As I discussed in my previous entry, I have given up my car and have been commuting using rideshare services like Uber and Lyft and car sharing services like Car2Go and ReachNow. Overall I have found the experience to be liberating and relaxing. As an added benefit, I'm saving money and helping the environment. But what about insurance coverage? As a personal injury lawyer, I am acutely aware of the need for adequate coverage whenever you are in a motor vehicle. What are the issues you need to know about when using rideshare and car sharing services?
With ridesharing services there's good news and bad news. Under Washington law, drivers of rideshare services are required to carry $1 million in liability insurance and underinsured motorist coverage while they have a passenger in the car. That means if the rideshare driver causes an accident, or if the accident is caused by another driver without adequate insurance, the damages should be covered up to $1 million. Either the driver or the rideshare company may purchase the insurance, but the law holds the company responsible if, for any reason, the driver's insurance is not in effect at the time of the loss. However, despite some ambiguity, the law still allows the driver to opt out of personal injury protection coverage, which would pay your accident related medical bills following a crash. Without PIP coverage, you could be forced to rely on your own health insurance to get the treatment you need following an accident. If you don't have insurance, you may find it difficult to get adequate treatment for your injuries.
Car sharing services are not governed by the same law as rideshare services. At the time this article is being written, ReachNow and Car2Go in Washington carry the state mandated minimal liability insurance for bodily injury and property damage. They do not carry underinsured motorist or personal injury protection coverage. Zipcar carries higher liability limits, but also has no UIM or PIP coverage. This creates a much more dangerous situation. Unlike in a rideshare, If you are injured by an uninsured driver while you are driving a car share vehicle without UIM coverage, and you don't have underinsured motorist coverage of your own, you may never be able to get a recovery for your injuries. I have seen cases with catastrophic injuries but no insurance coverage, and the outcome can be tragic.
If you do own a vehicle but you still use rideshare and car sharing services, make sure you have adequate auto insurance on your vehicle, and that it will cover you while you are using these services. If you don't have your own vehicle, you can still get insurance. There is a policy called "named operator." A named operator policy moves with the person, rather than the vehicle, and keeps you insured however you choose to get around. This could be a lifesaver if you suffer serious injuries while using a car sharing or rideshare vehicle.
It is essential to know what coverage exists any time you get into a motor vehicle. This is especially true when you are relying on somebody else to get you around. If you have questions about insurance coverage or other issues involving rideshare and car sharing services, please check out our page on rideshare accidents, or just give us a call.