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A taxi-alternative ride service company is facing a lawsuit stemming from the death of a six-year-old girl on New Year’s Eve in San Francisco. The company Uber, which operates a smartphone app that connects drivers with passengers looking for rides, faces mounting criticism over both its financial practices and safety record. Critics allege that, by encouraging drivers to be on their smartphones while driving, the company endangers other drivers and pedestrians and may even violate some state laws.

This past December 31, a San Francisco town car driver hit the girl, her younger brother, and their mother as they stood in a crosswalk. The girl died from her injuries. The driver was initially arrested, but has posted bond and has not been charged. The girl’s family has sued Uber, alleging that the driver was logged into their smartphone app at the time he collided with the family.

The result of the lawsuit will largely turn on whether or not the court finds that the driver was an “agent or employee” of Uber at the time of the accident. If so, the company could face liability.

Blurred Lines on Scope of Employment Issue

By its very nature, the Uber app blurs the lines between employees, agents, and customers. Private drivers utilize what is called the “Uber X” service in order to find passengers who are looking for a ride. Under California law, employers can be held responsible for the acts of their employees or agents if done within the scope of their employment.

The family argues that, since the driver was logged into the Uber app at the moment of the accident, he was acting within the scope of employment. Uber counters by asserting that the driver was not engaged in a trip from the Uber system at that moment, so therefore the company should not be held liable for his actions.

Dangers of Ride-service Apps

California has laws against distracted driving which prohibit, among other things, driving while texting or talking on a cell phone. Since the Uber app requires a driver to look at his smartphone in order to respond to requests for rides from potential passengers, it implicitly encourages drivers to take their eyes off the road.

If, in the course of breaking traffic laws designed to protect people, a driver injures or kills someone, a court may find the driver to have been negligent per se. In the present case, if the driver is found to have been negligent, and his negligence took place within the scope of his employment with Uber, both he and the company could be found liable to the young girl’s family for damages.

What to Do if You Are Injured in an Auto Accident

If you or a family member has been injured or killed in an auto accident, you should contact a Atlanta personal injury lawyer immediately. An attorney can review the facts of your case and determine whether you have a viable claim. If so, they can help you seek the compensation you deserve.

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