UberX driver sued in fatal Hoffman Estates crash

Updated 8/21/2014 7:05 AM

A Hoffman Estates man who rear-ended a cab whose driver died more than two months ago on the Jane Addams Tollway was coming back from giving a UberX ride and is being sued by the cabdriver's son.

Jasbir S. Dhaliwal, 45, was at the wheel of his sport utility vehicle when he struck cabdriver Melba R. Farr, 56, of Elgin, on June 8 near Beverly Road in Hoffman Estates. The cab burst into flames and Farr died at the scene.


Dhaliwal was cited for improper lane usage and traveling too fast for conditions/failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, Illinois State Police Sgt. Paul Carlos said.

"It was terrible," Dhaliwal said Monday. "It happened so quickly. It happened in a second."

The lawsuit was filed in Cook County by Farr's estate through her son, Jimmie Roby, and seeks at least $50,000 in damages.

Roby directed all questions to his attorney, Timothy Richardson, who did not return a call for comment. Both parties are due in court Sept. 17.

A witness said he drove past Farr as she was stopped in the fourth, or far right lane, of traffic, then heard a loud "bang" and saw in his rear view mirror the cab engulfed in flames, Carlos said.

Dhaliwal, who was not injured, said he was returning home at about 5 a.m. after taking a passenger to O'Hare International Airport. UberX is a service that connects drivers with riders via smartphone app.

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Dhaliwal said the police report states he was driving in the fourth lane, but he actually was driving in the third lane and couldn't avoid the cab when it moved over slightly into his lane, he said.

Dhaliwal said Monday his insurance company, Farmers Insurance Group, had denied coverage of the accident.

"Because I work for Uber, they said I should have commercial insurance," he said.

After being contacted by the Daily Herald, the insurance company said late Tuesday that Dhaliwal's insurance claim was approved and a check was issued.

"We're not aware of any conversation that would have led Mr. Dhaliwal to believe he was not covered by his Farmers policy," company spokesman Trent Frager said.


A bill regulating ride-share companies, including requiring commercial insurance, is awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn's signature. A Quinn representative did not answer a question about whether the governor intends to sign the bill.

The city of Chicago in early May ordered UberX to stop picking up passengers at O'Hare and Midway airports, but dropping them off there is allowed, said Mika Stambaugh, director of communications for Chicago's business affairs and consumer protection.

"This was a tragic accident. While I can't comment on the specific details, the driver's auto insurance provided coverage as intended for a personal trip that occurred about a mile from the driver's home, according to the police report," Jennifer Mullin, spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc., said in a statement.

Uber provides commercial insurance coverage from the time an UberX driver accepts a trip request through the company's mobile app until the completion of the ride, according to Mullin.

Additionally, Uber started providing contingent coverage in March for accidents while UberX drivers are logged onto the Uber network and available to accept a ride.

Jaime Hjelm, owner of A Taxicab Leasing Corp. in South Elgin, which owns the vehicle driven by Farr, said she didn't find out Dhaliwal was coming back from an UberX ride until almost 50 days after the accident.

The state police report makes no mention of UberX. She said she eventually was told by Farmers Insurance, from which she's asking about $11,000 in damages. "You can tell mine is a taxi, but these (UberX) vehicles have no markings," Hjelm said.

Hjelm said she has sent letters to local and state officials, as well as Quinn's office, about the accident, which she says is yet another example of the need for strict regulations for the ride-share industry, which cab companies see as unfair competition.

Hjelm also says that, based on her company's GPS tracking data, she doesn't believe Farr was stopped, but instead was going 63 mph when the accident happened.


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