Recent news stories have emphasized the emerging trend of transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft, around the world. These types of ride-sharing companies are continuing to develop across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well.
This increasing use of transportation network companies by the public led the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass legislation last to regulate such businesses. Of note are the statutory requirements for insurance coverages mandated for transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft, and their drivers.
A New Law
Senate Bill 984 was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on Nov. 4, 2016. This law relates to the operation of ride-sharing companies in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Under this bill, certain sections of Pennsylvania statutes were amended to include provisions and regulations related to these ride-sharing companies.
The new law can be found at both 66 Pa.C.S.A. Section 2601, et al., and 53 Pa.C.S.A. §57A01, et al., and is titled “Transportation Network Companies.”
The new law defines what a transportation network company is and identifies the relevant driver(s) included under the ambit of the statute. This new law also outlines a list of qualifications and standards that the company must meet before being permitted to operate in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Insurance Coverage Requirements
The new law also outlines the insurance coverage that either the driver of a ride-sharing vehicle must possess, or that the transportation network company must provide, to cover both the driver of the vehicle and any passengers that may use the service.
The “financial responsibility requirements” and the “Insurance requirements” mandated under this new law can be found at both 66 Pa.C.S.A. Section 2603.1 and at 53 Pa.C.S.A. Section 57A07. The language of each statute is essentially identical.
According to the provisions under 53 Pa.C.S.A. 57a07 (a), a “transportation network company driver or transportation network company on the driver’s behalf shall maintain primary automobile insurance that recognizes that the driver is a transportation network company driver or otherwise uses a vehicle to transport passengers for compensation.”
The new legislation then breaks down different scenarios and identifies what insurance mandates apply to each situation. These scenarios include where the driver of the vehicle does not have passengers and is logged into the transportation network company network (presumably applying to the situation where the driver is on the way to pick up a fare), and where the driver of the vehicle does have passengers.
Under the statutory language found at 53 Pa.C.S.A. 57a07(b) or 66 Pa.C.S.A. Section 2603.1(a)(2), where an Lyft or Uber driver is logged onto the digital network and is able to receive transportation requests but is not yet actually engaged in a prearranged ride, that driver must be covered by a policy providing bodily injury liability coverage of $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident, along with $25,000 in property damage coverage. The insurance policy covering this scenario is also required to offer first party medical benefits coverage of at least $5,000 for the driver and $25,000 for any pedestrians injured.
Under the separate scenario where a Lyft or Uber driver has been engaged in a prearranged ride and does have a passenger in the vehicle, the statutory language found at 53. Pa.C.S.A. 57a07(c) and 66 Pa.C.S.A. Section 2603.1(a)(3) requires that the applicable liability policy contain coverage of at least $500,000 for death, bodily injury and property damages claims. The policy must also provide for first party medical benefits coverage of at least $5,000 for the driver and $25,000 for any passengers or pedestrians injured.
These coverages, separate from the driver’s inapplicable personal automobile insurance coverage, may be secured or supplied either by the driver of the car, the transportation network company, or any combination of the two, see 53 Pa.C.S.A 57a07 (d); 66 Pa.C.S.A. Section 2603.1(a)(2)(iii); 66 Pa.C.S.A. Section 2603.1(a)(3)(iii).
Priority of Coverages
One issue that has arisen with companies such as Uber and Lyft is the extent to which an insurance carrier providing personal automobile insurance coverage to a person who chooses to use a personal vehicle in a ride-sharing business capacity may deny coverage under that policy.
Importantly, 53 Pa.C.S.A57a07 (f) and 66 Pa.C.S.A. Section 2603.1(a)(4) both provide, as follows: “Primary insurance. Coverage under an automobile insurance policy maintained under this section shall be primary and not be dependent on a personal automobile insurer first denying a claim nor shall a personal automobile insurance policy be required to first deny a claim.”
As such, the statutory framework confirms that a Lyft or Uber driver’s separate personal automobile insurance coverage typically will not come into play if the driver is involved in an accident resulting in personal injuries or property damages.
This Pennsylvania law specifically provides that carriers that write personal automobile insurance in the commonwealth may exclude coverage, including liability coverage, property damage coverage, along with UM/UIM benefits and first party medical benefits coverage, for accidents involving an Uber or Lyft driver involved in an accident that occurs while its insured driver is logged into the transportation network company’s network and seeking customers or is engaged in a prearranged ride with a customer. See 53 Pa.C.S.A 57a07 (l) and 66 Pa.C.S.A. Section 2603.1(a)(2). The law also upholds the right of a carrier who has excluded coverage to also assert that it has no duty to defend any claims arising out of an accident involving a Lyft or Uber vehicle as well.
Accordingly, the right of personal automobile insurance carriers to deny coverage in cases involving accidents arising out of the use of personal vehicles for transportation network companies has been upheld in the regulatory scheme passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature.
The law does otherwise also confirm that nothing in its provisions prevents a personal automobile insurance carrier from providing coverage for drivers engaged in Uber or Lyft activities should the carrier wish to sell that type of coverage.
As a protective measure for the public at large, the law additionally imposes duties upon the transportation network company to ensure that the mandated insurance coverage is in place prior to allowing a driver to drive for the company.
The statutes also otherwise provide that where the insurance that may have been secured by a driver for Uber or Lyft rides has lapsed or is inadequate, then the insurance coverage maintained by the transportation network company shall provide the coverage required by this law and the transportation network company’s carrier would have the duty to defend the claim.
Other Notable Provisions
In other notable provisions under the statute, it is provided that a transportation network company or a driver may not request or require a passenger to sign a waiver of potential liability for personal injury or property damage claims.
Nor can the transportation network company require any of its drivers to sign any waivers for potential liability for personal injury or property damage claims as a condition for entering into a lease agreement, see 53 Pa.C.S.A. Section 57A07(m).
It is noted that, as of this time, there has been no case law handed down interpreting this statute since it was passed almost a year ago in November 2016. However, it can be anticipated that, as the use of Uber and Lyft continues to rise in Pennsylvania, insurance coverage decisions are likely to be generated in the unfortunate situation of an accident involving such a ride-sharing vehicle.
Daniel E. Cummins is a partner and civil litigator with the Scranton law firm of Foley Comerford & Cummins. His civil litigation blog, Tort Talk, can be viewed at www.TortTalk.com.
Stephen T. Kopko is an associate with the firm who focuses on the defense of auto accident and premises liability matters.