California Approves Ride-Sharing Driver Insurance

Insurance policies are being offered that close the gap in insurance coverage and help protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians when ride-sharing vehicles are on the road.

by Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Times-Herald, Vallejo, Calif. / January 21, 2016

(TNS) -- Personal taxi-type services like Uber and Lyft have changed the landscape for those working for and using them in some unexpected ways, and related industries are just starting to catch up.

Case in point, State Farm is introducing a new coverage endorsement in California to help fill insurance gaps for its policyholders who use their personal cars to provide rides for this type of Transportation Network Company (TNC), State Farm officials said.

Madison Voss, spokeswoman for Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, said State Farm is one of eight insurers offering coverage to TNC drivers.

“Commissioner Jones has encouraged insurers to develop auto insurance products for TNC drivers and we are pleased to see one of the state’s largest insurers offer a product that protects drivers, passengers and pedestrians.”

State Farm’s new product will be available beginning March 21, according to the California Department of Insurance website.

“More insurers are stepping up to meet the changing needs of California’s sharing economy,” Commissioner Jones says on the site. “State Farm has created a product that closes the gap in insurance coverage and helps protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians when ride-hailing vehicles are on the road.”

The TNC industry is rapidly changing the livery/taxi industry by using the latest mobile technology to facilitate rides for hire,” State Farm officials said. “With these new transportation services in the marketplace, drivers are exposed to new risks.

Insurance provided by TNCs may be limited in scope and coverage, and personal auto policies don’t generally cover the use of personal cars as taxis or livery vehicles, State Farm spokesman Sevag Sarkissian said.

State Farm is adapting to “changing customer needs” by offering a Transportation network Company Driver Coverage endorsement in California, starting March 21, he said.

“This new product is an example of our commitment to our customers and provides them coverage, and peace of mind, when they use their personal cars to provide TNC services,” State Farm Senior Vice President tom Conley said in a statement.

California’s TNCs provide $1 million liability coverage while a driver has a paying passenger or when a driver is on the way to pick up a passenger, but they provide a much lower liability coverage limit when drivers are “just available for hire,” State Farm officials said. They may not provide any medical payments, comprehensive, or collision coverages at all, and they may not cover the driver for injuries or for damage to the driver’s personal car, they said.

The new, optional State Farm TNC Driver Coverage endorsement, fills this gap, company officials said.

“This cost-effective endorsement provides the driver with the full liability coverage limits (s)he has under his/her auto policy during the times the driver is ‘available for hire,’ and provides all other coverages applicable to the driver’s auto policy during all periods of TNC driving,” Sarkissian said.

An Uber website identifies no drivers specifically in Vallejo or Solano County, though Lyft has a Napa/Sonoma counties territory that appears to cover most of Solano County, including Vallejo, Fairfield and Vacaville, according to its website.

©2016 Times-Herald (Vallejo, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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