Are networked ride service drivers covered if they get into an accident while driving a paying passenger? It depends on who you ask. (Sara Bloomberg/KQED)
Are networked ride-service drivers covered if they get into an accident while driving a paying passenger? It depends on who you ask. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

This is Part Two of our series on the risks and benefits to drivers who sign up with the networked ride-service companies like Lyft, Sidecar and UberX versus those who work for the traditional taxicab industry. Part One — Will ‘Ride Sharing’ Kill San Francisco’s Taxi Industry? — focused on tensions between the two pools of drivers and the declining income earned by taxi drivers. Part Two looks at insurance issues related to the new ride services.

Veteran San Francisco cab driver Ed Healy says he’d never ever drive for Lyft, Sidecar or any of the other smartphone-driven ride-service  companies operating in the city.

It doesn’t matter that many of those driving for what state regulators call “transportation network companies” (or TNCs) say they’re making better money than old-school taxi drivers. It doesn’t matter that many cab drivers have moved over to the TNCs. Healey says his decision comes down to one issue.

“I wouldn’t ever drive in one because of the insurance,” Healey says. “I wasn’t going to leave my car exposed to an accident.”

Healy’s sentiments echo those of many in the taxi industry and point to a big unknown at the heart of the popular new ride-service companies: If a driver gets into a wreck, who pays? More specifically, what insurance is in place to cover injuries, property losses and damage to passengers, passers-by and the driver’s own car?

Lyft and the other TNCs point to the $1 million per incident excess liability coverage that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) requires them to carry. The policies are designed to deal with liability claims a driver’s insurance doesn’t cover. But the policies won’t cover drivers’ cars. That means the drivers must rely on their personal auto insurance policies — which still may leave them uncovered since insurers typically, though not always, bar claims if a driver’s vehicle was in commercial use when an accident occurred.

And that’s not the only uncertainty surrounding insurance coverage for ride-service drivers and passengers. The ride services’ terms of service require users to waive liability claims. Lyft’s founder says that’s just a standard bit of contract language while the taxi industry and San Francisco’s chief taxicab regulator say the terms could raise questions of who will pay in case of an accident.

All of these issues, TNC opponents claim, amount to incentives for people to keep their status as ride-sharing drivers secret from their insurance company. I found that to be the case with at least some of the drivers I spoke to.

I spent the last couple of months talking to drivers, the ride services, their competitors in the taxi trade and insurance industry representatives to try to get answers about insurance coverage. What I found was a thicket of contradictions and complications in figuring out who will pay if something goes wrong during a ride-service trip. For instance:

  • Ride-service companies like Lyft and Sidecar say drivers’ personal insurance policies will cover some claims. The insurance industry says the policies won’t provide any coverage.
  • The insurance industry says ride-service drivers will have to buy commercial insurance to be covered when they’re driving for hire and maybe even when they’re not.
  • At least some ride-service drivers are keeping their status secret from their insurance companies because they’re afraid of losing coverage. (See sidebar: Are Ride-Service Drivers at Risk of Losing Their Insurance?)

A Topic of Conversation

The insurance issue is definitely a topic of discussion among Lyft drivers, according to Alice, who has been driving for the company since April. (Most ride-service drivers spoke to me on condition we would not use their full names.)

“There’s a lot of conversations going on [about insurance] in the Lyft Driver’s Lounge,” she said, referring to a company Facebook page. She says some Lyft drivers have quit over the issue.

“Some people are like, ‘Yeah, I’m really bummed, but until the insurance thing is settled, I’m not going to drive for Lyft anymore.’ A lot of the new drivers have asked multiple times on the Facebook page, ‘What do we do about insurance?’ Lyft’s answer is you have to figure that out on our own.”

Alice says she and about a dozen other drivers were invited to lunch with Lyft CEO John Zimmer over the summer to discuss the issue. “I got a phone call from Lyft, they were doing damage control,” she says, adding that Zimmer told the drivers the company was working on getting an insurance carrier that would cover them for both personal use of their car and for ride-service work.

