Insurance industry raising questions about ride-sharing liability

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Jul 16 2014 06:11:48 PM HST
Updated On: Jul 16 2014 08:06:12 PM HST

New ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft have the insurance industry raising concerns about liability limits.

HONOLULU -

App on. App off.

Black car . Pink mustache.

Uber or Lyft.

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz' story.

No one disputes these trendy ,trailblazing, ride- sharing "animals" have shaken up the transportation market.

But the insurance industry points to a recent lawsuit involving the death of little girl and a Uber driver in San Francisco which raises some important questions about liability.

"It something to look at, when does the insurance start, and when does it stop," said Mike Onofrietti, vice-president of Island Insurance.

Just this month, Island Insurance issued a courtesy alert to its customers.

Their auto insurance does not cover passengers if they are using their personal vehicles to become rides-haring drivers for one of the new services.

Others are questioning whether liability could extend to states or cities for failure to regulate the fast-growing industry.

"We are the tail wagging the dog. We need to figure out these entities first and then we can figure the appropriate amount of insurance," said Onofrietti.

 Laws vary from state to state, and here in Hawaii the Public Utilities Commission has sent Uber a letter stating its drivers must hold PUC certificates or they run afoul of the law.

Onofrietti said the ride-sharing companies recently modified their insurance contracts, but he is not sure if those changes go far enough.

 

"Insurers, as well as taxi services, limo services, and regulators of those services  and the legislature, it's something that needs to be discussed so we can come up with the right thing for cosnumers, for everybody in this state," Onofrietti said.

The new ride-sharing services are already making waves at the Honolulu International Airport.

State transportation officials have issued two citations to ride- share drivers for operating in an area controlled under a contract with Ampco.

Taxi drivers patiently wait their turn for business and don't look kindly on outside drivers sweeping into to get their customers.

"With these novel things, there has been questions about fairness and what is truly safe and  is it done appropriately. We need to look at policy-wise to make sure this is fair and consistent," Rep. Ryan Yamane said.

Yamane, who heads the House transportation committee hopes to introduce legislation next year to begin addressing some of these new money making ventures.

 “Just like every taxi cab and shuttle service, maybe you should follow same rules and pay the same taxes like everyone else. Yamane said.

Lyft told KITV it recently changed its policy to be primary to a driver's personal policy.

It said it believes its million dollar commercial liabiity insurance offers more protection than in a taxi.

Uber did not respond to our inquiries as of news time, but published reports indicate it has made similar changes.

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