Whose insurance company protects victims of ride-sharing accidents? For the first time in a long time, novel questions of auto liability insurance coverage are being raised through the growth of ride-sharing apps like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, or other similar mobile services that connect passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and offer ridesharing services.
For those of us over the age of 25 or anyone (perhaps willfully) ignorant of the latest crowdsourced venture du jour, a brief introduction to ridesharing services is necessary. The original ridesharing service, Uber, started as a venture-funded start-up and transportation network company founded in San Francisco, California that produces a mobile app connecting passengers to drivers for hire. After Uber received nearly $50 million in funding through groups of angel investors and expanded in major cities across the U.S., several competitors sprung up, including Lyft, Sidecar, and others.
In the past few months, a problem of insurance coverage has come up due to the occurrence of accidents involving ride-sharing drivers. On New Year’s Eve, January, 2014, a 6-year old girl was killed when an Uber-contracted driver collided with her. Uber completely denied liability, stating that they would not provide coverage because a passenger was not in the driver’s car at the time the accident happened – meaning, it was not an “official” Uber ride. The accident could have happened on the driver’s way to make a pick-up, between pick-ups, or on a personal trip. The details are yet unknown.
When accidents happen, the insurance company for the at-fault driver usually picks up and pays for the BI (bodily injury) and PD (property damage) claims. But for ride-sharing services, who is really responsible? The answer may come as a surprise.
In 2012, the California Public Utilities Commission gave Uber and similar transportation network companies a break by allowing them to forego requiring drivers to have commercial liability insurance. However, many personal auto policies do not cover claims for accidents when the driver is transporting passengers. Most policies have exclusions for operation of a vehicle if it is being used “as a public or livery conveyance” – meaning, transporting passengers for pay. So if Uber disclaims coverage, does not require drivers to have commercial auto coverage, and the coverage falls into an exclusion in the driver’s own personal auto liability policies, who is actually providing the coverage for injured victims? Hearing crickets? Perhaps this article should better be entitled, “More Reasons to Max-Out UIM/UM coverage.”
Unfortunately, drivers who sign up to offer ride-sharing services are often not with the financial means to afford commercial general liability coverage, which can be exponentially higher than personal auto coverage. Although ride-sharing services are supposed to maintain $1 million of liability insurance, per the requirements of the California Public Utilities Commission, this often does not cover damages to drivers’ cars. This particular risk affects drivers participating in ride-sharing services, because there is basically no source of insurance funds to pay for repairs to their cars or property damage, if they are hit by an at-fault driver with low or no insurance.
Moreover, the usual insurance company suspects that frequently provide auto liability coverage to Americans are also coming up short (anyone surprised?). In a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission in 2012, the Personal Insurance Federation of California, an industry group made up of State Farm, Farmers, Progressive, Allstate, Liberty Mutual, Mercury and Nationwide, said it asked its members to determine how they would treat liability claims in ride-service accidents. In a press release after the CPUC ruling, the Association of California Insurance Companies, a trade association and lobbying group, said, “Both drivers and riders must understand that an accident in a ride-sharing vehicle will not be covered under a personal auto insurance policy.”
All of the foregoing, of course, raises other questions. Are the drivers of ridesharing services independent contractors or employees? Should drivers who are distracted by the sounds, noises, pings, and notifications on their mobile devices while trying to pick up a ride-sharing passenger be deemed negligent, or should the ride-sharing app bear some responsibility for designing a potentially dangerous product/device? Generally, when victims of an accident are injured by commercial drivers, they sue both the driver as well as the driver’s company. Can victims of auto accidents involving Uber drivers tack responsibility onto Uber, if it turns out their driver has no valid insurance coverage?
For the time being, there are no clear or easy answers. Drivers and passengers of ride-sharing apps should all exert caution. As with all matters in the insurance coverage world, with new changes in technology and social developments come new risks, and the great fanfare of offering new insurance policies to sell to unsuspecting citizens is surpassed only by the great labor and energy expended to carefully concoct exclusions with which to deny them.
USA Today is reporting that on Wednesday, the USDA “suspended processing at a poultry plant in California found to have been infested with cockroaches four times over the past five months.” The piece notes that “the Foster Farm plant is one of three in central California being investigated for an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant salmonella,” which the CDC says “has sickened 416 people in 23 states.”
Adam Tarr, a spokesman for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said, “Our inspectors wrote several noncompliance reports for insanitary conditions at the plant and then took the action to suspend today.” Meanwhile, Foster Farms said that the “shutdown would enable the company to mitigate the infestation.”
In October, Foster said “that the salmonella outbreak caused sales to drop about 25%,” and “Foster and other company leaders vowed to make Foster Farms a leader in food safety, with measures that include increased plant sanitation, vaccination of breeder hens against salmonella, and education of consumers about proper handling and cooking.”
by Rabeh Soofi
After nearly four years, Toyota is ready to settle the nearly 400 state and federal lawsuits that alleged that Toyota cars suddenly accelerated, causing vehicle deaths and injuries.