Zimmer told me the company is now in discussion with insurance companies to offer “expanded types of coverage.”

The insurance industry has stated clearly that a driver’s personal policy is not going to cover any accident in which the insured was using his or her vehicle for commercial purposes.

In a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission in 2012, the Personal Insurance Federation of California, an industry group made up of State Farm, Farmers, Progressive, Allstate, Liberty Mutual, Mercury and Nationwide, said it asked its members to determine how they would treat liability claims in ride-service accidents.

In response to the Commission’s inquiries, we surveyed our members regarding coverage issues in the above described situations. It appears that the industry standard for personal auto insurance policy contracts is to exempt from insurance coverage claims involving vehicles used for transporting passengers for a charge. Thus, in situations where a vehicle is insured as a private vehicle and is used to transport passengers for a fee, no insurance coverage would exist…

In a press release after the CPUC ruling, the Association of California Insurance Companies, a trade association and lobbying group, said, “Both drivers and riders must understand that an accident in a ride-sharing vehicle will not be covered under a personal auto insurance policy.”

The California Department of Insurance also weighed in on the issue in an advisory letter it sent to the CPUC before its final decision: “Based on informal conversations with TNCs and auto insurers, we understand that personal lines auto insurers have both paid claims and denied claims when drivers with personal lines insurance were transporting a passenger referred by a TNC.”

Despite statements like that, the ride-service companies insist drivers’ insurance companies will cover claims arising from their paid work and in fact have already done so.

Margaret Ryan, vice president of communications at Sidecar, said in an email that the company has yet to see an incident in which a driver’s personal insurer has denied a claim. Erin Simpson, director of communications at Lyft, says she is aware of “multiple instances” in which an insurer has known that drivers were working for Lyft and still approved a claim under the driver’s insurance policy.

DeSoto Cab Company driver Corey Lamb protests against app-based ride-service companies outside San Francisco City Hall. (Alex Enslie/KQED)
DeSoto Cab Company driver Corey Lamb protests against app-based ride-service companies outside San Francisco City Hall. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

And indeed, one Lyft driver I talked to said that when he got into an accident in 2012 while carrying a paying passenger, his insurance company was aware of the circumstances and still approved the claim.

That was last year, though, and things may be different now that the CPUC issued regulations for the TNC industry. One of the commission’s major findings: The TNCs are commercial enterprises,

Pete Moraga, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California, an industry group, says personal auto policies typically exclude coverage for vehicles when they’re in commercial use.

“If you are (working for a TNC) and you have your own personal policy, the minute you pick up your rider that policy will cease to cover you,” Moraga says.

Lyft, Sidecar and UberX instituted excess liability insurance policies of $1 million per incident for their drivers, a level of coverage that the CPUC now requires. The commission found that coverage to be more than adequate for the TNCs and noted that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency also requires the $1 million amount for cab companies.

What Those $1 Million Policies Cover

The excess liability policies are supposed to supplement a driver’s individual coverage, providing coverage at the point where personal policies leave off. Which is interesting, if you consider that the insurance industry says that a driver’s personal policy will exclude ride-service claims.

Kara Cross, general counsel for the Personal Insurance Federation of California, says that’s a potential problem.

“Their coverage kicks in after any other coverage is paid first, “Cross says. “You might wind up that TNC (insurance) carriers are starting to find more and more situations that the personal carriers are not covering, and then you can have a problem with the TNC carriers.”

Lyft’s Erin Simpson says even though the company’s policy is called excess insurance, it has been custom-designed to “drop down” and cover any amount that a driver’s personal policy doesn’t. And the CPUC regulations specifically state that “the insurance coverage shall be available to cover claims regardless of whether a TNC driver maintains insurance to cover any portion of the claim.”

Pete Moraga, from the Insurance Information Network of California, is skeptical that the drop-down feature resolves questions about coverage. “There was little involvement if any from the insurance industry in these regulations,” he says. “The regulations that the CPUC enacted haven’t stood the test of real-life situations. In real-life situations you may find there are a lot of gray areas where there’s going to be disputes, claims aren’t honored, and probably litigation at some point.”

