Uber’s secret, “proprietary” insurance policy leaked

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A screenshot of Uber's insurance filings.

An anonymous leaker emailed Uber’s previously secreted, hidden insurance plans to the Bay Guardian and a number of taxi industry advocates over the weekend, and who is and who is not insured by Uber may give riders cause for worry.

The insurance policy describes exclusions, limits, and explicit descriptions of who is insured, all details that evaded the public, the taxi industry, and some regulatory bodies trying to investigate Uber and its insurance coverage.

Uber confirmed with the Guardian that the leaked policy was legitimate, but did not directly answer our questions about the consequences of it being leaked.

William Rouse, general manager of Los Angeles Yellow Cab and a former president of the Taxicab Association, said the insurance document raised some troubling questions.

The first problem lies in a semantics game the company may use to distance itself from paying out insurance, he said. “Uber is insuring through Rasier LLC, but contractually drivers contract with Uber. They state in the policy that it kicks in only when Raiser is liable. What we have here is a shell game. Who is Rasier?”

Uber is the parent company of Rasier, Andrew Noyes, an Uber spokesperson, told us. But how listing Rasier versus Uber as the main insurance carrier will affect insurance claims down the road remains to be seen. 

Exclusions in the policy are many, such as one for the “movement of property by mechanical device.”

It states: “‘Bodily injury’ or ‘property damage’ resulting from the movement of property by a mechanical device (other than a hand truck) unless the device is attached to the covered ‘auto’” is excluded from coverage. Spokesperson Andrew Noyes said this exclusion deals with unloading and offloading of material from a vehicle via a pallet jack or forklift.

One wonders what exclusion Uber used to argue against insurance payment in an incident last year, when a driver using Uber drove into a fire hydrant, which flew 81 feet down Divisadero and landed on a woman named Claire Fahrbach. The resulting geyser flooded several nearby businesses. Fahrbach is suing Uber for medical coverage, litigation that is still ongoing. 

Many revelations from the document are sure to come, and the Guardian will seek analysis from insurance industry experts on the leaked document.

hydrant

Uber’s insurance practices came under sharp investigation after the New Year’s Eve death of six year old Sofia Liu, who died after a collision with a car driven by a driver who had been using the Uber app.

“We have not made the policy — in its entirety — public,” Noyes wrote to us. But now that Uber’s insurance policy is released, advocates and the public can openly discuss the legitimacy and reach of Uber’s insurance. 

San Francisco. New York. Seattle. Cities and states across the country are grappling to regulate the so called rideshare companies, known legally as Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber, Sidecar and Lyft.

The municipalities grappled with many questions: who pays the medical bills, the fees to repair or replace damaged autos, or pay for the damage to property in an car accidents with Uber vehicles? A number of lawsuits filed against Uber so far show that the company has been unwilling to pick up the tab.

At a state insurance hearing in Sacramento last week, the personal automobile insurance industry blasted Uber for shifting some insurance liability onto its drivers’ personal insurance policies.

“It is well documented and publicized that the business model does attempt to shift the cost and the risk to the drivers personal auto insurance,” said Armand Feliciano, the vice president of the Association of California Insurance Companies. But personal insurance is not for people driving what is essentially a taxi cab, he said.

“The risks are fundamentally different,” Feliciano said to the state insurance commissioner. Rideshare companies need to “step up and be the insurers of their drivers. That’s the right policy decision.”

Uber has repeatedly stated they do not want their insurance policy revealed to the public.

“We have spent a great deal of time and effort acquiring this policy and do not share it publicly for competitive reasons,” Noyes told the Seattle Times earlier this month.

When we repeatedly asked him if it was troubling to Uber that their insurance policy was leaked, despite public affirmations that it remain private, Noyes wrote to us "not sure what you mean." 

The California Public Utilities Commission directly regulates rideshares, or Transportation Network Companies, is one of the few regulatory bodies to have a copy of the policy, but so far it has declined to distribute it openly.

We contacted the CPUC for clarification as to why they withheld the documents, but they asked for more time to get back to us, and did not reply before press time. 

