Quoted: Should Uber be held accountable for fatal accident?

“It’s their responsibility. He was working for them.”

— Huan Kuang, mother of 6-year-old Sofia Liu, who was struck and killed by a car on New Year’s Eve in San Francisco, in a report by the San Francisco Business Times. The driver, Syed Muzzafar of Union City, was affiliated with Uber, and Kuang wants the San Francisco on-demand car service to pay damages. Kuang and her two children were hit by Muzzafar’s Honda Pilot SUV when they were crossing the street in a crosswalk; Muzzafar was arrested and may face vehicular manslaughter charges. Uber confirms he was a “partner” driver — not an employee — and denies any responsibility, saying Muzzafar was not with a passenger or on his way to pick up an Uber customer. Uber’s insurance does not cover such incidents, but some think Uber should be responsible for its drivers at all times, much like taxi services. Uber claims it shouldn’t, saying it is merely a platform for drivers and passengers to meet, not a true transportation service. Uber issued a statement Monday: “Our hearts go out to Sofia Liu’s family. We extend our deepest condolences and welcome the opportunity to discuss the family’s concerns at a time of their choosing.” The way it’s looking, that time and place may be in a courtroom.

 

At top: Screenshot of the accident scene from KGO-TV.

 
 

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  • John H

    Yes, Uber should be responsible. According to news reports, Syed Muzzafar told police he was “driving around awaiting a fare”. He was on duty. Even if he didn’t have a fare at the exact time, or on his way to a fare, he had the app open and was awaiting a fare during empty down-time. He was working for Uber, and was not on personal time.

    • Brian

      I agree Uber should be held responsible. If an accident took place involving a taxi cab then the taxi cab company would be held liable. Just because Uber decides to work around and against regulation does not mean it is above the law and should not be held to the same liabilities as a legal taxi, limo, or sedan service.

    • Jim K

      Why was he driving around awaiting a fare anyway? Everything is through the app. Shouldn’t he have been sitting somewhere parked saving fuel during his down-time?

  • Steve Hammill

    Both Uber and Muzzafar ARE responsible. I’d be amazed if the courts see it any differently.

    Uber tried to dodge the state regulations, but they got hit and a kid got killed.

    The family will rightly take both Uber and Muzzafar to court and win BIG $$$. Then the state will review Uber’s licensing, probably uncover numerous problems with the paperwork and licensing, then review everything.

    Uber will likely get the double-whammy which will likely put Uber out of the game, ahhhh, business.

    • leftoversright

      Do you understand how much money they have? Just last summer Google invested $258 million. The company is worth many billions. Oh, they will stay in the game for the long haul.

      • Steve Hammill

        I did not realize that they had that much backing, but the point – that they’ll need to adhere to regulations and have proper insurance – remains.

        I will concede that with that much money, they can probably withstand the hit. Too bad the kid could not.

  • John

    If he is the usual commercial driver that leases a vehicle, Muzzafar is solely responsible as the driver. Uber is just a notification system that says “there’s a fare over here, do you want it?” Uber is not responsible for the crash, any more so than a travel agent who books someone on a flight that crashes.

    I’m sure some creative lawyer will try to argue differently.

    In response to Mr. Hammill, the “state regulations” that he claims that Uber “dodged” are nothing more than political protection for the taxi cartel. As Uber neither operates vehicles nor employs drivers, the regulations don’t apply.

    • John H

      That’s exactly the point. He IS NOT the usual commercial driver. He’s UberX. The other Uber classifications, i.e., Uber Black, Uber SUV, and Uber Taxi all require commercially licensed and insured vehicles.

      The UberX classification is different. It is the same as the Lyft and Sidecar scheme. These ARE NOT commercially licensed and insured vehicles. They are personal vehicles operating with personal insurance. This is why Uber’s liability must cover pay for the losses suffered by the family. The driver is not carrying effective liability for this kind of thing.

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      Uber checked the driver’s insurance policy. They knew it was non-commercial and as such uninsured for a taxi operation. This is gross negligence.

  • acidmnky

    well, what does Uber’s driver contract say? End of story.

    • John H

      It doesn’t really matter what the driver contract says.

      But to entertain the thought, my understanding is that Uber’s liability kicks in for UberX drivers once they’ve pressed the phone to accept a fare, on the way to pick up the fare, and upon completion of the fareā€¦ but not between fares.

      I don’t see how this could be relevant though since this is not between the driver and Uber, who signed a partnership agreement. This is between the third party victim, who did not consent to any terms and conditions of an Uber contract.

  • A simple internet research reveals that the driver, Syed Abid Muzaffar had been arrested in 2004 for reckless driving in Florida. Uber takes credit for good drivers and claims that it does background checks of all drivers. Clearly their system has failed and they are accountable. This driver was on the road as a driver for Uber. But let’s give credit where it’s due, the UberX model was designed to compete with Lyft who introduced the notion of unlicensed, non professional drivers. It’s a tangled web of insurance fraud, unclear lines of accountability and misrepresentations. In time, the public will realize, just like hitchiking, rider with unregistered strangers and letting corporations regulate themselves is a bad idea. http://t.co/vSQfbk7ST6

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      Exactly. And the CPUC is in the position of winking at insurance fraud.

  • MinWoo

    Lets blame Goodyear while we are at it because that was the brand of the tires on the car.

  • MinWoo

    If the pedestrians are illegal aliens, they need to be deported ASAP!!!

  • ClaimsAdjuster

    The California Public Utlities Commisison did not do their job when they legalized the TNCs(Lyft,Sidecar,Uberx). The CPUC ruled that the TNC’s excess liability policy must cover an accident whether or not the driver’s car is properly insured.

    The wording of the ruling shows that the CPUC was aware that that most of these TNC vehicles are running around with non-commercial insurance that excludes coverage for a taxi service. This puts the CPUC in the position of winking at insurance fraud.

    The proper response would have been to require that the TNC autos be licensed as livery services and that they meet the same insurance requirements as taxis. This scheme that the insurance will switch between the vehicles private insurance (i.e. uninsured) and UberX’s policy depending on whether UberX says the cab is occupied by a passenger is absurd. The insurance has to be operative 100% of the time.

    The CPUC caved in the astro-turf campaign funded by the vulture capitalists backing the TNCs such as Jeff Bezos. This goes beyond dropping the ball on their public safety responsibilities since the CPUC rode rough shod over the local taxi regulatory agencies, preventing them from protecting the public.

 
 
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