One recent change in the motor vehicle world that has its roots in mobile technology is the advent of freelance taxi services, or “transportation network companies.” These companies create a mobile-based app that allows users to connect with drivers that contract with the company. Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are examples of these ride-sharing companies, who contract with drivers to provide a taxi service.
However, these drivers aren’t trained or regulated like taxi drivers. These drivers could be your neighbor, or your co-worker, or even your grandma. It’s a murky industry that lacks concrete regulation, and nothing typifies that more than a recent fatal car accident involving a driver associated with Uber.
The crash killed a 6-year-old girl who was crossing the street. The driver of the vehicle involved was an Uber driver — but he was not carrying a passenger. He may have been between fares or on his way to pick up a passenger, but that doesn’t matter per Uber’s insurance policy. The driver has to be carrying a passenger to fall under their coverage.
Here we see the gray area with these ride-sharing companies. Whose insurance covers what injuries or accidents when a ride-sharing company is involved in an accident? In this case, even though Uber claims the driver is not covered and that they shouldn’t be liable as a result, the family of the 6-year-old contends he was logged in to the Uber network. That argument is being made in their wrongful death lawsuit against Uber.
It stands to reason that these companies will be around for the foreseeable future, and as such the rules and laws that govern their industry will hopefully be improved.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “California regulator warns about gaps in ride-sharing insurance,” Marc Lifsher and Salvador Rodriguez, Feb. 5, 2014