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Can You Sue Uber Because of an Accident Caused by a Drunk Uber Driver?

If you have had a ride in a car driven by an Uber driver and suspect he or she was drunk, it could be a worrying trip. If you have an accident and survive but are injured there is always the possibility of suing the driver because his intoxication quite possible caused the accident, but can you sue Uber, the company?

The law is not very clear on this, mainly because Uber can claim that their relationship with their drivers is not a conventional employer / employee one. However, if you are involved in an accident in a vehicle driven by an Uber driver, it is definitely worthwhile seeing a personal injury attorney to determine what can be done about it. It is possible that Uber can be sued separately from the driver

Uber’s responsibilities with respect to hiring drivers

Uber is supposed to do several things to ensure that its drivers are safe. It is supposed to carry out a background check before they are hired and ensure that they do not have previous DUI offences. It is also supposed to suspend drivers it suspects of being intoxicated while driving.

Uber says that it already has a strict policy on drunk drivers. It says that it relies on passengers sending in videos showing the behavior of the driver, drivers admitting that they were driving drunk, arrests or results of breathalyzer or sobriety tests. Its own policy is that it will automatically suspend any of its drivers if it receives at least three reports from passengers or members of the public that a driver was drunk, even if the reports are not confirmed.

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) says that relying on passengers’ videos and self-admission from drivers is unrealistic.  The Commission doesn’t think Uber is doing enough to check on its drivers and is allowing drunk drivers to continue to drive without taking firm enough action. The Commission, which regulates ride-share companies like Uber, makes it a requirement for Uber to continue to operate as long as they have a zero-tolerance policy towards drunk driving. It looks like Uber is not adhering to either its own policy or that of the PUC.

An investigation into Uber’s response to complaints about drunk drivers revealed that in 151 cases out of 154, the company failed to suspend or investigate drivers. The PUC is now seeking to fine Uber 1.3 million dollars for not adhering to the regulations.

Can Uber be sued if someone was injured as a result of an accident caused by a drunk Uber driver?

The two legal avenues that an injured Uber victim has is to sue the company (separately from the driver) are based on the theory of vicarious liability and negligent hiring and retention.

California’s vicarious liability laws allow someone to sue a company for the actions of any of its employees if the employees are found to be carrying out their job ‘within the scope and course of their employment at the time’. Uber has tried to dismiss any suggestion that they are vicariously liable, claiming that all Uber drivers are independent contractors and not normal employees. However, in a previous lawsuit in Northern California, a judge found Uber vicariously liable for a driver who had been accused of sexual misconduct. This ruling may also apply to drunk drivers.

Uber may also be sued on the basis of negligent hiring and retention if it can be shown that they failed to carry out background checks on a driver, or ignored the fact that the driver had a previous record for DUI, or ignored or failed to suspend or investigate a previous complaint about a driver’s behavior.

Contact a personal injury attorney if unsure what your legal options are after a crash in an Uber vehicle.

It’s bad enough having an accident while having a ride in a ride-share car. It’s worse realizing that the driver was intoxicated and that the company that hired him or her had allowed the driver to continue to drive after previous complaints. If this has happened to you and you have been seriously injured and not sure how to proceed, you should contact our firm for a free case review.


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