As the CPUC hammered out its TNC rules earlier this year, the California Department of Insurance said its preferred option would be to require the companies to carry $1 million in primary insurance for each driver — meaning policies that pay first if there’s a claim. The insurance department said excess insurance would be acceptable as a lower-cost option for the TNCs. But it added such a dual system of insurance, depending on both a driver’s insurance and a company’s excess liability coverage, could result in confusion to consumers who need to file claims.

“It’s a confusion issue,” agrees Kara Cross of the Personal Insurance Federation of California.

In a written statement, the CPUC did not answer a direct question about the excess-versus-primary policy issue, saying only that its Safety and Enforcement Division is reviewing the TNC policies to “make its independent assessment as to whether the existing coverages conform to the CPUC’s insurance requirements.”

John Zimmer says Lyft’s policy has already been tested a few times and that there have been no problems getting claims through.

Uncertainty About TNCs’ Terms of Use

Questions about insurance coverage also extend to the terms of service that the ride-service companies require drivers and passengers to accept. Among those raising that issue is Christiane Hayashi, director of taxi services for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

One taxi driver says more company money is spent on insurance than on payroll. (Sara Bloomberg/KQED)
One taxi driver says more company money is spent on insurance than on payroll. (Sara Bloomberg/KQED)

“If there happens to be an accident involving the Lyft or Sidecar service,” she says, “there’s the uncertainty of how the terms and conditions that people have to sign in order to participate in these services will affect the insurance coverage, because it disclaims all liability for anything whatsoever.”

The state Department of Insurance isn’t fond of the terms either. The department wrote to the CPUC that “a disclaimer of liability in the TNCs Terms of Service could mislead a consumer into thinking that they do not have a recourse against a TNC, when in fact the TNC will be required to maintain $1,000,000 in coverage. The CPUC should prohibit waivers that will prevent consumers from having recourse to the insurance.”

The CPUC did insert specific language in its final ruling to address this issue:

Nor can any Terms and Conditions in a TNC’s Terms of Service be used or relied on by the TNC to deny insurance coverage, or to otherwise evade the insurance requirements established in this decision.

Lyft CEO John Zimmer says the issue is a total red herring concocted by ride-service opponents. The disclaimer language used by his and other companies, he says, is “legal protection that any website will have, completely standard practice.”

What About Collision Coverage?

Even if you’re a TNC driver covered through the companies’ liability policies, that only covers damage to the other vehicle and passengers. If the accident is judged to be your fault, the liability coverage won’t help you pay for damage to your own car. That would require collision coverage, and the TNCs don’t offer that.

Erin Simpson of Lyft says drivers “would need to check with their personal carrier and check on their specifc policy” to make sure their collision coverage applies while working as a Lyft driver.

But Josh Wolf, a journalist who did a story for the Bay Guardian about his experiences driving for Lyft, says he ran into trouble when looking for coverage on a new car:

I was told that personal automobile insurance was insufficient. The insurance companies that cover limos and taxis said they couldn’t help me either since my car wasn’t registered as a commercial vehicle. Although Lyft provides a $1 million excess liability policy, there was no way to insure my own car against an accident. The lack of available insurance has left many drivers afraid to continue shuttling passengers, despite decent pay and flexible hours.

Kara Cross of the Personal Insurance Federation says there is definitely a gap in coverage for TNC drivers. “No coverage for collision, comprehensive coverage [theft, vandalism] medical payments,” she says.

But she adds that could change.

“It’s not to say that somebody might develop a product,” Cross says. “There’s been talk that maybe an insurance carrier will offer the marketplace (a policy) so you still have your personal coverage but there would be some language to cover these situations. As far as I know this product has not come out yet.”

