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Insurance Coverage of Ride-Sharing Services Questioned

It was recently announced that RideScout, a technology platform that focuses on smartphone applications to connect people who need a ride with people who can supply it, is partnering with Zipcar to launch a new ride-sharing service in Boston.
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It will join others, like Hailo taxi, Sidecar, Uber, Lyft and Hubway.

These services are featured as fast, convenient and usually cheaper than paying for a taxi. However, car accident attorneys in Boston note there is growing concern in a number of municipalities regarding not only the safety of such services, but also what kind of insurance coverage is available to victims when the event of a traffic accident.

This is in addition to concerns raised by Boston cab drivers in a recent federal lawsuit that alleges the services engage in misleading marketing and unfair competition.

While numerous municipalities have been seeking tighter regulation of non-commercial drivers offering a commercial driving service, the recent death of a 6-year-old girl in San Fancisco has renewed the fervor. The girl was with her mother and baby brother on New Year’s Day when they were struck in a crosswalk by a driver who was affiliated with Uber.

Uber has said that the driver was not conducting an Uber trip at the time of the crash, though the driver’s Uber application was turned on. A wrongful death lawsuit, Ang Liang Liu et al. vs. Uber Technologies et al., alleges negligence, and the driver has also been criminally charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

The incident has prompted officials in Arizona, Illinois, Florida and Maryland to take a closer look at whether these kinds of companies are in compliance with current law, or whether additional protections should be implemented.

While these companies do typically require drivers to be personally insured with full coverage policies, the companies themselves have been able to avoid securing the kind of coverage that other commercial driving firms are required. That’s because they tout themselves as technology firms, as opposed to companies that offer driving services.

A driver’s personal auto policy should technically cover passengers, but it’s not intended to provide coverage when the car is used as a car-for-hire or livery. That’s according to the senior director of Property Casualty Insurance Association of America.

Uber just announced (following the fatal crash in San Francisco) that it had upped its per-accident insurance coverage, but the same can’t be said of all providers. There are inconsistent rules across the board.

That’s part of the reason why state commissioners of public service in Maryland are looking to subject ride-sharing services to the same regulations as taxis, meaning they’ll be required to carry a greater degree of insurance and drivers will have to be more thoroughly vetted.

In Arizona, legislators are looking to require ride-sharing companies to register with the state corporation commission, as well as limit the number of passengers and require annual vehicle inspections.

In Illinois, a measure is being weighed that would mandate ride-sharing drivers be restricted from taxi loading zones, be limited to 18 hours weekly and undergo background checks. Additionally, they would need to obtain a chauffer’s license, submit to routine vehicle safety inspections and carry commercial liability insurance.

Because the law is still catching up with the technology, it’s imperative that those injured in accidents involving ride-sharing drivers consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

If you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
Some doubt ride-sharing has it covered liability-wise, April 19, 2014, By Mike Salinero, Tampa Tribune
Proposed rules could idle Uber taxi-app business, Dec. 3, 2012, By Brian X. Chen, The New York Times
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New GM Car Safety Team: Good PR or Just Another Cover-Up? April 16, 2014, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog