Professional car service and your protection
During a recent ride-share trip, I noticed cards for several businesses displayed on the backside of the passenger seat. One of the business cards promoted the driver’s own for-hire transportation services. Besides working for Uber and Lyft, the driver generates revenue from transporting customers in his for-hire vehicle. “So,” he said, “the next time you need a ride to the airport, don’t use the ride-share app, call me directly and it will cost you less.”
On its face, his proposal was appealing. Why pay ride-share service fees if I can secure a cheaper rate for the same trip from a known personal driver?
The reason to think twice is insurance, and knowing the protections in place if you are involved in a crash while a passenger.
Despite the seeming advantages, it is important that the driver is properly insured to carry passengers. Driving a vehicle for work purposes requires additional insurance. Uber and Lyft provide third-party liability insurance, however, a private driver may or may not have proper coverage. This means if I were injured or my property was damaged as an occupant in his vehicle, there would be no policy in place to cover my losses. When I asked my driver about insurance, it became apparent that he did not operate with independent insurance services coverage to protect me if I called him directly.
In Washington State, all vehicle drivers are required by law to have personal auto insurance that carries a minimum amount of coverage of bodily injury protection.
This liability insurance provides coverage for injuries or damages that a driver may cause to others. When a driver is using their vehicle for business purposes, this coverage would not apply. This is commonly referred to as a coverage exclusion.
The type of insurance policy needed depends on the nature of the driver’s business outside of his operation as a ride-share driver. Along with the factors that assess risk such as age, driving record, and geographic location, insurance companies consider mileage. Insurance companies categorize car service drivers as having greater risks; as they log more time on the road than other motorists, they are more likely to be involved in a crash. To carry passengers in a business capacity, vehicle owners need to have commercial auto insurance or a rider providing additional coverage.
As a passenger, make sure ahead of time you are properly protected and that the for hire vehicle you are riding in is covered by adequate liability and physical damage insurance.
If you use a ride-share app, coverage will automatically apply. If however, the for-hire vehicle driver suggests that you use his services outside of the app, ask questions about insurance coverage. The possible savings do not outweigh the risks to which you may be exposed.
Avoid any confusion and always consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.
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