One cab driver I spoke to who’s considering driving for UberX said when he tried to get collision coverage through his insurance company, he was told he had to go through a commercial carrier and get livery insurance. He called one up and was able to get a quote. That, coupled with the $1 million liability insurance requirement, has made him more comfortable about making the switch. (Update Jan. 17, 2013: The driver now tells me although he did get a quote originally, the company ultimately rejected his application because he was a TNC driver, and he was not able to get commercial insurance.)

Pete Moraga of the Insurance Information Network of California says drivers need commercial insurance, which is more expensive than a personal auto policy, if they want to be covered for anything more than basic liability on their ride-service vehicle.

For most of the ride-service drivers I talked to, though, these issues are somewhat abstract, if not confusing.

But Brad Newsham, a 28-year veteran cab driver, gives a glimpse of the reality that underlies all the talk about insurance. He says he once worked a year-and-half in an underground mine, and he puts cab driving ‘right up there with it’ in terms of stress, much of it due to being wary of “not killing somebody, not killing yourself.”

“Sometimes when I’d have a close call, I would lose my nerve for awhile. You come to realize how dangerous it is,” Newsham says. “You’re driving this one-ton piece of machinery at high speeds. To come within inches of killing someone or killing you, it’s a very, very dangerous activity.”

Just how dangerous, you can see in the case of the flying San Francisco fire hydrant. In that accident last March, a black town car on an Uber call collided with another vehicle while turning left on Divisadero. One of the cars hit a fire hydrant, sending it flying through the air. It struck a pedestrian, who sustained severe injuries. Uber is fighting a lawsuit over the incident, essentially arguing it bears no responsibility for the driver’s actions.

The ride-service drivers I talked to aren’t focusing on that risk. Right now, they seem to be enamored of the good pay, flexible schedule and social aspects of their jobs. Any insurance concerns they may have aren’t serious enough to spur them to quit, with many citing the TNCs’ $1 million liability policies as a mitigating factor.

Lyft driver Dan summed it up this way:

“Am I worried about the sky falling when I walk out the door? No. Is it more of a distinct possibility that when I’m driving for Lyft in the city? Yeah. But I’m not thinking about it.”

Part Three takes an in-depth look at a complaint of many cab drivers: payments demanded of them from cab company employees.

  • “Is it more of a distinct possibility that when I’m driving for Lyft in the city? Yeah. But I’m not thinking about it.” Did you really just say that? You’re driving passengers around the Bay Area, driving 100 – 200 miles per day and you’re comparing your odds of having a traffic accident to a “sky is falling” scenario? Clearly, the pillar of responsibility. “Lyft driver Dan”, you should be ashamed. You are taking responsibility for the safety of your passengers and the general public as a professional driver. If you’re not intelligent enough to regard this responsibility you would hopefully be intelligent enough not to express that.

    • jamz111

      Wait, wasnt that comment pertaining to insurance that will cover HIM?,

      “Driver Dan” was basically saying that he could care less if his insurance company will or will not take care of him and his car when an accident happened. He did not mention that he did not care if the passengers will be taken care of.

  • Lauren

    This is not a new issue. A very popular airport shuttle company insures a van that could seat ten people for $15,000/30,000. If the franchisee chooses to under-insure their van, you as the passenger and the franchisee/driver could be in serious trouble in the event of an accident.

  • Yujin

    I think the scariest thing that might come up in the future is the regulation of TNCs like the Taxi companies before them. It’s early but by no means has the dust cleared.

  • Chris OConnell

    Excellent piece. Biking has increased a lot in the city and there is even the bike share program. That may be an additional factor as to why cabbies say business is way down.

  • Ragazzu

    “Margaret Ryan, vice president of communications at Sidecar, said in an email that the company has yet to see an incident in which a driver’s personal insurer has denied a claim. Erin Simpson, director of communications at Lyft, says she is aware of “multiple instances” in which an insurer has known that drivers were working for Lyft and still approved a claim under the driver’s insurance policy.”

    Sounds like both Sidecar and Lyft drivers have had enough accidents to make these telling statements.

    “ride-service drivers…seem to be enamored of the good pay, flexible schedule…”

    Ha! No benefits, no job security, no insurance, and a software company leaching off every fare. Sign me up!

