File picture: Why Kei via Unsplash.
File picture: Why Kei via Unsplash.

Can injured passengers claim damages from Uber? Legal expert weighs in

By Motoring Staff Time of article published Aug 18, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - Ride-hailing apps such as Uber have surged in popularity since hitting the scene a few years ago, thanks largely to their relatively affordable and no-nonsense approach to catching cabs.

But given that South Africa’s roads are effectively a war zone, some passengers are going to get injured at some point, whether through an accident or a hijacking.

Question is, who is liable when a passenger gets injured?

According to DSC Attorneys, incidents of Uber vehicles being hijacked, passengers attacked and/or injured in road accidents are not unprecedented. There have been a number of these incidents in South Africa, and some have even resulted in lawsuits.

If the cause of an injury was an accident, then Uber does not appear to be responsible for any damage claims, however.

According to DSC partner Kirstie Haslam, passengers who are injured in an accident while riding in an Uber, due to the negligent driving of either the Uber driver or the driver of another vehicle, may be entitled to claim compensation from the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

“This includes compensation for medical expenses, general damages and/or loss of income,” she explains.

However, a passenger who is injured in an Uber as a result of a hijacking or attack may qualify for compensation from Uber itself. Haslam explained that Uber is insured by Chubb Insurance and offers specific cover to passengers.

According to Uber, its rider insurance coverage includes:

– Up to R50 000 for emergency medical expenses as well as an immediate lump-sum payment of R1500

– An accidental death benefit of R200 000 and R15 000 to cover burial expenses

– Permanent disability cover of up to R200 000, depending on the severity of the disability

– A daily amount for each 24-hour period of hospital confinement, up to a maximum period of 30 days, but excluding the first 24 hours

– Lost or damaged passenger goods are covered for up to R2500.

Just watch out for loopholes

Haslam warned that there could be loopholes, for instance, if it turns out that the driver wasn’t the registered Uber driver. Some consumers have also reported issues in securing the specified cover from Uber.

Class action

Haslam mentioned an ongoing court case, where a number of Uber customers pursued a class-action lawsuit against the ride hailing company after four of its drivers were accused of using the app to target women in order to rob and rape them.

11 passengers approached the High Court to pursue a damages claim against Uber.

These passengers used the Uber app with the expectation that they would be safe.

According to the plaintiffs’ legal representative, Uber failed to supply a safe and reliable service resulting in a case of vicarious liability.

Are Uber drivers covered?

It is also worth noting that Uber drivers and delivery partners (Uber Eats) are covered for injuries sustained while working for Uber.

“Depending on the circumstances of the injury, drivers may be entitled to medical treatment costs and loss of income cover,” Haslam said.

“The insurance covers drivers from the moment they accept a trip or delivery request until the trip or delivery is completed.”

She added that the cover is subject to certain limitations and conditions, but that all Uber drivers and delivery partners are covered automatically.

IOL Motoring

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