Uber’s secret, “proprietary” insurance policy leaked

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A screenshot of Uber's insurance filings.

An anonymous leaker emailed Uber’s previously secreted, hidden insurance plans to the Bay Guardian and a number of taxi industry advocates over the weekend, and who is and who is not insured by Uber may give riders cause for worry.

The insurance policy describes exclusions, limits, and explicit descriptions of who is insured, all details that evaded the public, the taxi industry, and some regulatory bodies trying to investigate Uber and its insurance coverage.

Uber confirmed with the Guardian that the leaked policy was legitimate, but did not directly answer our questions about the consequences of it being leaked.

William Rouse, general manager of Los Angeles Yellow Cab and a former president of the Taxicab Association, said the insurance document raised some troubling questions.

The first problem lies in a semantics game the company may use to distance itself from paying out insurance, he said. “Uber is insuring through Rasier LLC, but contractually drivers contract with Uber. They state in the policy that it kicks in only when Raiser is liable. What we have here is a shell game. Who is Rasier?”

Uber is the parent company of Rasier, Andrew Noyes, an Uber spokesperson, told us. But how listing Rasier versus Uber as the main insurance carrier will affect insurance claims down the road remains to be seen. 

Exclusions in the policy are many, such as one for the “movement of property by mechanical device.”

It states: “‘Bodily injury’ or ‘property damage’ resulting from the movement of property by a mechanical device (other than a hand truck) unless the device is attached to the covered ‘auto’” is excluded from coverage. Spokesperson Andrew Noyes said this exclusion deals with unloading and offloading of material from a vehicle via a pallet jack or forklift.

One wonders what exclusion Uber used to argue against insurance payment in an incident last year, when a driver using Uber drove into a fire hydrant, which flew 81 feet down Divisadero and landed on a woman named Claire Fahrbach. The resulting geyser flooded several nearby businesses. Fahrbach is suing Uber for medical coverage, litigation that is still ongoing. 

Many revelations from the document are sure to come, and the Guardian will seek analysis from insurance industry experts on the leaked document.

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Uber’s insurance practices came under sharp investigation after the New Year’s Eve death of six year old Sofia Liu, who died after a collision with a car driven by a driver who had been using the Uber app.

“We have not made the policy — in its entirety — public,” Noyes wrote to us. But now that Uber’s insurance policy is released, advocates and the public can openly discuss the legitimacy and reach of Uber’s insurance. 

San Francisco. New York. Seattle. Cities and states across the country are grappling to regulate the so called rideshare companies, known legally as Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber, Sidecar and Lyft.

The municipalities grappled with many questions: who pays the medical bills, the fees to repair or replace damaged autos, or pay for the damage to property in an car accidents with Uber vehicles? A number of lawsuits filed against Uber so far show that the company has been unwilling to pick up the tab.

At a state insurance hearing in Sacramento last week, the personal automobile insurance industry blasted Uber for shifting some insurance liability onto its drivers’ personal insurance policies.

“It is well documented and publicized that the business model does attempt to shift the cost and the risk to the drivers personal auto insurance,” said Armand Feliciano, the vice president of the Association of California Insurance Companies. But personal insurance is not for people driving what is essentially a taxi cab, he said.

“The risks are fundamentally different,” Feliciano said to the state insurance commissioner. Rideshare companies need to “step up and be the insurers of their drivers. That’s the right policy decision.”

Uber has repeatedly stated they do not want their insurance policy revealed to the public.

“We have spent a great deal of time and effort acquiring this policy and do not share it publicly for competitive reasons,” Noyes told the Seattle Times earlier this month.

When we repeatedly asked him if it was troubling to Uber that their insurance policy was leaked, despite public affirmations that it remain private, Noyes wrote to us "not sure what you mean." 

The California Public Utilities Commission directly regulates rideshares, or Transportation Network Companies, is one of the few regulatory bodies to have a copy of the policy, but so far it has declined to distribute it openly.

We contacted the CPUC for clarification as to why they withheld the documents, but they asked for more time to get back to us, and did not reply before press time. 

Now that’s changed. We’re embedding Uber’s insurance policy below. If you have any analysis, tips or concerns, please email us at news@sfbg.com

Leaked Uber Insurance Policy by FitztheReporter