Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ride-sharing businesses cause confusion among consumers, drivers

Ride-sharing through Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), including Lyft, Uber and Sidecar, are causing a stir nationwide from an insurance perspective. These services are available to consumers through a smartphone app and allow drivers in certain cities to use their personal vehicles to give people rides, like a taxi.

A handful of states have issued consumer notices about these companies, including California, Hawaii, Ohio and, most recently, Connecticut. The debate revolves around when drivers and passengers are covered in a collision. Most personal auto policies have an exclusion for “livery,” which means times when drivers are being paid to transport people. In that case, the drivers would need a supplemental policy to cover the commercial use of their vehicles.

Today, a TNC called Lyft announced it is partnering with MetLife insurance to “develop insurance solutions that further protect Lyft’s drivers and passengers when utilizing this new sharing economy platform.” However, that’s about all the information that appears to be available at this time.

The TNCs advertise their own liability policies for drivers. Here’s an example from Lyft: “The Lyft platform now provides drivers with excess liability insurance up to $1,000,000 per occurrence.” Uber seems to offer a similar policy. Sidecar offers a little more information on its site, including a disclaimer that its $1 million policy “is liability only and does not provide coverage for collision, comprehensive, or wear and tear damage to a driver’s vehicle.”

Lyft is available in Seattle and recently announced it is expanding into Spokane. Uber is available in Tacoma, Seattle and Spokane. Sidecar is available only in Seattle. 

This issue is sure to stick around as more consumers start using ride-sharing services. The Seattle City Council is currently considering how to regulate TNCs. You can read about one Seattle blogger’s experience with Lyft when he was involved in a collision.

If you have a problem with an insurance company, you can contact our consumer advocates at 1-800-562-6900 or online.