Uber Driver Seeks Clarification from State of Florida Regarding Insurance Requirements


 

Confounded by conflicting information from a variety of sources, a former Uber driver is asking the State of Florida to clarify the insurance requirements for “ride-sharing” drivers. Orlando resident Matthew Bumgardner sent a letter to Florida’s Insurance Commissioner and the Director of Highway Safety asking both officials for clarity on liability and insurance issues impacting thousands of Florida drivers and their passengers.
Bumgardner independently researched Florida’s insurance requirements for “ride-sharing” drivers but his research spurred more questions than answers. Now, Bumgardner says he will only drive for Uber again if officials can confirm that “ride-sharing” platforms comply with various state laws.
Bumgardner’s letter to Commissioner Kevin McCarty and Director Terry L. Rhodes is below, or view in PDF format here: Uber Insurance Letter to State of Florida.

 

Kevin McCarty

Insurance Commissioner

State of Florida

Via email: InsuranceCommissioner@floir.com

 

Terry L. Rhodes

Executive Director

Florida Department of Highway Safety

Via Email: ExecutiveDirector@flhsmv.gov

 

cc via email:

Andy Gardiner, President of the Senate – gardiner.andy.web@flsenate.gov

Steve Crisafulli, Speaker of the House – Steve.Crisafulli@myfloridahouse.gov

 

Re: Insurance Requirements – For Hire Passenger Transportation Vehicles

Dear Commissioner McCarty and Director Rhodes:

I am writing this letter to express my concern over the insurance issues that ridesharing creates, and to seek an official response to these issues.

I am a former Uber driver, and I drove briefly in Central Florida to see what it was like. While I was driving for Uber I began to notice conflicting information from various sources regarding insurance. This is an important issue, so I tried to determine for myself if Uber’s insurance was legal in Florida. Although I did considerable research, the conflicting nature of the information, and the fact that I have no background in the insurance industry made it impossible to make a determination on my own.

I would like to inform you of some insurance issues I have discovered, and I respectfully request for you to state your official position on these issues and to provide clarification. I have underlined and placed in bold text questions I would like you to address. This would not only benefit me, but it would benefit all parties involved.

For those that are not aware, Uber has created an app that allows people needing transportation to make a request for that service. This transportation service is provided by drivers using their personal vehicles, and the rider is matched with the driver who is closest. A rider who uses the Uber app is required to register with Uber and provide a credit card. Uber charges the credit card for the amount of the transportation service that has been provided. The driver is paid for providing transportation service by receiving a percentage of this charge.

For insurance purposes, Uber divides their transportation service into three periods.

  • Period 1 is defined as the time a driver is logged on to the app and is waiting for a fare;
  • Period 2 is defined as the time in which a driver has received a ride request and is driving to the passenger; and
  • Period 3 is defined as the time in which the passenger is in the vehicle.

Uber has created a guide to their insurance coverage, and it can be found here: http://blog.uber.com/ridesharinginsurance. A copy of Uber’s Period 2/3 policy can be found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/214351992/Leaked-Uber-Insurance-Policy. A copy of their Period 1 policy can be found here: https://blog.uber.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/certificate2.pdf.

The guide on their website states that the driver’s personal insurance policy covers the vehicle when the driver is not logged on to the app. In also explains that the driver’s personal insurance is primary during Period 1. If the driver’s personal insurance will not pay a claim, Uber’s insurance will then become primary. The limits of Uber’s policy during this period are $50,000/100,000/25,000. This is where my first concern occurs.

Florida State Statute states that “a person who is either the owner or a lessee required to maintain insurance under s. 627.733(1)(b) and who operates one or more taxicabs, limousines, jitneys, or any other for-hire passenger transportation vehicles may prove financial responsibility by furnishing satisfactory evidence of holding a motor vehicle liability policy, but with minimum limits of $125,000/250,000/50,000.”

As previously stated, the minimum requirements for Florida are $125,000/250,000/50,000 or $300,000 CSL. During Period 1, Uber’s limits of $50,000/100,000/25,000 are lower than this requirement. Since Period 1 is when the driver is logged on to the app and waiting for a fare this action meets the definition of a vehicle for hire, aka “taxi”, yet the insurance coverage provided does not meet Florida minimums.Do you agree or disagree Uber’s policy meets this requirement?

