AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin couple is suing Uber and the driver who picked them up after they were involved in a car accident that they believe should have never happened.
Last October, Matthew and Elizabeth Harris were leaving a north Austin Red Roof Inn and requested an Uber to pick them up.
But the couple said when their driver arrived, they quickly realized something wasn’t right.
“Smelled alcohol, noticed erratic behavior,” Matthew said.
The two exchanged nervous glances but didn’t get out.
“She pulled out and all of a sudden we were hit, it literally happened within seconds,” Elizabeth said.
The impact broke two bones in Elizabeth’s back. She hasn’t been able to work since the crash. Matthew suffered from severe whiplash along with abdominal bruising.
The lawsuit filed this week claims the driver was not only intoxicated, but also distracted by her phone.It also cites a previous DWI conviction from 1998.
The couple’s attorney, Jason McMinn, believes that rideshare drivers are uniquely distracted by all the technology in the car.
He believes they need to go through additional training before they can be allowed to drive customers.
“Have clear rules and regulations so they can’t use and access multiple phones and multiple devices to have rides,” McMinn said.
While Uber declined to comment on the specific case, a company spokesperson wrote:
“Prior to gaining access to the app, Uber conducts a screening process which includes a criminal background check and driving records check.”
According to Uber, the company uses a third-party background checker. Certain felony convictions, such as for violent or sexual crimes, are disqualifying. Major driving violations, or a history of minor driving violations can also disqualify a driver.
Uber also periodically re-checks current drivers.
Matthew and Elizabeth Harris, however, believe more needs to be done and they are warning others to protect themselves from a similar situation.
“Do not be afraid to speak up, just because you’re a nice person,” said Elizabeth. “You should speak up.”