Now that’s changed. We’re embedding Uber’s insurance policy below. If you have any analysis, tips or concerns, please email us at news@sfbg.com

Leaked Uber Insurance Policy by FitztheReporter

Comments

and to the SFBG for publishing it.

Now, on to the dispassionate analysis from the insurance experts.

Keep up the pressure. Make the CPUC do its job to insure that these taxicab companies compete on a level playing field with their competitors while adequately protecting their contractor/employees, customers and the general public.

The "sharing economy" is a scam. The so-called disruption is mostly to public safety and worker and consumer rights.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 24, 2014 @ 8:56 pm

The "Sharing Economy" is here to stay...

The old school "Consumption Economy" is headed the way of the Dodo Bird and Dinosaurs...just like Coal Fired Power Plants, Huge Over-priced Utilities and The Big 3 Automakers if they don't get their #$%# together quick.

LESS people are buying cars (per person basis)...Companies like Zipcar (owned by AVIS) and IGo car sharing are already out there and have proven that people will use them for YEARS before any of the Ride Share companies.

This is simply the next evolution.

Open Airplane allows pilots to rent planes inexpensively, since most private pilots can't afford their own airplane. The insurance companies agreed to make this work.

Bike Shares are popping up in cities around the country...and around the world.

High End Cameras, fancy watches, Power Drills, chain saws, things that people simply don't use every day. (Unless you're in the trades, how often does anyone really use a drill?)

Solar Panels that supply electricity back to the grid "share" electricity back to the grid thanks to "Solar City".

It's coming people...it's already here, in fact...they just need to get a few details ironed out and it will change the entire world.

Welcome to the future.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2014 @ 11:25 pm

When I rent out my couch using Airbnb or hire a Uber car to go across town, there's no "sharing" involved. It's a simple monetary transaction. "Sharing" is when my neighbor borrows my lawnmower (for free) or when I borrow a neighbors car (for free) to make a Costco run or when a friend stays on my couch for a few days (for free).

We know "sharing" sounds so innocent and positive, but it's just marketing spin. Only fools or shills like Mayor Lee use the term "sharing economy" to describe these monetary transactions. Everyone else with half a brain understands these are renting/leasing/service for hire activities. All the marketing spin in the world doesn't change the nature of these paid economic transactions between unrelated third parties.

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siding with insurance scum bags.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 24, 2014 @ 11:01 pm

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Posted by Shannon on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 12:11 pm

monopoly, or some specially favor group like yellow cab drivers.

Then they love monopolies and fight any competition to them.

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Really? If you are using your car for commercial purposes....you should have commercial insurance. That is how things are done today. As the general public and us who have their own personal liability insurance, we should not have to pay for people who use their car for commercial purposes. Ridesharing drivers are not really ridesharing...they are acting as a taxi service. Only if they truly werent getting paid for giving someone a ride would it be...ridesharing. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the whole concept, however, everybody should be playing under the same rules. These companies have been trying to skirt around the law long enough now. Another issue at hand here is..that in a number of states..it's illegal to be texting, surfing the internet or talking on the phone while driving...I believe these drivers are actually doing just that. (unless somehow you think going on an app while driving does not fall under this catagory). Again, this is just about everybody playing under the same rules. Call is ridesharing, call it being a taxi cab.

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compare this policy with a taxi company's policy and you'll see that the vast majority of exclusions are the same

but why let facts``

Posted by GuestD on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 6:12 am

compare this policy with a taxi company's policy and you'll see that the vast majority of exclusions are the same, as they are standard

but why let facts get in the way of some muckraking, right?

and why would Uber argue against insurance coverage in the fire hydrant case? so that they can be deemed bare of coverage and liable themselves?

yawn

Posted by GuestD on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 6:13 am

No. so that they can shift the blame to the driver's insurance. That's the problem. Uber has been putting the burden on drivers to carry the more expensive policies. Too many UberX drivers aren't carrying the required commercial insurance, and when a person gets hurt, the insurance is refusing to pay because the person who is using the vehicle like a rideshare didn't bother to realize that they needed COMMERCIAL insurance and that ridsharing voided their personal insurance policy. It's only going to take one lawsuit of a person getting permanently injured and not well compensated for the regulations to kick in for the new apps. Kind of like how it happened for regulated transportation companies so many years ago (taxis, etc.).

