CHP Cruiser Fatally Strikes Pedestrian in Uber-Involved Accident
In a bizarre incident, a passenger in an Uber vehicle jumped out of the car while it was on the 101 Freeway. A California Highway Patrol cruiser barreled into the man, killing him almost instantly.
According to the driver, two passengers argued and then fought in the back seat. One passenger opened the vehicle door as it was westbound on the 101 Freeway near the Balboa Boulevard exit. The runaway passenger hopped over a barrier and ran across the eastbound side, where a CHP unit responding to the disturbance call hit and killed him.
None of the names were released.
Rideshare Operator Duty
Uber drivers, taxi drivers, truck drivers, and other commercial operators are common carriers in California. They are virtually insurers of safe conduct from pickup to destination. Therefore, it is easier to establish negligence, or a lack of care, in these situations.
The higher common carrier duty applies to driver safety. For example, noncommercial drivers usually have a duty to slow down in the rain. But common carriers arguably have a duty to stop driving until the rain stops, or at least until it lets up.
Common carriers rarely take these precautions. Most of these drivers get paid by the trip and not by the hour.
This duty also applies to on-board passenger safety. If two passengers get into an argument, the rideshare or transportation company arguably has a duty to stop the fight before someone gets hurt. Moreover, Uber vehicles should probably have childproof locks and other safety devices which prevent people from exiting the vehicle while it is in motion. Once again, very few vehicles have such safety measures.
Third Party Liability
Generally, the respondeat superior rule applies in these situations. The rideshare company is legally responsible for car crash damages if:
- Employee: Employers are legally responsible for the negligent acts of their employees. California law broadly defines these key terms. For example, employees are not just people who receive regular paychecks. Independent contractors, owner operators, and even unpaid volunteers are all usually employees for negligence purposes.
- Scope of Employment: Similarly, any act which benefits the employer in any way is generally within the scope of employment. This act could include driving an empty vehicle around town which bears the company logo. The free advertising benefits the employer.
Vicarious liability theories are especially important in wrongful death and other catastrophic injury claims. Many times, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) does not have enough auto insurance to provide fair compensation. Indeed, many individual insurers refuse to pay for commercial losses. Often, Uber and Lyft individual accident coverage is $1 million per incident.
Damages in a vehicle collision case usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may also be available, in some extreme cases.
The law holds commercial drivers to a higher standard. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Los Angeles, contact the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim. Home and hospital visits are available.
Sharona Eslamboly Hakim, Esq. is a successful personal injury attorney and the principal of the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim firm in Beverly Hills, California.