On New Year's Eve, an Uber driver struck a family of three as they were crossing a San Francisco street. The driver, 57-year-old Syed Muzzaraf, turned into the crosswalk without yielding and struck six-year-old Sophia Liu, her brother and her mother, San Francisco District Supervisor Jane Kim told Autoblog's sister website, Tech Crunch. Sophia was killed and her mother remains in critical condition at San Francisco General Hospital.

The incident has raised questions about the nature of insurance for ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. For example, in the incident that killed Sophia Liu, Uber has already essentially denied liability, claiming Muzzaraf wasn't "providing services on the Uber system at the time of the accident," (we've included the full statement from Uber below). It's not entirely clear, though, whether Muzzaraf was merely waiting on a job or whether his employment with Uber was merely circumstantial in this situation.

In a traditional taxi, there's coverage at all times regardless of whether the driver is between fares or heading back to the garage. Typically, all Uber contractors are required to carry commercial car insurance, which is supplemented by $1 million in coverage from the company, according to Tech Crunch.

This isn't the case in California, though, where Uber has been given permission to operate cars without the commercial-grade coverage, meaning that in the case of Muzzafar - who remained on the scene and was cooperative with police, but was still booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter - we don't know if he had anything beyond personal insurance for the Honda Pilot he was driving.

With ride-sharing and taxi apps growing in popularity, though, situations like the one in San Francisco are (unfortunately) only going to become more common. We've assembled a poll down below to gauge your thoughts on the matter. Scroll down, register your vote and then hop into Comments and let us know what you think. We've also included the full statement from Uber, regarding the incident that killed Sophia Liu and video of the news report on the incident from the local ABC affiliate down below.

Should Uber be held liable in the case of Sophia Liu?
Yes 4875 (40.1%)
No 4955 (40.8%)
Not Sure 2328 (19.1%)

Show full PR text
Our hearts go out to the family and victims of the accident that occurred in downtown San Francisco last night. We work with transportation providers across the Bay Area, but we can confirm that this tragedy did not involve a vehicle or provider doing a trip on the Uber system.

Our policy is to immediately deactivate any Uber partner involved in a serious law enforcement matter. For that reason, we urge the police to release information about the driver in question as soon as possible. If the driver is a partner of Uber, his or her Uber account will immediately be deactivated.

UPDATE: We thank law enforcement for the quick release of information. We can confirm that the driver in question was a partner of Uber and that we have deactivated his Uber account. The driver was not providing services on the Uber system during the time of the accident. We again extend our deepest condolences to the family and victims of this tragic accident.