  • driverguest

    I drive part time for an app based driving company, which I will not name because it is apparent many people here are extremely biased. As a driver, I understand that my personal vehicle may not be covered, but everything else will be. I made a decision, and thought it was worth the risk to drive a car part time to earn 40+ dollars an hour in my spare time to make a lot of extra cash. I drive extremely safely, and after approximately 10 years of driving and hundreds of thousands of miles of driving, I have never caused an accident. It will come eventually, but guess what? I accepted that risk for the vehicle I drive.

    We are people just like cab drivers, pretty much everyone needs money, and that is why cabbies are upset that they have competition. Cab drivers need to stop complaining about app based drivers, and work on improving their product so that they stop losing customers.

    • Iceman

      “We are people just like cab drivers, pretty much everyone needs money”

      you are right about that. Yet lots of lyft drivers think they are working better jobs and providing better services. Everyone wants good money but people don’t realize that it’s the tnc companies who is making good money for doing pretty much nothing but recruiting new drivers and receiving the 20% cuts from their drivers hard working. They don’t care about you, they care about how you can make money for them!

      For now, they are eating the cab companies’ shares by putting more drivers on the road. Have you realized that how many of those tnc cars are on the streets? Tons of them, definitely more than the taxi cabs and they keep coming and coming because there is no regulation for how many cars a tnc company can hire. Tell me you are making good money when the market is really saturated. Oh, and cross your fingers not to get into accidents.

    • jamz111

      driverguest I totally agree that these taxi drivers/operators should concentrate on how they will improve instead of just harassing you guys.

      I have NEVER had a positive experience riding a taxi cab thats why when uber and lyft came I totally could not believe the experience.

      I hope that the insurance issues get totally taken care of soon so more tnc drivers will become available and taxis will be OBSOLETE.

      • Ed Healy

        I find that people who complain about cab drivers are usually rude, overbearing and obnoxious themselves. If you improve your personality, jamz, I think you’ll find that you’ll have a better experience. Try saying hello, smiling, being friendly and treating the driver as if he or she was a person like yourself. If you do, you’ll find that you whole different experience. It’s a good idea to do so because cabs will never be obsolete.

        • jamz111

          You are too funny Ed.

          You do not even know me and you are quick to judge my personality. I on the other hand have had many experience with your taxi drivers so I think I have more right to evaluate them than you do me.
          I do not know what part of the world you’ve been hiding in because you seem to be either ignorant or just have self denial.
          Assuming I do not smile or do not say hello (giving you the benefit of the doubt here), does that give the cabbies ticket to treat me like their beloved mother-in-laws?
          By the way, could you explain why I get the opposite treatment from Lyft and Uber drivers?
          And their cars (Uber/Lyft) always smell so freaking good.

          • Ed Healy

            Of course I know you. You’ve been telling me all about yourself with your comments. You think that you are brilliant and superior and that cab drivers are lower class than you are. Despite your awesome intelligence you appear to be easily manipulated. All John Zimmer has to do is tell you that his drivers are people just like you and not like those low-life cab drivers and you gleefully jump into his uninspected, uninsured cars and smile at the Lyfter in a way that you would never do to a “smelly” cab driver.

            You’ve never had a good cab ride?

            You are a bigot my friend. Uber/Lyft cars may smell nice but they are not inspected and, many of them, are much older and mechanically suspect than the, low-emission hybrid taxi you would get into.

            BTW, my credit card machine usually works fine. I’ve been taking credit cards for over 10 years. I would suggest that you try Flywheel – the legal taxi app. The credit card charge is automatic. Just remember to smile at the driver and say hello.