As for taxi insurance policies, you may have a point, but none of the companies would be allowed to register or operate without the minimum required insurance, and it's enforced all the time. All the time. With these apps, it's only enforced when something catastrophic happens.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 9:35 am

and I agree, the whole insurance issue with Uber and other such companies needs to be worked out, and the last I read, it is an issue that is being tackled.

That said, I was under the impression that the driver in the fire hydrant case did have a commercial license and the proper insurance (albeit, the limits might not be high enough to make the victim whole). Whether Uber could be on the hook as well is the intersting question

THAT said, I think Joe's whole train of thought about the insurance exclusions is way off base. For starters, Uber doesn't make the coverage determination, their insurance carrier does. And to pick out one of many built-in policy exclusions, standard in the marketplace, as some type of example that Uber's insurance isn't adequate is just lazy "reporting"

Posted by guestD on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 10:06 am

The column says Uber is the parent company of the insurer, Rasier. So I would have to imagine Uber gets some say in the legalese.

Posted by snapshotist on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 4:48 pm

You can't just pick and choose when you are liable. How many claims are they going to deny? Deflecting liability is all it is. The tax payers will end up stuck with the bill when they choose to deny claims as in the Sophie Lin case

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 1:45 am

Taxi insurance is also notably hard to collect from. If the taxi driver isn't at fault, they aren't going to pay squat. It is up to you to sue the other driver in that case. At least Uber carries uninsured/underinsured insurance. Most taxis don't. Even if the taxi driver is at fault, they have the best lawyers and usually get out of paying.

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If I'm looking to be well-informed about Uber, I'm absolutely going to ignore everything that a general manager of Yellow Cab might have to say about it.

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I will go ahead and state the blindingly obvious, which is that this article is pointless if it doesn't compare Uber's policies with the policies of taxi companies.

Posted by SFRealist on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 7:20 am
Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 7:24 am

I'm actually interested in Uber's insurance coverage. It's a legitimate question. But it's only relevant when compared with the policies of taxis. One data point tells us nothing.

Posted by SFRealist on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 8:27 am

...  I think comparing the Taxi policies to the Uber policiy is very valid. I questioned the LA Yellow Cab president on this very point. But I wanted to get the insurance policy out there so different parties, insurance folks, taxi folks, transportation agencies, could see it -- then I could solicit comment later.

So my article for the print edition of the Guardian next week, barring unforseen circumstances, will be analyzing this policy with the help of experts. This is an evolving story, and certainly no one post will cover everything. But very fair points. 

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Yes, the article says nothing about the appropriateness of Uber's policies. But using headline words like 'secret, “proprietary” ' at least give the illusion that they've uncovered something wrong.

It would take more work to have an expert compare the Uber policy vs the standard Yellow Cab policy.

But then, most likely the expert would say "They are essentially the same but here is a small insignificant difference.

So then the next SFBG headline would be:

"Insurance expert reviews Uber's insurance policy, points to major flaws"

#highschooljournalism

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 10:13 am

Have you ever read the policy for an taxicab? Seriously - all these experts coast to coast are talking about the lapses, and even City attorneys are, and you are whining because they did not tell you whats in a taxicab policy?

They are the most expensive policies for a reason. They cover everything. In most states, the cabs are the only ones who fall under no fault insurance, driving their costs up.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 11:52 am

My original point was that this article would only be useful if it contained a comparison of insurance policies for Uber vs. taxis (and also Lyft and anyone else). That would be very valuable, but without that comparison, it's impossible for us to know if Uber's policy is any different than a taxi.

(It would also constitute actual journalism, educating people so they could make informed decisions)

Posted by SFRealist on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 4:35 pm

I never minded waiting 30 minutes for a taxi or having them not show up - I knew it was all in service to a greater good. We need to return to those days soon - taxi drivers have families to support and the least we can do is support them in return.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 8:35 am

who can barely speak English and doesn't know his way around the city.

It's all oh so San Francisco.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 8:48 am

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