Uber Settles Wrongful Death Suit

On New Year’s Eve 2013, a mother and her two young children were crossing the street in San Francisco when tragedy struck. An Uber driver, using the company’s mobile app hit the family, killing the 6-year-old daughter and injuring her mother and brother. Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report on the consequent suit against Uber and its recent proposed settlement.

The driver was logged into Uber’s operating system when the crash occurred. The family’s wrongful death suit blamed Uber for requiring drivers to use the mobile app while driving and ultimately causing the collision.

When someone requests an Uber driver through the app, the driver must be the first to respond to gain the business of that client. According to the suit, this need for an immediate response on the mobile app forces drivers to violate state mobile phone laws, causes distracted drivers, and threatens public safety. The family sought damages for the child’s wrongful death, negligent hiring and supervision, negligence in a motor vehicle, and emotional distress, among other damages.

The settlement amount is sealed to protect the identity and wellbeing of the child’s younger brother, who is now seven years old.

In March 2014, three months after the fatal accident, California announced new laws that expanded insurance coverage for transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft. The law requires drivers to maintain insurance levels of at least $50,000 per person and $100,000 per fatality or injury occurrence.

Truck Rental Company Deaths Spur Lawsuits

Another wrongful death lawsuit in California was recently revived after a judge found a jury received improper instructions. This lawsuit was filed against Hertz Equipment Rental Corp. on behalf of a man who was killed while driving one of its water trucks. The man, Martin Buchanan, rented the truck in 2008 to transport water for his employer. When Buchanan merged onto the highway, the water inside the 2,000 gallon tank shifted, causing the truck to roll over.

Buchanan was pinned inside the cab suffering a head wound and paralysis. He died at the hospital during emergency surgery. His family filed suit against the rental company, Hertz, claiming the water truck was defectively designed and should never have been approved for highway use. Hertz never warned Buchanan not to use the truck on highways.

At trial, the jury was told to disregard expert testimony that included a video clip demonstrating how a partly filled water ruck could roll during a similar turn. The jury was also told only to apply the “risk-benefit test,” to determine whether the truck’s benefits outweighed its dangers. The jury was not told it could also apply the ordinary “consumer expectation test,” which would have determined whether the truck failed to perform as safely as an average person would expect.

As a result of these errors, the jury was prejudiced in its ruling for Hertz. Buchanan’s family appealed the verdict. The appeals court unanimously ruled in favor of the family, stating that if the jury had been allowed to consider the expert testimony and the consumer expectation test, the family would have obtained a more favorable verdict.

Buchanan’s family said they were confident that, without these errors, they will be able to prove that his death was needless and caused by Hertz’s negligence and defective vehicle.

Our team of wrongful death lawyers has won millions for the families of those killed in auto accidents. If someone you love was catastrophically hurt or killed in a crash, contact our firm immediately. We provide free legal consultations to concerned families nationwide.

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