Thinking Outside The Car: UBER Gets Creative With Its Insurance

Guest Blogger: Annie Kernicky, Esq.,

New and emerging technologies are leading to new and emerging insurance products. Policyholders must remain vigilant in both securing that coverage and in pursuing claims under that coverage. A recently filed case involving the technology fueled, rideshare service, Uber, drives this point home.

As more and more consumers are learning, Uber and other rideshare services like Lyft work as follows: A customer seeking a ride activates an app and sees real-time locations of nearby rideshare vehicles. After a user clicks to request a pick-up, drivers are alerted of the potential fare by visual display on their smartphone, which they must respond to. The app also allows both the driver and passenger to text and/or call each other.

As reflected in a recently filed insurance coverage action involving Uber, insured smartphone-based app rideshare services are seeking coverage in creative ways.  In that case, Evanston Insurance Company seeks a declaration that it is not required to cover Uber’s settlement with the family of a 6-year-old girl killed in a collision with an alleged Uber driver who was allegedly using the Uber app, but had not yet picked up passengers. In its complaint, Evanston argues that its excess policy covers only technology, and the underlying suit concerns an automobile accident.  Instead of seeking coverage under its Business Auto policy or perhaps in addition thereto, Uber is pursuing a claim against Evanston under a liability insurance policy designed to cover Uber’s technology operations.   Evanston contends that its insurance policy excludes taxi operations and covers only Uber’s technology aspects and operations.  Although Uber has not yet responded to Evanston’s complaint, it appears that Uber is contending that the Underlying claim arose out of its “technology operations” because the underlying injury occurred while the driver was using the Uber app, and not while the driver had passengers.

Even though the underlying claim appeared to involve an automobile liability, further consideration reveals that a new technology may be the real culprit. This case provides a prime example of an insured creatively pursuing coverage under an insurance policy that at first blush might not apply. It serves as a healthy reminder for all policyholders that successfully securing coverage sometimes requires looking for coverage in both the usual and not so usual places.

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