New CA law provides increased insurance for ride-share drivers

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ByJonathan Bloom KGO logo
Thursday, July 2, 2015
New CA law provides increased insurance for ride-share drivers
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A new California law provides insurance coverage to ride-share drivers during gap periods.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When Bill Tickner drives for Uber, he turns on his app. The moments that follow have sparked bitter debate.

"It's my belief that that's the most dangerous period because that's when they're engaged in distracted driving by interacting with their phone," said Christopher Dolan, the attorney for Sophia Liu's family.

Liu is the little girl who was struck and killed by an Uber driver, who had the app on while waiting for someone to request a ride.

"Uber came out and said it was not responsible, in any fashion, for what had occurred. They were not going to stand behind their drivers or provide insurance," said Dolan.

The driver had fallen into a "gap" - a situation not covered by most personal insurance. Uber says it wasn't liable until the driver was matched with a passenger.

"I come from a family of insurance agents. And I was told to make sure you're covered at all times," explained Tickner.

That's why he didn't drive for Uber until a new insurance policy came out. The San Francisco based Metromile teamed up with Uber to cover drivers whenever Uber doesn't.

"We get a seamless feed from Uber each day. That helps us match up the miles that they're driving on behalf of Uber," said Luke Harris, Metromile Insurance Claims Director.

It's legal under a new law that Uber and Lyft originally protested.

After some changes, the bill passed. It gives drivers basic liability coverage even without the special insurance.

But some, who originally advocated for that law, think it does doesn't go far enough to protect consumers or hold companies like Uber responsible when there's an accident.

"I think the law, as its written, fails to accomplish everything we wanted it to accomplish. What we wanted was to have a minimum of a million dollars worth of insurance coverage from app on to app off," said Dolan.

Instead, he says the $50,000 offered during that in-between time, might not cover an emergency room visit.

But for Sophia's family, it's something. "It doesn't help bring their daughter back, but it does help them think that there's been some kind of sense made out of this tragedy," said Dolan.