Issues with ride-sharing insurance policies

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July 31, 2015 8:15 AM

People in Alberta using ride-sharing services like Uber may be putting themselves in a risky situation. After reviewing some of the policies of the service, the province’s superintendent of insurance found important issues with regulatory compliance.

There’s a good chance Albertans hitching a ride with Uber drivers and similar services aren’t protected with accident benefits under Alberta’s law.

“The biggest issue is that the Alberta Insurance Act has some minimum requirements of automobile insurance and the benefits it must provide, namely liability and accident benefit provisions,” said Marc Prefontaine, superintendent of insurance for Alberta.

“So when we’re talking about ride-sharing services, the expectation is that that would be available or be part of a policy on a commercial basis because they’re driving for hire and that an individual driver who just has their own vehicle and a personal policy, that policy will have an exclusion on it if they’re driving for hire and haven’t told their insurer.”

Prefontaine says that the policies Uber has in place don’t completely fill the gaps left by this scenario. If the driver of the ride-sharing service hasn’t talked to their insurer about it, then the driver, passengers and any innocent third parties may be at risk of not having all the benefits under the insurance act. This means that in the event of an accident, all parties involved are at jeopardy of having claims denied, resulting treatments not afforded and benefits not paid because the Uber driver is operating in a commercial capacity.

The provincial government is, however, taking steps to improve the situation for these ride sharing services. Brian Mason, minister of transportation, recently said there is a group of officials representing different departments that are looking into this and trying to figure out what can be done while respecting public safety and consumer interest.

“It’s fairly early in the process, but certainly we are looking at what’s happening elsewhere with ride sharing services,” said Prefontaine. “There are multiple states in the U.S. that have had revisions to their legislation to accommodate, so is it possible to find a resolutions? It appears so and that’s the work that we’re going to undertake.”

He says although he doesn’t know how long it will take to find the proper solutions, he has stated publicly that with this particular situation, both the enforcement and administration of the current legislation, as well as finding a medium- to long-term fix, is a priority for his office. But they’ll have to see how it fits into the broader agenda for government.

In the meantime, Prefontaine reiterates that, “People are at risk if they’re using a ride-sharing service, whether they’re a driver or passenger, and that we’re encouraging drivers to talk to their insurer as well as passengers to get conformation that the driver has the proper insurance.”

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