Uber Passenger Killed in Car Crash; Driver Charged with Misdemeanor Death by Vehicle

Ridesharing company Uber employs thousands of cyber taxi drivers in states like Maryland and cities such as Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The company’s online ride-hailing service, like its competitor Lyft, has had a huge impact on the urban commuting landscape by making public taxi services available with just a press of a button on any smartphone. But while this relatively new way of catching a ride across Maryland and the surrounding area much easier, the risks to passengers is still the same as has always been when traveling in a taxi cab, rented limousine or other passenger vehicle available for hire.

Take, for example, a recent out-of-state report of a 40-year-old woman who was killed when the Uber vehicle in which she was riding went out of control and crashed, throwing the unbelted victim from the vehicle. This situation in North Carolina points up the potential dangers that confront any taxi passenger, not only those who ride in a Lyft or Uber vehicle.

Although we often hear about the risks involved with taking a taxi ride across town, it is not until one actually sees the results of a serious traffic accident that has taken the life of an innocent person that we begin to feel the gravity of such random and sometimes life-changing events here in the Baltimore area. Knowing that a quick cab ride can actually lead to a serious injury accident can serve to focus our attention on the aftermath of such a tragic incident and cause us to consider the long-lasting impact on victims and their families.

As Maryland personal injury attorneys, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, is well aware of the potential for injury that any car, truck or motorcycle accident presents. The accident down in Charlotte, N.C., for example was a tragedy that perhaps could have been avoided, though the evidence was sketchy at the time of the news reports.

According to news outlets, the crash occurred at 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon as the driver, 57-year-old Geoffrey Adams, was operating his Uber vehicle southbound along a 6-lane divided boulevard — the posted speed limit along that stretch of road is 45mph. As the driver’s 2014 BMW 535i approached an intersection, for some reason the vehicle crossed the median — and all three opposing northbound lanes of traffic — before striking a utility pole and some trees on the east side of the roadway. The BMW then re-entered the northbound lanes before coming to a complete stop, according to local law enforcement officials.

The force of the crash caused the unbelted victim, Ms. Konjit Yohannes Frangulis, to be ejected from the car. When emergency responders arrived at the scene of the traffic accident, the victim was found lying unresponsive in the roadway, according to police. Though the cause of the accident was not immediately known, officers responding to the crash site stated that the driver, who was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, did not appear to be impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Sadly, because the victim was not wearing a seatbelt, and most likely riding in the backseat of the vehicle, was thrown from the car and died at the scene of the accident. The Uber driver was subsequently charged with reckless driving as well as misdemeanor death by vehicle. In cases such as this one, the family of the victim would be within their rights to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver; however the fact that the driver was under contract to Uber at the time of the crash means there could be complications regarding which insurance policy/coverage applies.

Ride Sharing Accidents and Financial Compensation in Maryland

If this accident had taken place in Maryland, the fact that the victim was not wearing her seatbelt could affect the outcome of a wrongful death lawsuit, due in part to Maryland’s contributory negligence statute, which may be invoked by the defendant in a personal injury case to avoid paying damages to the plaintiff or his estate.

Both Uber and Lyft provide $1 million insurance coverage for each of their drivers when carrying passengers, which is substantial; however, any further liability exposure that these billion dollar companies would otherwise have is offset to a large degree by the employment status of their drivers — each of whom is defined as a contract worker. In doing so, these cyber ride-hailing firms tend to avoid the greater legal liability to which other companies, such as FedEx or UPS, are typically exposed should one of their drivers cause a serious injury-related traffic accident during their workday.

This is important to note, since Uber’s total number of ridesharing contractors is now somewhere near the four million mark; for its part, Lyft’s ride-hailing service has a significant presence in more than 600 cities across the U.S. And, while Uber and Lyft taxis are banned in some jurisdictions, they are still a common sight in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and as such, there is always a chance that someone using these “cyber-cab” services may be hurt or killed in a Maryland roadway accident.

For victims of accidents involving Uber or Lyft drivers, there is a potential downside when it comes to filing a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent ridesharing operator. Due to the convoluted nature of insurance coverage for Uber and Lyft vehicles, monetary rewards can vary based on the type and timing of an accident, as well as the circumstances surrounding the crash. This is why it is essential to contact a skilled Maryland auto accident attorney who is well versed in the area of ridesharing-related personal injury accidents.

Maryland Uber/Lyft Ridesharing Accident Specialists

The experienced legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, understands the ins and outs of Maryland insurance law, as well as the often-confusing insurance policies that ridesharing corporations provide for their contract drivers. There can be a significant difference in potential compensation for victims who are injured while riding in a Lyft or Uber vehicle versus being hit by an “off-duty” ridesharing operator.

Because there can be multiple factors that determine the outcome of an Uber or Lyft ridesharing injury case, not the least of which are insurance coverage and financial responsibility, retaining a qualified Baltimore injury attorney is a wise choice indeed. If you or a loved one has been badly injured in a Maryland or Washington, D.C. ridesharing traffic accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation.

The personal injury experts at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, have the legal training and courtroom expertise to represent you and your family in all types of Maryland car, truck and motorcycle accident cases. We are ready and willing to help. Call us today to schedule a free, informative and initial legal consultation with one of our skilled personal injury lawyers. There is no obligation and the knowledge gained will help you to make a better decision based on your rights under the laws of the State of Maryland.

Uber driver charged after passenger killed in east Charlotte crash; Feb. 1, 2020

Uber driver charged after passenger ejected from car and killed in east Charlotte crash; Feb. 2, 2020

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