Liu has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Uber and a driver alleging that the use of the fast-growing online app runs afoul of California’s distracted driving laws.
According to a news report in The San Francisco Chronicle, this California wrongful death lawsuit could weigh heavily in the debate over how technology companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar in the booming ride-services industry should be regulated and to what degree these companies should be held liable for the actions of their drivers.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Uber
According to the court documents, the crux of this case is the belief that the driver of the car, Syed Muzzafar, was indeed working for Uber at the time of the accident. Uber disagrees with this premise, but the plaintiff’s attorney is out to prove otherwise. He contends that Uber and Muzzafar are responsible for the wrongful death of Sofia Liu.
CAUSES OF ACTION
On December 31, 2013, at just before 8:00pm, HUAN KUANG was walking home in San Francisco with her two children, ANTHONY LIU, who was 5 years old, and SOFIA LIU,who was 6 years old. They approached the intersection of Polk Street and Ellis Street. When the light was green for them to walk, they began to cross Polk Street within the crosswalk. As they were in the cross-walk, with the signal green for them to walk, a vehicle driven by Defendant SYED MUZZAFAR turned right from Ellis Street and collided with HUAN KUANG, ANTHONY LIU and SOFIA LIU. The collision caused the wrongful death of SOFIA LIU, and caused serious and significant physical and mental injuries to the other Plaintiffs in this action.
Video: Three separate car accidents with serious consequences took place in the Bay area around the same time. The news footage touches on the Sofia Liu accident and that the driver slammed into the child when he was making a right turn on a green light. The victims were already in the crosswalk when they were struck. The case against Uber will certainly highlight distracted driving, using a cell phone while driving, and not waiting for a pedestrian to exit the crosswalk before entering.
Distracted Driving Law and Uber
The lawsuit, which was filed in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges that the driver of the vehicle, who was an Uber contractor at the time, was logged on to the company’s UberX app and was waiting to receive and accept a ride request when he fatally struck Sofia. Uber takes a cut of every ride booked through its system. Sofia’s mother, Huan Kuang, and her 5-year-old brother, Anthony, were also injured in the crash. The pedestrians were lawfully walking in a marked crosswalk when they were hit by the Uber driver. Criminal manslaughter charges are pending against him. According to the family’s lawyer, Christopher Dolan, this is the first wrongful death lawsuit filed against Uber.
Uber apparently denied insurance protection that would have covered the family and the driver. The lawsuit alleges that the Uber app requires drivers to interact with it to pick up riders, which is a violation of California’s distracted driving laws. California law 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.”
Uber now operates in more than 50 cities worldwide. Last year, the California Public Utilities Commission started requiring Uber and other companies to carry commercial liability insurance, a minimum of $1 million of coverage per incident. This is regardless of whether the driver is personally insured. There is no question that such as regulation goes a long way not only in protecting riders, but also minimizing legal uncertainties. But they do give rise to other questions such as other job-related activities such as checking on fares are included. There are still ambiguities here.
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, it is important that you contact an experienced California personal injury lawyer who will fight for your rights and make sure that the wrongdoers are held accountable. The best personal injury law firms will always offer a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation to injured victims and their families.