Unfortunate Uber incident leaves Auckland woman in a wheelchair

An Auckland woman who was already living with a disability has been left unable to walk after an Uber driver allegedly ran over her foot.

Fran Miller was taking her 12-year-old son out for dinner during the school holidays in April and used the Uber service due to her inability to drive.

She told 1News the driver stopped in the car park outside the Hangar restaurant in Henderson about 5pm on April 19. Her son got out of the rear left side of the Uber and as Fran tried to get out, albeit more slowly because of her disability, the driver accelerated, causing her foot to become stuck under the rear tyre.

"I yelled out to him to move several times," she said.

The driver moved the tyre off her foot, allegedly leaving a tyre mark, and asked if she wanted to be driven anywhere.

"The driver apologised to me and asked me where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do but I had my son and I didn't know what to do," she said.

"So we went into the restaurant so I could work out what to do — I needed to sit down and work out what the best approach was and work out where I could go."

Fran said she and her son had something to eat but her leg was throbbing so she got a ride to Waitākere Hospital.

She was admitted to a ward in the early hours of April 20 and had surgery on April 26 after swelling and higher priority surgeries caused delays. She said the surgeon told her she had a weber C fracture and required internal pins to remain in place for several months.

Fran wasn't discharged until May 10 due to her mobility issues and went home in a wheelchair. She is now in her sixth week of her right lower leg being in a cast.

Her son now makes his way to school with the help of friends' parents or by bus. He stayed with Fran's brother Lance while she was in hospital. She said the entire episode has been incredibly difficult.

 Fran Miller has been in a wheelchair for six weeks.

"I already had difficulties with mobility previous to the accident," she said. "I've only been outside once since the accident to go to the doctor.

"This has set me back significantly and I'm going to have to rehabilitate myself to get back out there — with the help of ACC hopefully. It's really impacted my independence."

Fran has been using taxis, public transport and Ubers since her health deteriorated in 2010, after being diagnosed with a brain tumour which affected her parietal and occipital lobes. The 8cm tumour was removed but she was left with partial vision and balance issues, meaning she had to use a crutch for support.

She said the Uber driver "must have noticed" she had a disability as she made her way to the car using her crutch on the evening she was injured.

Uber 'difficult' to contact

Uber headquarters (file picture).

Fran said the only way she could get in touch with Uber was through the app and that she'd found it "difficult" to get hold of someone to follow up her complaint.

She said she and other family members had tried to get hold of someone but only had replies through the Uber app.

In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said: "We were sorry to hear that this rider was injured on a recent Uber trip. We were in contact with the rider to offer our assistance as soon as we were notified of the incident by the rider (on April 19, the day the incident occurred).

"We take all safety incidents seriously and have robust processes in place to work through reported issues. Our Incident Response Team is available 24/7 and every Uber trip in New Zealand is covered by the national Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) scheme ensuring both riders and driver partners are protected throughout a ride."

Fran's brother Lance said he wanted to see the Uber driver prosecuted.

"He needs to own up and accept he has done wrong. He's injured my sister who is already partially disabled and has caused her a great deal of pain and aggravation.

"This avoidable incident has really rocked her and has caused my family a lot of grief," he said.

Police still investigating

Fran said she reported the incident to the police on May 21 but said she hasn't had any communication about an outcome.

Police told 1News the incident is still under investigation.

"Police are currently making inquiries following a report of an incident in Henderson on Wednesday 19 April.

"The incident, which was reported to Police on Saturday 21 April, alleges a vehicle has run over the victim's foot, causing serious injuries.

"Police have been in direct contact with the victim to take a witness statement.

"At this stage, while our inquiries are continuing, we are not in a position to comment further however will be in touch with the victim as the investigation progresses."

1News contacted The Hangar restaurant to see if there was any CCTV recording of the incident. The owner said due to the amount of time that had passed it had been deleted and confirmed the police hadn't contacted the business to canvass CCTV footage.

ACC is assisting Fran with home help, upping her care from seven to 14 hours a week after what she describes as a "bit of a battle".

"Francine's claim for a fractured ankle was accepted on April 26, and we are providing home help, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and transport supports while she recovers," ACC deputy chief executive for service delivery Amanda Malu said.

When Fran was discharged from the hospital in early May, the Waitematā District Health Board advised she needed seven hours of home help a week to assist her with household tasks and personal care, and this was put in place.

"A few weeks later, we received a request from the agency providing her home help to increase this to 15.5 hours per week.

"When we called Francine to discuss this request, she told us she was recovering well and was increasingly independent with her injury, but that she was having some other challenges due to her underlying health condition.

"We can only provide supports for the covered injury, and suggested she talk to her GP about this to request supports from other agencies.

"Because it appeared the additional need wasn't related to the injury, we had planned to decline the request for increased hours.

"However, on later advice from her GP and physiotherapist supporting that the need for additional home help was injury-related, we approved an increase to 14 hours per week," Malu said.

"We are continuing to work with Francine to ensure she gets the help she needs, and she will continue to receive the supports she requires for her covered injury for as long as is necessary."


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