"They didn't evolve, they didn't compete. Now rather than catch up they're playing games to protect their monopolies," said Uber spokeswoman Nairi Hourdajian. She called the Connecticut lawsuit "baseless." Lyft said the assertions were based on "misinformation." Margaret Ryan, a spokeswoman for Sidecar, another rideshare company, said its safeguards make it as safe, if not safer, than a taxi.
Livery industry mudslinging was the farthest thing from Kolintzas' and Herrera's minds as their concussions wore off. Instead, they got another shock. When they filed a claim with the driver's insurance company, as instructed by Uber, the driver's insurance company refused to pay their medical bills, asserting that the driver was "driving for profit," according to the lawsuit they filed against Uber.
The suit claims unspecified compensatory damages for medical expenses, wage loss, breach of duty, and general negligence.
"There's no insurance gap at all on any trip on the Uber system," said Hourdajian, who declined to share dollar figures on claims paid. She said the company's $1 million policy (Lyft and Sidecar have similar policies), provides enough coverage in case a driver's personal insurance does not. In contrast, said New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance spokesman Marshall McKnight, many municipalities require taxis to carry $300,000 in coverage. Sidecar's Ryan said the company is not aware of any case where insurance has failed to cover injury or vehicle damage.
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But states say the rubber has yet to hit the road on how well passengers are protected under the rideshare companies' additional measures.
"Being covered by different policies for different uses of the vehicle is a new concept that has not been tested under our state's laws and in our courts," said New Jersey Insurance Commissioner Ken Kobylowski in a statement.
Hourdajian says Uber's commercial ridesharing insurance policy has been in place since its launch in early 2013.
"It has absolutely been tested—and the system works," she said.
Even if there is an insurance gap on the part of a rideshare driver, other protections may apply to keep passengers from having to pay for any injuries out of pocket, industry experts say.
Passengers who also own cars will have their auto insurance follow them into a rideshare car, said Kara Cross, general counsel for the Personal Insurance Federation of California, an industry group. And depending on their state, passengers' medical expenses may be covered up to their plan limits by their policy's Personal Injury Protection, depending on their state's regulations, said Progressive Insurance spokesman Jeff Sibel.
Of course, normal deductibles and limits apply.
"The onus is on the passenger to ask the right questions," said Insurance Information Institute spokeswoman Jeanne Salvatore.
However, one thing passengers may not easily be able to discern is the driver's past record.
In an undercover investigation, NBC Chicago hired several UberX drivers and ran their own background checks on them and found numerous tickets and a questionable driving history. One driver had 26 tickets. NBC Los Angeles got an ex-con hired as an UberX driver, even though she had priors going back two decades, including burglary, drugs and assault.