          • jamz111

            Assumption, assumption.
            So by reading my comments you can actually tell who I am? lmao
            I have 5 star rating from both Uber and Lyft for the hundred or so rides I’ve had with them. That means those drivers who have had face to face encounter with me are saying that I am that “cool dude”. So you saying that you know me based on my comments is just ridiculously funny. Just tells me how desperate you are on bashing the new and the future of transportation.
            I asked how you could explain the different treatment by Uber/Lyft drivers and your answer is that I’ve been manipulated by Mr. Zimmer. NO! It is because they just do. Now you are telling me what kind of person you are.
            First off I did not even know who John Zimmer was untill after reading this article. Does he have some kind of a super powers that hypnotizes passengers? lmaolsh

            If your credit card machine is always working, you might want to give other cabbies a seminar on how they can maintain theirs, because apparently most of them have broken card machine most of the time. And this is coming from me WHO have experienced it many times so this is not a made up story based on your comments.

  • leftoversright

    There is commercial collision insurance available. I have it on my car.

    • peter

      who is the carrier and do you have a number of an agent to call. i would like it as well.

      • leftoversright

        Brokers name is Diana Rios, Number 650-260-2218

  • SFPax

    I have been following these articles in defense of a industry that have failed to hear the voice of their clients. The Taxi industry has invested a lot of money in advertising their background check, the insurance issue, etc. but still not addressing the reasons that allowed TNCs to be created and continue to exist.

    Former taxi passengers have expressed what they don’t like about the taxi companies: how rude a majority of the drivers are, the game about the broken credit card machine to get cash, refusing to go outbound far locations or requesting a taxi that likely will never show because they pick up someone else on their way to the location, however these issues have been ignored. TNCs have given a solution to these issues, and if the taxi companies don’t adjust they simply will keep giving away a share of their profit. We are aware they don’t make the kind of money mentioned in this article, likely it is twice as much or better.

    I think there is plenty of business out there for everybody, I’d like to see a limit on the number of TNC’s drivers like the number of taxis in a given city, just to make it fair. Honestly, the city will never allowed enough medallions to cover the transportation need so it is necessary to put a limit to preserve a demand and fulfill the need. All these on behalf of the needs of the community, our people.

  • vetipie

    Same old Ed Healy, with the same old story. Give it a rest, we all know how you feel. I love uber, lyft and sidecar. Ed if you spent more time helping to create an awesome taxi service in San Francisco rather than moaning about app based rides…. Life would improve for you. So run along now as many are tired of your worn out old story.

    • Ed Healy

      Do you mean “my tired old insured” story?

  • Ed Healy

    Kudos Jon,

    I’ve been trying to get a major media outlet to cover the lack of TNC insurance for almost a year and you are the first writer to do it. Nice balanced piece – except for misspelling my name and quoting John Zimmer who is clearly a sociopath willing the risk the lives and livelihoods of his drivers for a buck. But, that’s what balance is about, no?

    One aspect that you missed was the overall effect on the cost of personal insurance for everyone else in California.

    I mean, if you have the Lyft and Sidecar drivers pretending not be working commercially whenever they are in an accident, this will raise the overall accident rates and someone will have to pay for it. That someone will not be John Zimmer or the insurance companies. It will be smucs like me and you who will pay for it with higher personal insurance rates.

    I asked Kara during the CPUC Rideshare hearings if the rates would go up if there was massive influx of personal vehicles acting like cabs and she said that the rates most likely would go up.

    Well – there has been a massive influx of TNC vehicles and, at the end of the day, we will be paying to help venture capitalists make a profit.

    Oh – yes. One other thing. I also ran into a few agents who would insure the TNC’s with personal insurance but the rates the drivers would have to pay would be comparable to commercial insurance rates.

    The only way to protect the public and the intellectually challenged TNC drivers would be to require commercial insurance for all such vehicles.


    • Iceman

      That’s exactly what my concerns are. With more and more of those tnc cars on the streets, more accidents are likely to happen and every driver will suffer if the tnc drivers’ insurance companies pay for their claim. Remember, the insurance companies don’t loose money, they raise the rate, not just the drivers who were involved in the crush but everyone who drives the same model of cars.

