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UBER Sized Auto Claims Meet with Insurer Exclusions!

Even UBER’s policies fight claims against its contracted drivers! 


We have been warning our friends and clients, via social media, for several weeks now about the dangers associated with driving fare-paying passengers. Uber is the maker of a mobile app that connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for ridesharing or hire.

Take a look at this article from the WeeklyBulletin, provided to us by the Western Insurance Agents Association. It summarizes a lawsuit about a driver who killed a pedestrian while viewing the Uber site, hoping to pick up a fare-paying passenger.     

Family of Girl Killed After Being Hit by Driver for Uber Sues Firm, Motorist

The family of a six-year-old girl who was killed in accident with a motorist who contracted with ride-sharing firm Uber sued the driver and the San Francisco-headquartered company contending that Uber’s online app causes motorists to violate California’s distracted-driving laws. The litigation, pending in San Francisco County Superior Court, argues that the driver who hit Sofia Liu as she, her mother and brother were in a crosswalk was at the time of the accident checking Uber’s smart phone app to see if he had any ride requests. 

The motorist, Syed Muzzafar, 57, of Union City, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence as well as failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, the New York Times reported. Muzzafar, who was bailed out of jail, has not been charged, according to the Times. Soon after the accident, Uber cut ties with the driver [feeling good about Uber?].

The ride-sharing company, which did not comment on the lawsuit, contended soon after the incident that Muzaffar was “not providing services on the Uber system during the time of the accident” because he did not have a fare-paying passenger. The suit counters that Muzzafar was viewing Uber’s website when he hit the youngster and, therefore, he was working for the firm at that instant.

The lawsuit, in an attempt to bolster its contention the Uber app causes its motorists to become distracted while their vehicles are in motion, alleges that Uber drivers “must respond quickly to a user request for service by physically interfacing with the app, thereby leading to distraction,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The suit asserts this violates a section of the state vehicle code that states, “A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving.”

The lawsuit may test assertions by Uber and other ride-sharing companies about the extent of their insurance. California Public Utilities Commission rules require the firms to have commercial-liability coverage with a $1 million per occurrence limit. Following the accident, Uber indicated its insurance did not apply because Muzzafar did not have a fare and wasn’t en route to picking up a customer. By contrast, taxi companies in San Francisco must carry insurance that’s in effect at all times [did you note the word “taxi”, which is pretty much what an active Uber user is]. 

The Chronicle reported that a growing number of drivers for ride-sharing firms are discovering the insurance problems and gaps faced by providers of these services, including that private-passenger auto coverage usually excludes claims for damages when a vehicle is used for commercial purposes and that the insurance required of Uber, Lyft and Sidecar doesn’t cover a driver or his or her vehicle.

I feel somewhat for Uber, in that they have no control over a driver who is playing on the internet while driving; BUT, they have definitely created a competitiveness for fares.  It really is a problem. 

AND, as we have been telling you, your insurance policy WILL NOT PAY if it is determined that your car is being used as a livery (taxi) at the time. This individual (who is being sued) is in a gray area. 

Will his company defend or pay?  There are lots of issues here yet to be determined.

But be certain, anyone using their own car – no matter how lovely they may be – will be denied coverage by their private passenger auto insurer if he/she is ferrying around passengers and is involved in an accident. 

It’s not worth the risk.  If you must do this, get a commercial auto policy for taxi services.      

 

 

Photo - © Syda Productions - Fotolia.com 

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