Uber users, drivers at risk without proper insurance coverage

TORONTO — Insurance experts say consumers who use ride-sharing services like Uber face a risk if they’re in an accident.

“At the end of the day, the savings may not be worth it,” said Willie Handler, an insurance industry consultant who used to work with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, which regulates the insurance industry.

“There’s no indication they have any insurance at all,” said Handler, referring to the controversial ride-sharing service.

Last month, one Uber driver in Toronto was involved in an accident and expressed confusion about whether he had specific coverage through the company. The driver told Global News he did not want to speak on camera but wished to alert other drivers about possible problems.

Some lawyers warn that drivers and customers face significant problems without proper insurance.

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“I know a lot of them are just doing this to pick up some extra jobs or extra income,” said Sonia Leith, a personal injury lawyer with Neinstein and Associates in Toronto.

“If they haven’t disclosed this properly to their insurance company, they could be at risk.”

Leith says in the event of an accident, there might not be coverage.

“If an uberX driver had not informed their own insurance company that they were using that vehicle for commercial use, that’s a material misrepresentation. Their own insurance company might be at liberty to deny any claims,” Leith said.

In a statement to Global News, Uber said there is coverage.

“In the event of an accident during an uberX trip, Uber’s support team and claims provider assist our driver-partners in collecting all relevant information and submitting a complete insurance claim. Our support of our driver-partners continues through the claim being resolved,” said Susie Heath, a senior communication associate with Uber Canada.

But Uber has refused to release the details of its coverage to anyone. Last week, Ontario Superior Court Justice James Diamond ruled that Uber was not justified in refusing to disclose the insurance policy.

“I am not satisfied that Uber has presented sufficient evidence to show that disclosure of the insurance policy would lead to a loss of any competitive advantage,” wrote Justice Diamond.

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The city of Toronto is in a court fight with Uber saying the company has not proven that Uber has the requisite $2 million coverage required by city bylaws.

“There is no honour system when it comes to insurance,” said Kristine Hubbard, an operations manager of Beck Taxi, the largest fleet of cabs in Toronto. “You have to show it, prove it.”

Hubbard says every taxicab driver in her company’s fleet has the $2 million coverage as required by the city. She says regulations and enforcement protect consumers and come with a cost.

“It is clear that policy makers and the general public are becoming aware of the dangers associated with Uber and similar entities,” said Peter Zahakos, the CEO of Co-op Cabs in Toronto. “When these regulations are intentionally overlooked or sidestepped, we are creating  fertile ground for  abuse of customer rights and privileges.”

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