In our last post we discussed a fatal accident that occurred in California recently. The accident involved a child who was at an intersection and a driver of a private taxi. The family of the girl who died in the crash has decided to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver and the company he worked with, Uber, which connects passengers with commercial drivers via a smartphone application.
This case will chart new territory in the law and attempt to apply old liability theories to this new technology. As a result of this coming to national attention, lawmakers in California are seeking to update regulations on these types of car service companies, known as “transportation network companies”, which have been legal to operate in California since late last year.
One of the key areas of regulation at first was the requirement that the car service companies carry $1 million worth of liability insurance that would cover expenses above and beyond what the driver’s own policy could cover. However, it is not particularly clear at this point when that coverage applies, since drivers who contract with these services may not work regular shifts and could be in between paying customers when an accident occurs. As a result, advocates are pushing the Public Utilities Commission, which overseas these companies, to define more closely when that insurance policy applies and when it does not. The State Department of Insurance has also expressed concern, asking for clarification on these issues before more accidents occur and other victims are left with uncertain prospects.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “California regulator warns about gaps in ride-sharing insurance,” Marc Lifsher and Salvador Rodriguez, Feb. 5, 2014.