In the wake of tragedy, Uber today announced policy changes that will expand insurance coverage for its drivers in the event they're involved in an accident. Uber will now cover drivers so long as they're logged into the company's smartphone app and available to accept a ride — even if there's no passenger in the car when an accident occurs. This liability coverage kicks in only if a driver's personal insurance fails to cover an incident and provides up to $100,000 in bodily injury coverage and $25,000 in property damage.
"Uber is taking this step to eliminate any ambiguity while the insurance industry and state governments update policies and regulations for the new world of ridesharing transportation," the company wrote in a blog post. "We are proud to be the standard bearer on this issue as we believe that this clarity is in the public’s best interest." But the change also follows Uber's darkest hour; on New Year's Eve, one of the company's UberX drivers struck and killed a six-year-old girl in San Francisco.
"Our commitment to safety has always been our top priority."
Syed Muzzafar was logged into Uber's app when he slammed into Sofia Liu; her mother and brother were also injured in the accident. Muzzafar now faces charges of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, and Uber has been hit with a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from the tragedy. In that instance, Uber notes that Muzzafar's insurance company offered up the maximum limit of his personal policy. Still, Uber admits the mishap led to "complex questions" about liability. With today's announcement, it's seeking to eliminate any worry of a potential insurance gap whenever a driver is logged in.
"Safety always comes first in the cities and communities we serve," Uber says. "We make sure all ridesharing drivers undergo background checks that are among the most stringent in the industry." That point may come under fire, however, as Muzzafar was arrested for reckless driving 10 years before the New Year's Eve tragedy. But California law prevents Hirease (Uber's background check partner) from reporting some incidents that are more than seven years old. As a result, Muzzafar — who was convicted of speeding at over 100 mph — came up clean when he joined UberX.