Lyft rolled out a new set of insurance policies for its drivers Wednesday amid growing concern about coverage gaps for motorists who use apps to pick up paying passengers.
The changes extend collision coverage to drivers who already have collision coverage on their personal policies and add up to $1 million in coverage for injuries to drivers and passengers struck by uninsured or underinsured motorists.
Currently, drivers for transportation network companies - a catchall term for apps like Lyft, UberX and Sidecar - must have personal insurance that covers damage to their own cars.
The companies provide a $1 million liability policy for damages to passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles, but only in cases where the driver-for-hire is at fault.
Lyft, Sidecar and UberX only cover drivers between the time they accept a fare and the moment they drop off a passenger. Uber has sought to distance itself from a driver who struck and killed a 6-year-old girl in San Francisco on New Year's Eve, claiming it shouldn't be liable because the motorist wasn't carrying a passenger or on his way to pick one up.
Some drivers worry their personal insurers will drop them, or deny claims, if they are using an app at the time of a crash, since standard personal policies do not cover rides for hire. That, coupled with high commercial insurance rates, has led some motorists to hide their side gigs from insurers.
Lyft wouldn't say how much the change in policy will cost the company, or which insurance carriers will provide the new coverage.
"I can tell you that insurance is definitely a high operating expense for the company," said Lyft spokeswoman Erin Simpson. "This will cost more, but it's a priority for us and for the community."
Lyft's new insurance plan covers damage to a driver's car with a $2,500 deductible and a $50,000 maximum if the driver already has collision coverage on his or her personal policy - which is not required in California - and if the personal policy doesn't cover the collision.
The company also formed a coalition with the California Public Utilities Commission - which regulates such companies - and insurance carriers to study further insurance tweaks.
Uber does not provide collision coverage for drivers on its lower-cost UberX platform, but the company has been reimbursing drivers whose claims get denied by their personal coverage, a spokesman said. Uber has had a $1 million policy for crashes involving uninsured or underinsured motorists in place for UberX drivers since December.