Transport Cars

Uber, Lyft and Sidecar Have Until Today to Provide Insurance Details to Chicago

Mar 14, 2014 10:00 am

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Neither drivers nor consumers are protected by the insurance policies ride-share drivers have. But Lyft, Uber, and Sidecar are protected since they’re merely “ground transportation platforms.”

— Jason Clampet

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Lucy Nicholson  / Reuters

A driver with the ride-sharing service Lyft waits for a customer on a street in Santa Monica, California. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters


The three major for-profit ride-share companies operating virtually unregulated in Chicago face a Friday deadline to respond to a subpoena calling on them to turn over copies of their insurance policies, officials said.

The subpoenas were sent to Uber X, Lyft and Sidecar this month by the city clerk on behalf of the Chicago City Council.

Insurance experts and taxicab companies have sounded alarms that ride-share customers aren’t protected by ride-share drivers or companies for any medical or other expenses resulting from an accident involving a ride-share vehicle.

The ride-share companies are currently not required to submit their insurance policies to the city or the state, and they have not done so voluntarily, officials with the city and the Illinois Department of Insurance said.

The companies also do not post their insurance policies on their websites.

“These companies are being rogue in terms of providing transparency and sunshine,” State Sen. Martin Sandoval, chairman of the Illinois Senate Transportation Committee, said at a hearing in downtown Chicago on Thursday that focused on the “insurance gap” involving ride-share companies.

Representatives of Uber X, Lyft and Sidecar declined to testify before the Transportation Committee, Sandoval said.

The committee decided to ask the full Senate to issue a subpoena to the three companies to turn over the insurance documents also being sought by the city council.

All three ride-share businesses insist ride-share drivers and customers would be covered by the driver’s personal auto insurance and by “excess” policies purchased by the companies if an accident occurred.

Insurance experts who appeared before the Transportation Committee disagreed.

“There is just no coverage under the personal liability policies,” said Mike Francis, of the Transit General Insurance Co.

Asked by the committee whether any insurance would kick in, Francis said: “We don’t know what their policy says.”

The city council voted to send the subpoenas to Uber X, Lyft and Sidecar at the request of Aldermen Ed Burke and Anthony Beale, who co-chaired a hearing last month on the consumer and safety impacts of the growing ride-share industry.

Uber X, Lyft and Sidecar officials declined to testify at the city council hearing as well.

The Emanuel administration, which has allowed ride-share companies to operate in Chicago for the last two years in what city officials acknowledged is a “regulatory vacuum,” recently proposed some rules.

The taxicab industry, which is tightly regulated, opposes the proposed ordinance, saying it does not go far enough.

Ride-sharing involves drivers with regular driver’s licenses using their personal vehicles to transport customers for a fee. The drivers contract for dispatch services with the ride-share companies, which operate using smartphone apps to arrange rides for customers and collect fares via credit cards.

Widespread evidence exists, based on the fine print contained in all major personal auto insurance policies as well as opinions provided by state insurance regulators and insurance companies, that no coverage applies to ride-share drivers unless they carry commercial insurance, which is required of taxicab drivers.

Few, if any, ride-share drivers carry commercial insurance, which is costlier than personal auto insurance.

In addition, the $1 million excess insurance policies carried by many ride-share companies are not applicable in the event of an accident because the ride-share driver’s personal insurance policy would never apply, the experts all agree.

Insurance experts testifying before the Transportation Committee on Thursday said that the ride-share companies’ excess policies only kick in after the ride-share driver’s insurance coverage is exhausted. If the personal policies are not applicable to commercial transactions like ride-sharing, the excess policies are excluded, the experts said.

“There is literally no insurance to cover this type of activity,” Mara Georges, an attorney representing the taxi industry in Illinois, told the committee.

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