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By Jarryd Westerdale

Digital Journalist

Uber accident victim takes legal battle to Europe

European businesswoman feels deeply aggrieved by the ride sharing app and reliance on RAF.

A split-second decision by a hired driver changed more than the course of a vehicle.

Coming to a standstill in the window of a corner shop, Jessika Nilsson spent two weeks in hospital after her Uber driver allegedly jumped a red light in Cape Town.

Still reeling in pain, the 34-year-old is abandoning standard recourse available to South Africans and is tackling the multi-national ride sharing giant in a European court.

The Uber car Jessika was travelling in was hit by a 4×4 on the corner of Buitenkant and Caledeon streets on 5 March, leaving her with a sternum fracture, five spinal fractures and multiple inner bleedings.

She claims the driver fled the scene before being tested for drugs or alcohol, and her subsequent investigations have led her to believe that he falsified his Uber registration documents.

As per the driver’s profile, he had only been on the platform for eight days and by sending the VIN and chassis number to her own contacts, was able to determine that, against Uber policy, the vehicle was almost 12-years-old.

ALSO READ: High Court orders Road Accident Fund to pay costs in contempt case

To add insult to injury, upon complaining to the seemingly untouchable corporation, Uber refunded her R43, the simple cost of the ride she never completed.

Jessika has been flooded with requests to assist her with a Road Accident Fund (RAF) claim but feels that is inadequate.

ALSO READ: Increasingly ‘broken’ Uber in South Africa points to market failure

She is a resident of the European Union and has a lawyer in the Netherlands assisting her to take on the goliath.

“Uber are an intermediary. If you ask them to provide a service via their app, they have essentially entered into a contract between two people. Jessika downloaded the app in Europe and is subject to those terms of service,“ explained Yusuf Ersoy from Amsterdam-based firm Arslen and Ersoy Advocaten.

Local lawyers urge RAF claim

Citing the Road Accident Fund Act, Johan Cilliers of Cilliers and Associates said:

“The Act also serves to indemnify an insured driver or owner of a motor vehicle (this is the person who was negligent) against liability incurred as the result of loss or damage wrongfully caused to the third party.”

Cilliers believes Jessika would be better served claiming from the RAF, advising:

“It is clear from the quoted text that the driver (and therefore, by implication, Uber too) is indemnified from liability for an accident caused by him.”

The accident victim is guided more by principle than financial gain, saying:

“European lawyers see it differently, they see contractual breaches by a European company. It comes down to there being zero accountability and responsibility by using the RAF as a scapegoat when things go wrong.”

Uber responds to Jessika’s claim

The ride sharing platform expressed their sadness at the incident, as they had done to an unimpressed Jessika.

When asked about their claims policy, Uber explained:

“When a driver, rider, or delivery person experiences an accident while on a trip, it is to their discretion whether to make a claim directly with the Road Accident Fund. Claimants may also access legal support through the insurance provided. All insurance reimbursements are, subject to terms and conditions, provided and determined by Uber’s insurance partner, AIG, and not Uber.”

They added that customers are able to get help with emergency medical treatment should they be injured “on-trip”.

Uber bears the cost of the insurance premium for the injury protection through AIG Insurance. To get assistance with medical treatment costs, the in-app claim form may be used or one may contact AIG.”

Uber stood firm on the belief that their driver “possessed valid background check documents” and that they were ready to cooperate with law enforcement to prove this.

Jessika disputed the cover provided by AIG , saying the insurers only offer R50 000. By contrast, her medical treatment has cost her in excess of R1 million, with that and the personal impact escalating.

Taking Uber to court

Spurred on by the perceived disrespect she has encountered since the life-altering event, her digging has uncovered what she believes is dubious dealings by suppliers and verification bodies used by Uber in South Africa.

ALSO READ: Uber launches teen accounts in SA to help parents

She is playing those cards close to her chest and has insiders ready to assist her against those companies, who also have a legal footprint in Europe.

“It is not only about fair compensation but improving the ride experience of those that rely on Uber and quality of service that is provided. We want to set a precedent with our actions to help others,” said Jessika.

Confident of a positive outcome, Ersoy concluded:

“We have two parties who have to look for the appropriate law. We believe general conditions apply and should be enforced. We are waiting to hear from Uber on their decision.”

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