There are more areas of concern. During Periods 2 and 3, Uber’s bodily injury (BI) and uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage rises to $1,000,000 each. This exceeds Florida minimums. Uber’s property damage (PD) coverage also rises to $50,000, but only if the driver’s personal insurance policy provides comprehensive and collision coverage. Drivers who have comprehensive and collision coverage would be covered under Uber’s policy with PD limits of $50,000. This meets Florida minimums. Drivers with no comprehensive or collision coverage would not be provided any PD coverage under Uber’s policy during Period 2 and Period 3. This does not meet Florida minimums, and this occurs at critical times in which the driver is driving to the passenger or transporting the passenger.Do you agree or disagree Uber’s policy meets the state’s requirement?

Florida Statutes also state that the insurance company providing the insurance must be a member of the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association. From the information available, I believe Uber’s insurance is provided by James River and they are based in Bermuda. I have not been able to find any documentation confirming that James River is a member of the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association.Can you confirm that James River is a member of the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association and the insurance coverage provided is legal in Florida?

Another issue is that Uber claims on their website that, “During the time that a ridesharing partner is available, but between trips (Period 1), most personal auto insurance will provide coverage.” I have found this is simply not true, and my concern is that Uber is misleading the public and its drivers with this statement. There are currently no insurance companies in Florida that will knowingly allow an insured, covered by a personal-use policy, to use their vehicles for Uber or any other “commercial” or “for-hire” activities. The insurance companies I have contacted will not guarantee to pay claims if a driver uses their vehicle for Uber. Some insurance companies have said that all claims will be denied outright, and others have said that claims will be handled on a case-by-case basis. If insurance companies discover that an insured is driving for Uber, they risk having their personal policies cancelled immediately, or they risk receiving notices of non-renewal.Will you or another department with the State help clarify this area of confusion?

Although Uber divides their transportation service into three periods, upon further review, there are actually 5. To be more specific and clear, there are additional “periods of operation” if ones attempts to define total vehicle usage in terms of “periods” as Uber does.

  • Period 4 would be when an Uber driver arranges a return trip (or any trip) with an Uber passenger but provides the transportation service off the Uber app (Uber insurance would not cover and driver would need commercial insurance).
  • Period 5 would be the period when the Uber driver is using his car for purely personal reasons (arguably, since the car is used for commercial purposes during some periods, the higher limits of insurance should apply at all times).

If a personal accident occurs and the driver’s insurance company finds out they were providing “commercial, for hire” services at any time during the term of their policy, I believe the policy will be cancelled and the accident and or injuries will not be covered.Can insurance companies do this? Will you or your department clarify this area of confusion or direct me to an appropriate department of the State?

In addition to the issues I have already discussed, another one is created when a driver who is financing or leasing their vehicle uses it for commercial purposes. Many personal car loans prohibit commercial use of the vehicle. Just as personal insurance lines prohibit, deny or cancel policies if holders violate the terms of the contract, finance companies can also declare an auto loan to be in default and repossess the car. Again, Uber is misleading drivers in terms of the risks associated with using a personal vehicle for commercial purposes. Although this might not be a primary concern for you,can you or your department assist with clarifying this issue or direct me to someone who could?

During my research I found the following mission statements from your agencies:

From the Department of Highway Safety:The Department is committed to proactively protecting our roadways, enhancing online services for motorists, improving customer service and building on relationships with our strategic partners.”

From the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation: Government should serve and ultimately be accountable to the people; Government should be transparent in its operations, and treat its clients fairly and equitably; and Government should promote a vibrant, competitive marketplace while protecting those unable to protect themselves.”

To that end, I believe the public would be well served by reviewing the questions in this letter, providing official responses and clear direction to the public. In fact, just recently the State of California issued a clarification regarding this same matter by stating:

“Any passenger vehicle used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit is a commercial vehicle…Even occasional use of a vehicle in this manner requires the vehicle to be registered commercially.” According to press accounts, the DMV was prompted to issue the notice “because an increasing number of dealers and customers have inquired about this process and received inconsistent information.” Recent press related to this California issue can be found here.

State laws and regulations are confusing. Once you add insurance and liability, they are even more difficult to understand. Although these laws and regulations are confusing, it is clear that a violation of these laws would subject the violating driver to suspension of their driver’s license and potential criminal prosecution. I cannot subject myself or my passengers to these risks, and that is why it is so critical to get clarification before driving for Uber again. I like the flexibility that Uber provides, and I would like to drive for them in the future – but only if it’s legal.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Sincerely,

Matthew Bumgardner
Orlando, Florida

 

P.S. Here is a YouTube link of my recent testimony at an Orlando Council Meeting on December 15, 2014. As you can see, many of the commissioners seem to agree the Uber policy does not meet the State requirement, and they also have questions regarding personal use vs. commercial use. But, in the end, it’s a state law. Go to 1:18:48 to see my testimony.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_lNIGrHueM