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.