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  • 107 Comments
      Dfelix70
      • 1 Year Ago
      Why is AutoBlog more like AutoVague? This is at least the 2nd story I've read recently where legal issues were in question, but it didn't appear the full story was being fully stated? Uber states that this man was not providing services under their contract at the time of the incident. Yet, AutoVague is asking if they should be liable? Did AutoVague do any further research to confirm that, in fact, this man was or was not performing services under Uber? Whether he was on his way to pick up a fare?
        reattadudes
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Dfelix70
        Uber hires independent contractors to provide its services. their web site claims that they are "fully insured". if this is the case, then there are no problems. if this is not the case, then a huge portion of the liability lies with the state of California, who allows companies like Uber to operate without traditional commercial insurance like all other transportation providers MUST have. as a former ten year owner of a livery company myself, I understand the great responsibility that went with it. one accident would either cause the already astronomical rates to either triple, or you would be canceled. I've read quite a bit about Uber. it was founded by a bunch of Silicon Valley rich guys, who had zero knowledge of the livery business at all. don't things always look easier until you really get involved in a business? their big claim to fame is their 'app' (did you expect anything else??), and the alleged "convenience" of not needing to do silly things like make a reservation by using your actual vocal cords, or being able to ask the simplest of questions to an actual human being. what's even funnier is all of the folks who are hooked on their gadgets never bother to read the fine print at the bottom of their "app". if they did, they'd see Uber allows for "surge" pricing. think for a moment about that normal $70 ride to the airport. under their surge pricing, that $70 trip can become SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS. and since technology is such a wonderful thing, you'll never know until you get your credit card bill, since you have to give Uber all of your credit card information in advance, with no need to sign anything while you're in the car. and to think all of those "old fashioned" livery companies are stuck having their rates regulated by state agencies!
        tool0117
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Dfelix70
        Totally agree. It's irresponsible to have that poll have any other reasonable option besides "I don't know" without knowing whether or not he was on-the-clock for Uber at the time of the accident.
      Joeviocoe
      • 1 Year Ago
      At least the reporting was fair. Showing the other pedestrian accidents that day too... and highlighting that "distracted" drivers are the focus... and NOT the transportation service/employer Uber.
      throwback
      • 1 Year Ago
      These types of incidents point out the legal issue with ride sharing. I don't know the answer to the Uber case, but for the people advocating for the rapid deployment of autonomus vehicles, this should be a cautionary tale. Until the laws are clear, few companies our people will move forward.
        d.hollywood
        • 1 Year Ago
        @throwback
        I think incidents like this will actually hasten the arrival of autonomous vehicles. What livery company-new or old-is'nt looking at the driver as the "weak link liability"? In the "perfect world" scenario...companies would wish to only have to pay a coupla' mechanics and a handful of people to answer phones.Easier to handle lawsuits if you don't have to explain driver intent.Won't be long.
      reattadudes
      • 1 Year Ago
      this is absolutely ridiculous for several reasons. I owned a livery business for over ten years here in Arizona, and NONE of our cars would move an inch without proper commercial insurance. that insurance isn't cheap; it ran $700-$1,000 per month, per vehicle. its amazing that California allowed them to forgo normal traditional commercial insurance, as California is as restrictive as New York when it comes to regulations in the transportation business. I place the majority of the blame on the general "mooch" attitude in this country, where cheap always overrides the slightest thought of not only safety, but liability. they need to start with the registered owner of the vehicle, and move all the way up the chain when the lawsuit happens. all people involved ARE responsible.
      Trent
      • 1 Year Ago
      If they are found liable this will cost the Uber dollars!
      Carlove215
      • 1 Year Ago
      Uber don't drug test, don't train there drivers, all you need is a car, and taxi cabs and limousines are so heavily regulated. They don't even do a backround check.
        Sasha Ghovanlou
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Carlove215
        Have you ever used the service? The individuals that have picked me up with services such as sidecar/uber/lyft have been infinitely nicer and more enjoyable than the majority of taxi drivers ive encountered
          John Smith
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Sasha Ghovanlou
          Yes but did you get to experience the smells and stories of Pakistan during your ride? Or hear about U.S. politics from someone not born in this country? I didn't think so.
          k650
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Sasha Ghovanlou
          The drivers who are stealing, not paying fees and taxes and not having to pay for inspections are infinitely happy that you enable them to steal. You would also be grinning if you were able to conduct illegal business at the expense of someone else.
      ReTired
      • 1 Year Ago
      There's not enough information to form any kind of reasoned judgement (though certainly enuf fer sum moran fans to exercise First Amendment rahts). Uber has been in legal trouble from its inception, mostly for (attempted) skirting of local / Provincial / State regulations on Limo / Taxi services for insurance, licensing, etc. If UBER supplies vehicles or simply dispatches / brokers "Rides", no matter what they call their agents, they are, to some degree, culpable for insurance / indemnification for victims in or out of their trips / vehicles. If the driver was not "engaged", in his own vehicle, Uber is likely off the hook. If it was a company vehicle, or if it was enroute to a pick-up, they should likely be held accountable and punatively fined for any pertinent "avoidance of regulations" adjudged. Guess I'm still a moron...IDK.
      icemilkcoffee
      • 1 Year Ago
      One thing is clear- all Uber drivers need to have commercial insurance. If you are making money from driving other people- that is the very definition of commercial.
      Ajr Ajr
      • 1 Year Ago
      all condolences to the Liu family for their tragic loss
      Fen
      • 1 Year Ago
      Uber should be responsible. It reminds me of taxi and hackney cars in Ireland. Taxi could pick up from street, Hackney could only pick you up if you phoned them out. Both needed the same kind of insurance, and hackneys fell out of favour when more licence plates were made available for taxis. All I know is, if a taxi, hackney, limo, bus hits you even if its on a personal errand it should be fully insured, and commercially insured. Imagine if taxi drivers could turn their insurance on and off so conveniently.
      Cool Disco Dan
      • 1 Year Ago
      Do these driver sign any contractor agreements with the companies?
      John P
      • 1 Year Ago
      San Francisco is a disaster waiting to happen in so many ways. People drive there as if they are playing a video game. And that isn't even including the Kamikaze Bicyclists who ride their very stylish fixed gears-some with no brakes. Pedestrians are basically offering themselves up as road kill-and these so called services like Uber only add to traffic congestion with these "independent contractors" trolling around waiting for a fare. This is a preview of the Megalopolis of the future-not a pretty picture.
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