Distractions while driving can divert a motorist’s attention from the road. As mobile phones became more advanced, smart phone apps can become additional distractions for drivers.

Many Newark, New Jersey, residents might have the same question after a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against ride-sharing company Uber, which markets a mobile application for transportation service. The lawsuit stemmed from a fatal pedestrian accident that killed a six-year-old girl in California. The accident occurred on New Year’s Eve when the girl, together with her younger brother and mother, was struck by a vehicle driven by a 57-year-old man. The victims were in the crosswalk at the time.

According to authorities, the driver is an Uber driver. He was reportedly logged onto the Internet ride-sharing application at the time of the accident. The driver was taken into custody and was charged with failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. He was later released from jail after he paid his bail. Police are continuing the investigation.

Uber released a statement recently, saying that the driver involved was not providing services for them when the crash occurred. The man’s Uber account was also immediately deactivated.

The wrongful death lawsuit has alleged that Uber’s app system is a distraction to drivers. The driver’s attorney has pointed out that because Uber obtains profits from its drivers, they must also share liabilities in case of an accident.

Many activities, including mobile app use, can contribute to distracted driving. Distracted drivers can cause serious injuries or even fatalities. Should that happen, it now appears that the driver and a potential third party could be legally liable for damages brought about by the accident.

Source: The Guardian, “Uber sued by family of six-year-old killed in San Francisco crash,” Dominic Rushe, Jan. 27, 2014