Updated: Uber Won't Pay for Uber Driver Accident

Updated: Paragraph 2: Lyft says its excess policy kicks in even if a driver's insurance doesn't support for-profit ride-sharing.

Updated: Paragraph 4: Clarification on Uber charter carriers versus rideshare services.

Manuel M. Ramos
Ever since Uber and its various rideshare competitors began disrupting the taxi industry in 2009, cabbies and SFMTA officials have argued, often stridently, that drivers for these car-hire startups don't have adequate insurance. Although the CPUC granted the startups a temporary reprieve and green-lighted their million-dollar excess liability policies while it drafts new rules on ridesharing, opponents said that wouldn't hold up if and when there's a major accident.

Luxor Cab's general manager Charles Rathbone pointed out, repeatedly, that excess policies won't even kick in unless a driver's personal insurance policy supports for-hire use of a vehicle -- and most don't. A Lyft spokeswoman took exception, saying the rideshare policies approved by the CPUC kick in even if the driver's insurance does not support for-profit ridesharing.

"And therein lies the problem," he wrote in an e-mail. "Unfortunately," Rathbone wrote in an e-mail, "it will take a tragedy to find out if Lyft actually has its passengers (or its drivers) insured for anything at all," he continued.

Theoretically the same would go for similar rideshare services UberX, SideCar, et. al. The problem is slightly different for Uber's contracted town car drivers, who are licensed with the CPUC. In their case, Uber claims no liability for accidents that happen when a driver is picking up a smartphone hail. It didn't capitalize the industry; it doesn't employee the drivers; it's not responsible when they screw up.

Rathbone and other skeptics stood by and waited for the other shoe to drop. And finally, on March 13, it did.

Shortly before midnight, black town car driver Djamol Gafurov hit a black Dodge Magnum while turning left onto Hayes Street from Divisadero, causing it to slam a fire hydrant, then a tree. The fire hydrant blew off the ground and struck bystander Claire Fahrbach, knocking her to the ground and fracturing her leg.

On July 26, Fahrbach sued Gafurov, who drove for SF Limo Car Service Corporation, as well as the Dodge driver Ziad Sleiman. She also sued Uber Technologies Inc., claiming that because Gafurov was using the Uber app to pick up passengers at the time of the accident, it, too, should be responsible for a share of the damages. Fahrbach is seeking compensation for medical bills, attorneys' fees, and loss of income after the accident, since the injuries prevented her from working.

In press statements, Uber has distanced itself from the suit, pointing to clauses in its terms of service that absolve it from any accidents caused by its drivers. Since Gafurov is a private contractor, rather than a company employee, he'll foot the $500-$750K bill that could result from this accident using his CPUC-mandated $500-$750K insurance liability.

In this case, the driver had all of the required commercial licensing and insurance required for a transportation charter party in California, according to an Uber spokesman. "For these reasons," he said in an e-mail, "we believe that Uber acted appropriately in activating the driver and his business on the Uber technology platform."

Unfortunately, he added, technology platforms don't prevent accidents.

Read the full complaint:

Claire Farhbach Court Complaint by Leah Rachel Swan

My Voice Nation Help

The writer says we’re waiting to see what happens when the first ridesharing driver has a catastrophic accident. True. But ridesharing companies may view the first few bad accidents as public-relations events. So, they may pragmatically elect to cover these first few accidents using their insurance.

I’m waiting to see what happens when the 10th or 15th ridesharing driver has a catastrophic accident. Then, we’ll meet the first of many ridesharing drivers who loses everything because these bandit companies encouraged him or her to play taxi driver.

Savannah Brentnall
Savannah Brentnall

Why should they? The driver had his own commercial insurance that covers the costs.

Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson

^It is the driver's responsibility, absolutely, but I do think Uber has some responsibility in this, too, as they are the ones putting these cars on the road. These drivers are working for Uber even if Uber uses language that distances them from their company. They can't have it both ways. I use Uber as a passenger and if I were in an Uber car in an accident and Uber washed their hands of the situation, I would be pretty damn pissed.

Antony McGregor Dey
Antony McGregor Dey

But it's not Uber's responsibility, it's the drivers responsibility to have the insurance, and in this instance the driver had the correct insurance and was covered.


@Antony McGregor Dey  Uber is the one initiated the business. Uber is the main contractor between passengers and drivers.  Drivers don't contract with passengers. Creating app is like just one time work. Uber take 20% of gross. Drivers are not allowed to take tips. Drivers have to spend their time, Gas, Car depreciation.  Taking risk on the roads. etc..  Uber use one time written app and relax ,taking big chunk 20% gross. Uber takes advantage of drivers. Uber is the one who must provide insurance for passengers. Uber hires drivers who have spotless driving record. Accidents could happen.

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