Florida Car Accident Victim: Lyft is Liable for Driver-Distracting App

Distracted driving continues to be a major problem in Florida – one a Palm Beach County lawsuit alleges has been compounded by the “inherently dangerous” technology employed by one of South Florida’s popular rideshare companies.Palm Beach Car accident lawyer

Plaintiff was a pedestrian who sustained serious, life-long injuries in a crash several months ago. The driver who struck her had himself been struck seconds earlier by a Lyft Inc. driver. Plaintiff alleges the Lyft driver was distracted by the company’s digital app, which requires the independent contractors to check their phones constantly behind the wheel.

Are Rideshare Apps Unreasonably Dangerous?

Although this isn’t the first time rideshare drivers and even other technology companies have been accused of liability in distracted driving cases, this matter is a bit different than many of the others our Palm Beach County car accident attorneys have seen. In addition to asserting Lyft’s negligence, plaintiff also raises the issue of product liability. The technology is unreasonably dangerous as designed, according to the complaint.

Unlike tort claims which require proof of negligence (duty of care, breach of duty, causation and damages),  product liability claims can be filed on the basis of “strict liability.” This means even if the company that designed/manufactured a product was extremely careful in doing so, they can still be held liable if the product was unreasonably dangerous. Plaintiff bears that proof burden of establishing the product wasn’t just dangerous (some inherently are) but unreasonably so, particularly when used in a manner intended or even foreseeable. Lawmakers have widely concluded that this is sufficient. Proof of negligence in the design of a product – particularly a unique product like this involving complex digital systems) is often insurmountably difficult and often unnecessary. The reality in most cases is that if a product is unreasonably dangerous, it’s likely the result of the designer’s negligence, but the legal logic is strict liability compels companies to invest in public safety.

In this case, plaintiff alleges both negligence and strict liability.

Ongoing Legal Challenges to Tech Companies in Florida Car Accident Lawsuits

Lyft, like other rideshare companies such as Uber, do not own a fleet of vehicles or employ drivers directly. Instead, companies manage the smartphone apps and websites to which customers connect when they want to arrange a ride or pick up a fair.

Amid growing car accident liability claims nationally, both companies decided to adopt a $1 million insurance policy for drivers at-fault for a crash while carrying a passenger, less when the driver is en route to pick up a passenger.

Recently in Michigan, a woman filed a lawsuit against both Lyft and Uber, after suffering severe traumatic brain injuries when the driver of the car in which she was a passenger had both apps switched on simultaneously and was reportedly distracted by them when he slammed into a semi truck traveling 70 mph, The Detroit Free Press reports. Plaintiff does not allege product liability, but instead direct negligence because of the company’s incessant messaging of drivers they know (via GPS tracking) to be traveling at high speeds.

Other tech companies, like Apple Inc., maker of the iPhone, have also been named defendants in distracted driving cases. However, Apple has won all of the cases that have proceeded thusfar. There are still cases pending. Several allege the company was negligent for failure to implement a software component that would disable features like FaceTime when a car is in motion. The tech company has a patent for this technology, but thus far has not added it to products.

One such case out of Texas involves the parents of a five-year-old girl, killed when a driver using his FaceTime app rear-ended them at a high speed.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

Florida Suit Accuses Lyft of Defective App Design Following Crash That Injured Pedestrian, April 2019, Law.com

More Blog Entries:

Top 4 Most Dangerous Types of Fort Lauderdale Car Accidents, March 30, 2019, Palm Beach County Car Accident Attorney Blog

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