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Interested in using your car for ride-share business? Check your insurance

Staff and wire report
July 30. 2014 8:26PM
Passengers get picked up by their driver Dan Burgess in Chicago in this undated photo. Burgess, 46, is a rideshare driver with Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. (The Washington Post)

Drivers and passengers who participate in fee-based ride share programs may find they don’t have proper insurance coverage should they get in a collision or are hurt, the New Hampshire Department of Insurance warned.

While there is no evidence any fee-based ride share program operates in the Granite State, the insurance department issued the alert last month given problems experienced in many other states with more urban populations.

“While this sounds like a wonderful thing in many ways, we just want them to be safe. If they are considering being a driver or passenger, please check (your) insurance policy,” insurance department spokeswoman Danielle Barrick said last week.

Typically, a commercial automobile policy is needed to provide a vehicle for rent or to transport property or passengers for a fee. Drivers providing these fee-based ride share programs may not be aware their personal automobile insurance policies may not cover them as either a driver or a passenger.

“Car owners should check with their insurers before participating in a program like this to be sure they are covered. If they are not, they may have to pay out of their own pockets for damages and injuries, should there be an accident,” New Hampshire Insurance Commissioner Roger A. Sevigny said in a statement last month.

“And riders should be aware that, in the event of an accident, they may not have recourse to damages, as they would through a traditional taxi service,” Sevigny added.

Fee-based ride share companies use smartphone mobile apps to connect passengers with drivers who provide rides with their personal, non-commercial vehicles. Examples of these programs include Uber, Lyft Inc., Sidecar and Wingz.

Lyft said in an email this week that they do not operate in New Hampshire. Uber did not respond to a media inquiry asking if they operate in New Hampshire. However, the state insurance department said there is no evidence any of the fee-based ride share programs currently operate in New Hampshire.

The state insurance department urged vehicle owners and drivers to ask their insurance agents if their policies cover ride-share programs and review any agreement they enter into carefully. Passengers are advised to find out who would be responsible if they were hurt and whether they would be covered by insurance.

The insurance department said these concerns do not extend to traditional car-pooling arrangements in which friends and neighbors share fuel costs and take turns driving.

Lyft launched ride-sharing operations in New York City last Friday after reaching an agreement with New York authorities over the company’s compliance with state licensing and insurance regulations, Reuters reported.

The agreement with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the state’s top insurance regulator, Benjamin Lawsky, also calls for Lyft to suspend its current operations in Buffalo and Rochester by Aug. 1, while the company continues to work with authorities on ensuring that its model complies with the law.

The deal comes one week after Schneiderman and Lawsky asked a state judge to block Lyft’s planned New York City launch just hours before it was set to start, claiming the company had ignored state law.

Under the agreement, Lyft drivers will be licensed by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to provide for-hire service.

“This agreement is the first big step in finding a home for Lyft’s peer-to-peer model in New York,” the company’s blog post said. “Community-powered transportation — neighbors driving neighbors in their personal cars — ensures broader access to more affordable rides in places with limited transit options, like the outer boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.” the blog post said.

In a statement, Scheniderman said the agreement is “proof positive” that regulators and companies can work together to allow new ideas to come to market.


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