In recent weeks, it seems that Uber, the polarizing ride-sharing service, has been in the news nearly every day. The company is involved in multiple disputes across the country. Vancouver and Calgary have shut it down completely, while Toronto is attempting to do the same. Toronto taxi drivers announced they are suing Uber for $410 million in damages. The company has consistently faced criticism for not properly screening its drivers, including checking criminal records. Following a vote by Toronto city council in July, the city has been cracking down on Uber drivers for bylaw violations.
The UberX smartphone app has been the source of much of the controversy. The app is one of three services offered by the company and it connects passengers with nearby private vehicles. Drivers use their own cars to drive passengers and have no affiliation with taxi companies. Payment is made through the app, eliminating the need for drivers to carry cash or credit card machines. Traditional taxi drivers are strongly opposed to Uber because UberX drivers have subverted the strict licensing rules that apply to taxi drivers. In July, an Ontario judge ruled that Uber is not operating as a taxi broker and that it has not breached any city bylaws. Despite being a clear victory for the company, this ruling does nothing to solve the insurance problems of UberX drivers.
Earlier this week, the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) issued a press release warning UberX drivers and passengers of the liability risks associated with ride-sharing programs. The IBAO is a not-for-profit association representing the interests of independent property and casualty insurance brokers in Ontario. According to the IBAO, there are a number of myths suggesting that insurance coverage would be recognized if an UberX driver or passenger were involved in a collision. Thus, if an UberX driver is working under a standard personal auto insurance policy and have not informed their insurer that they were using their vehicle for commercial purposes, coverage would likely not be extended in the case of an accident.
The press release also contained a reminder to Ontarians that auto insurance coverage is a complex product and when an injury occurs after a collision, it grows more complex. “When you layer UberX on top of the grey zone between personal insurance and commercial insurance, the complexity compounds further,” the IBAO cautioned.
The IBAO is developing an education session for brokers that focuses on communicating the risks to passengers and drivers and will be available in September. The organization stated that it would like to work with UberX to further understand the coverage they say provide their drivers.
If you have been in an accident as driver of passenger of an UberX vehicle and have any questions or concerns, please contact personal injury lawyer Tim Leigh-Bell online or by telephone at 1-800-797-6989.