A memorial at the intersection of Polk and Ellis streets in San Francisco, where a 6-year-old girl was struck by a car and killed on New Year’s Eve. (Sara Bloomberg/KQED)
A memorial at the intersection of Polk and Ellis streets in San Francisco, where a 6-year-old girl was struck by a car and killed on New Year’s Eve. (Sara Bloomberg/KQED)

We told you last week about the repercussions from a New Year’s Eve tragedy in which a driver for smartphone ride service UberX struck a mother and two children in a San Francisco crosswalk. One of the children, Sophia Liu, 6, was killed.

UberX acknowledged the driver, whom police identified as Syed Muzzafar of Union City, was a “partner,” though it said he was not making a trip for the company at the time of the incident. Police arrested Muzzafar on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, and he was later released after posting bail.

The death highlighted an issue that both taxi companies and their drivers have been raising as the ride services — including Lyft, Sidecar, UberX and others — become more popular. Namely: Are the services adequately insured?

Later today, we’re going to hear that question asked very loudly at City Hall. Members of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association promise to appear at this evening’s meeting of the Police Commission to demand the city enforce its insurance requirements on drivers and vehicles operating as part of the smartphone ride services.

The California Public Utility Commission requires the ride services, which it has dubbed transportation network companies(TNCs), to carry policies that provide $1 million in liability coverage per incident. But as KQED’s Jon Brooks has reported, a lot is unknown about the TNC insurance policies. For instance:

  • The TNCs provide “excess” instead of “primary” insurance coverage. The policies are designed to pay for claims uncovered by other insurance — say, a driver’s personal auto insurance policy.
  • The TNCs have said drivers’ personal insurance policies will cover some claims if there’s an accident; the insurance industry says those 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.

As a result of the uncertainty surrounding the insurance policies, some TNC drivers say they keep their status secret from their insurers. The taxi industry says the situation leaves the public unprotected. Barry Korengold, president of the cab drivers association, said in a statement today, “If this practice is knowingly allowed to continue, the city of San Francisco must bear financial responsibility for accidents such as the tragedy that occurred this past New Year’s Eve.”

For their part, the ride-service companies say their insurance is adequate and that drivers and passengers are protected.

Taxi Drivers Want San Francisco to Crack Down on ‘Ride Share’ Insurance 9 January,2014Dan Brekke

  • RW

    This is so absurd that it doesn’t even deserve coverage. The driver involved was not working and therefore has nothing to do with his employer. It’s disgusting that the taxi lobby wants to exploit the tragedy for their own economic benefit.

    • HH

      The driver was driving around with his Uber driver app open and waiting to be hailed by a paying passenger. He wasn’t driving for personal reasons, he was simply between passengers. It is not at all absurd to consider him to have been driving “for hire” at the time of the incident.

  • Dean Clark

    Can San Francisco crack down on the taxi industry. Once again last night Desoto Cab 1222 started on fire, burning up the front of the cab. Many of remember the incident with desoto on the freeway where there cab started on fire and the driver tried to get off the freeway hitting a pillar and killing two passengers. It is time San Francisco residents speak up to the SFMTA about the taxi industry hear. The cab Companies ad drivers are speaking up about ride shares but will not fix their own issues:

    Uber, Sidecar and Lyft are great alternatives to a taxi. I use to work for a taxi company in San Francisco and stopped shortly after a car accident that was not my fault with an uninsured motorist. I found out after the accident after been lied to for many years that taxi companies are required to carry uninsured motorist. The cab company I worked for did not carry uninsured motorist coverage and when I went to regulators such as the SFMTA I received no help with my issue. The taxi industry especially in San Francisco needs reform. I have created a website that explains in detail the issues I faced with the taxi company and other issues while driving a cab in San Francisco.

  • Ace

    The City has no legal authority to do anything about TNC’s per State law. Even If they could the Mayor is totally on board with TNC’ s and I suspect that may have something to do with campaign contributions. The TNC’s are awash with money.
    Of course Mta has extracted 50 million dollars from the cab industry via medallion sales now and lets it twist slowly in the wind as it is quickly dying. Empty cabs are sitting idle on every lot these days now that CPUC has deregulated the industry.

  • Rosangela

    Maybe he was driving and when he was using his smartphone to call he wasn’t looking on the road when 6 kids were crossing the street they didn’t see the taxi the taxi was going to fast and couldn’t stop he was driving so fast when he heard a rumbling sound he got out of his car and he said omg I just killed 6 kids he went to court so he lost his job in the United States it is illegal to text and drive everybody is trying to keep kids safe ps look both ways and you will stay alive.



Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Email Dan at: dbrekke@kqed.org

Twitter: twitter.com/danbrekke
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