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Ride-share liability issues, part 2: insurance rules under review

In the first part of this post, we began discussing the new transportation option that ride-sharing companies have opened up for Californians.

We noted, however, that there are key liability issues for private cars associated with the new service that remain unresolved.

In this part of the post, we will discuss the controversy regarding the application of the provision in California state administrative regulations that requires ride-share companies to carry $1 million of insurance.

The provision was put forward by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC). It applies when two conditions are met.

The first condition is when a private car transports paying passengers. Ride-share companies arrange for those passengers and handle the fee arrangements.

The second condition is when damages resulting from an accident involving such a car go beyond the policy limits of the driver’s personal insurance.

In the pedestrian accident case we discussed in part one of this post, the family of a young girl killed in a pedestrian accident argues in a wrongful-death suit that both of these conditions are met.

The ride-share company in question argues that the driver was not transporting any passengers at the time of the fatal accident. But the girls’ family counters with the contention that the driver was on the company’s online network when the accident occurred.

In this particular case, the ride-share company was Uber. But it could have been Lyft, Sidecar or any other company offering the new service.

The taxi industry has long been critical of ride-share companies for failure to address insurance liability issues. These companies are also known as transportation-network companies.

It now appears that the California Department of Insurance also has concerns about the insurance structure for ride-sharing. The insurance department has written to the utilities commission, asking the PUC to better define when a private car is delivering ride-sharing services.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "California regulaor warns about gaps in ride-sharing insurance," Marc Lifsher and Salvador Rodqiquez, Feb. 5, 2014

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