      “If you are (working for a TNC) and you have your own personal policy,
      the minute you pick up your rider that policy will cease to cover you,”

      No No No! I have seen it too many times when the tnc drivers drive crazy when there is no passengers in their cars; too many times when they are reaching for their phones that attached to the windshields to operate the apps; too many times that they make sudden unsafe multiple lane changes, right after they are done with their phones (the next pick up is that way I guess) For these reasons, they should be considered working as long as they are driving, with or without passengers.

      Crazy driving cabs are already bad and these guys are no better. At least the cabs have big numbers on them and they are more predicable.

    • jamz111

      Its funny when someone comments about another posters misspelling.

      Might want to check yours too…..lmao

      • What, Me worry?


        • jamz111

          Aha! Lol

          • What, Me worry?


  • Richard Hybels

    As the owner of a taxi company I hope the TNC’ insurance will cover the drivers when the personal insurance declines to pay. The TNCs’ will soon find out why I pay $10,000 per cab per year for insurance and have to beg to get even that rate. It won’t take long for their insurance companies to know what mine do and the party will be over.
    They are going to learn how everybody that gets in an accident in SF lies through their teeth if he bothers to stop and not speed off. There will be many times even though the TNC may well not be at fault they won’t be collecting from anybody to pay for their car cuz you can’t prove your case.
    TNC drivers are taking huge risks with their futures.
    Here is a tip for the TNC driver: Get a good dash cam cuz you are going to need it.

    • jamz111

      I have a tip for you too.

      As an owner of a taxi company why dont you start focusing on serious customer service training for your drivers?

      Let them be aware that they now have competition and are in trouble.

      I’m sure you’ve heard of the difference between riding with one of these TNC’s vs a taxi cab. Most of the taxi drivers I’ve encountered have real bad manners. There’s just no customer service etiquette. Oh and what about the continuous issues of denying a passenger a ride if the driver does not like the destination or if the passenger wants to pay with credit card?

  • S

    Lyft drivers do not need commercial insurance, only a policy that has no livery clause. I have insurance through progressive with no livery clause. While it was more expensive than my original policy, it is about half the price of a commercial license. Seems like problem solved to me.

    • A G

      I can guarantee that if you get into a car accident with your pink moustache, and it is uncovered that you were driving for Lyft at the time of the accident, that you will be considered driving as a car-for-hire, and will have no coverage for any damages to your car or liability coverage from Progressive.

      I can also tell you that it’s not hard to show that someone is a driver for a “transportation network company”. All I need to do is have you log into a Lyft, UberX or Sidecar app to show that you took a job at the time of the accident.
      Though these companies call it “ride sharing”, this is clearly a car-for-hire situation, not a casual carpool type of scenario.

  • Dave Sutton

    Lyft CEO John Zimmer says the company’s disclaimer language—in which passengers agree to hold Lyft harmless for anything that happens on the ride—is “completely standard” for a “website.” He goes on to say this is a non-issue concocted by opponents.

    Were we supposed to overlook the word “website”? Lyft is NOT a website. Lyft is a taxi company. And having passengers agree to hold a taxi company harmless for anything that happens on the ride is outrageously irresponsible. Worse, it’s trying to eliminate those passengers who may not realize these terms would never hold up.

    • Ed Healy

      Furthermore the fact that software companies like Apple deny liability for their actions does not make it a good thing for everyone else. On top of that of course is the fact that cars can kill people through negligence and the worse Apple can do is loose your data. John Zimmer, who is a pathological liar, says waiving your rights to collect in case of injury or death is a “non-issue concocted” by cab companies?. Even the toadies at the CPUC couldn’t agree with this and insisted that Lyft & sidecar take such language out of their contracts. But did they do it?

  • Laura James

    I work part time for both Lyft and Sidecar and follow these developments very carefully. I do believe I am not covered by enough insurance while driving for these companies. I am taking the risk. I refuse to drive at night. I stay away from crazy downtown driving whenever possible and generally drive much more carefully when I’ve got the mocks or the stache on. For now that’s the best I can do. I hope they get this insurance thing worked out. I don’t feel comfortable with it the way it is at all.


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

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