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If You're Injured While Using These Car Services, Who Pays Your Medical Bills?

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How should insurance work for services like Uber and Lyft?
Spiros Vathis: http://www.flickr.com/photos/62473243@N00/9320594263
How should insurance work for services like Uber and Lyft?

Smartphone apps that let you order a ride from someone using their own private vehicle—commonly called ridesharing—are popular in D.C. these days, but there is a question of whether you'd be covered in the event of a crash.

That question was the focus of a public hearing today.

Here's a scenario D.C. regulators want to be prepared for: You order a ride from UberX, Lyft, or Sidecar. The driver picks you up, runs a red light, and crashes, putting you in the hospital. Who is going to pay your medical bills? The driver's insurance would cover it, right? I posed this question to D.C. Taxicab Commission chairman Ron Linton.

"We cannot say that today," Linton said.

Linton presided over a three-hour hearing on proposed regulations that would require someone—either the driver or the tech company, it's not clear which one—to have adequate liability insurance. UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar drivers use their private vehicles as taxis, so their personal car insurance would not apply.

Insurance-industry lobbyist Kevin Wrege testified that regulators had better figure out how to close potential liability insurance gaps. "These issues are a source of confusion for drivers and passengers, who either erroneously believe that the personal automobile policy will provide coverage, or realize it does not and are simply hoping for the best," Wrege said.

Sidecar attorney Beth Stevens told the commission the proposed regulations are onerous because Sidecar has already beefed up its insurance policies: "We have a $1 million excess liability coverage, which is more than most livery and taxi services are required to have."

Both UberX and Lyft have said their insurance policies also cover everyone now—driver, passengers, pedestrians, but both regulators, and especially the tech companies' heavily regulated competitors, are not convinced.

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