Millions of cars have been recalled since 2009. The settlement discussions have ensued after an Oklahoma jury awarded $3 million in damages to the driver of a 2005 Toyota Camry that and to the family of the passenger who was killed. Prior to that, Toyota had been been absolved of liability in several jury trials held around the country.
Toyota previously agreed to pay more than $1 billion to resolve hundreds of lawsuits claiming that owners of its cars suffered economic losses because of the recalls.
For more information, click here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/13/3816267/toyota-to-enter-settlement-negotiations.html
If you or a loved one has been injured in any type of vehicle accident, contact SOOFI | Legal Counsel for a confidential consultation. (213) 403-0130 (Phone) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On December 10, 2013, Kaiser Permanente notified 49,000 patients that some of their personal information was compromised in a September data breach at Anaheim Medical Center in Orange County, California.
Kaiser said a flash drive was reported missing Sept. 25 from the nuclear medicine department of the hospital. Patients were notified of the breach on Dec. 3.
California Sues Software Company for Failed $250 Million Taxpayer-Funded State Benefits Software Development Project
The State of California has sued SAP, a software development company, for SAP’s failed payroll software solution that has never worked properly.
The software update project began three years ago, with the state paying $50 million of taxpayer funds for SAP to develop a new payroll and benefits system.
According to the lawsuit papers, the broken system “could not get the payroll right even once over an eight-month period for a pilot group of only 1,500 employees.”
Last February, California Controller John Chiang terminated SAP’s contract alleging that SAP failed to stabilize the system and avoid the return of “significant errors” when payroll runs were conducted on the pilot program.
California taxpayers have thus far funded $250 million has been spent on the system, which is called MyCalPAYS and dates back to 2005. SAP joined the project in 2010 after the original contractor, BearingPoint, was fired.
When should a college or university be responsible for failing to protect its students?
The parents of a UC-Berkeley graduate have sued UC-Berkeley for failing to report domestic abuse that took place on campus. The lawsuit was filed after student Jose Lumbereras killed the two passengers in his car when driving while intoxicated, including Milanca Lopez and her six month son.
Lopez’s family sued UC-Berkeley, asserting that Lopez previously complained about domestic abuse in her home, but UC-Berkeley campus officials did nothing. They believe that UC-Berkeley could have prevented the accident if it had investigated Lopez’s concerns about Lambreras’ allegedly abusive conduct.
There is a new addition to the lawsuit against disgraced athlete Lance Armstrong – the United States Department of Justice. The lawsuit was originally brought against Armstrong asserting that the seven-time Tour de France winner defrauded supporters, advertisers, and the general public about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, which he always denied.
The DOJ became involved because of the long-time support provided to Armstrong by the U.S. Postal Service.
“Lance Armstrong and his cycling team took more than $30 million from the U.S. Postal Service based on their contractual promise to play fair and abide by the rules – including the rules against doping,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen to the Associated Press. “The Postal Service has now seen its sponsorship unfairly associated with what has been described as ‘the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.’”
According to the Associated Press, Armstrong was the subject of a two-year federal grand jury investigation that the Justice Department dropped a year ago without an indictment. Last October, a report was released including affidavits from 11 of Armstrong’s former teammates, detailing how the U.S. cycling team was supplied with hormones through injections and blood transfusions, and that they were pressured to dope by Armstrong.
Does this one pass pass the straight-face test? A San Diego family, Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, have sued their Encinitas school district for teaching yoga to their children and other students, alleging that the classes violate the “separation between church and state.”
According to their lawyer, ”
EUSD’s Ashtanga yoga program represents a serious breach of the public trust.” “This is frankly the clearest case of the state trampling on the religious freedom rights of citizens that I have personally witnessed in my 18 years of practice as a constitutional attorney.”
The legal position taken by the Sedlocks has also been strongly advocated for by conservative non-profit group The National Center for Law & Policy (NCLP). According to the NCLP’s white-paper, the yoga life skills taught in the classes are “
and “conflict with the beliefs of Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Jews and others.”
Encinitas school district is one of the few in the nation that has full-time yoga teachers at its schools, to help students de-stress before tests. The classes were funded by a $533,000, three-year grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes Asthanga yoga.
The stakes have been raised in a California federal lawsuit brought by thousands of temporary warehouse workers against Schneider Logistics, a warehouse logistics company serving mega-retailer Wal-Mart. On January 10, 2013, the Judge overseeing the case, Carillo v. Schneider Logistics, ordered that Wal-Mart could be included in the lawsuit, which alleges violations of overtime rules, meal/rest breaks, and other labor code violations on behalf of approximately 1,800 workers.
What is monumental about this case is that none of the workers worked for Wal-Mart directly. According to the lawyers for the workers, ““Walmart has the ultimate say in how the warehouse work will be conducted,” says Michael Rubin, a plaintiff lawyer for the workers at the San Francisco law firm Altshuler Berzon. “The evidence shows a remarkable degree of control by Walmart. As a matter of economic reality, which is the ultimate legal test, Walmart should be held liable.”