Uber and Lyft say they are closing what Seattle and other cities have considered potentially costly insurance-coverage gaps in ride services offered by drivers using their personal vehicles.
The companies say they will now ensure that drivers are covered not just from pickup to drop-off, but any time the drivers are live on their smartphone apps.
That’s a major shift in coverage the Seattle City Council is expected to make mandatory when it votes Monday on a ride-service regulation ordinance.
UberX said its change is effective Friday across the nation. Lyft said its change would be effective as it rolls out state by state. Sidecar said it was working on a similar policy.
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“We want legislators and regulators to know we are putting our best foot forward to make sure (our coverage is) not ambiguous,” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said Thursday.
An uberX driver didn’t have that kind of coverage on New Year’s Eve, when he — allegedly while live on the uberX smartphone app — struck and killed Sofia Liu, 6, in San Francisco.
The accident prompted questions about whose insurance would cover damages, and the Liu family filed a lawsuit against Uber and the driver.
Uber publicly denied any responsibility in the accident, saying the driver had no passengers and was not responding to a specific ride request.
Kalanick said that in most cases, drivers’ personal insurance would pay for damages. But in the event it doesn’t, Uber’s insurance coverage will pay for damages, he said.
Kalanick said that in the San Francisco case, the driver’s personal auto coverage will be paying for damages.
Christopher Dolan, the Liu family’s lawyer, said the driver’s insurance policy provides for up to $15,000 but has not paid the family anything.
Uber, Lyft and Sidecar previously refused to share their full master insurance policy with the city of Seattle.
But to help end skepticism about how safe a company Uber is, Kalanick said Uber would do so whenever the city wants to schedule a time.
He said uberX drivers will be able to get commercial insurance through Uber, which will take an undisclosed percentage of their fares to help pay for it.
If a driver’s personal insurance policy does not cover an accident when the driver is logged onto the app but not carrying a passenger, Uber will provide contingent coverage that
would pay up to $50,000 for injury to one person, $100,000 for injuries to all persons and $25,000 for property damage.
Seattle taxis are required to cover $100,000, $300,000 and $25,000.
Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.