Half of Uber's insurance arrangements leaked. We're still waiting for the other half

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on March 31, 2014

From The News Desk

A few weeks ago, when Uber announced its new expanded insurance policy, Pando asked to see the company's coverage. Since it's a custom deal created just for Uber, the public couldn't know what protections drivers -- and unwitting bystanders -- were afforded without it. We essentially had to blindly trust in what Uber told us.

At the time, CEO Travis Kalanick promised Pando he'd go "jam" with his head of insurance about whether they should release it.

Now, two weeks later, it looks like someone has made the decision for him. An anonymous source has leaked Uber's insurance policy to the SF Bay Guardian. You can see it here or embedded at the bottom of this post.

Uber confirmed the authenticity of the document, and also released the original through its blog.

The policy only takes effect once a driver picks up a rider. Uber has a secondary policy covering drivers who are between rides, but that policy is not public information and hasn't been leaked...yet.

The document is 33 pages long and filled with the sort of dense legalese you'd expect. We're consulting with insurance experts to break down what it means and will share whatever information we learn.

Certainly at first glance there doesn't appear to be much new here, although it's interesting that the policy covers Rasier LLC, not explicitly Uber.

In Uber's blog, the company says describes Rasier as "a wholly owned subsidiary of Uber Technologies Inc. that partners with ridesharing drivers." Pando reached out (~2 hours before publication) for more clarification on Rasier's role, and why Uber chose to put its insurance contract under a shell subsidiary instead of under the company itself. It may be to protect Uber from certain kinds of liability.

Bill Rouse, the former president of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, sent out a statement saying:

This is some sort of corporate shell game. The policy states that insurance kicks in only when Rasier LLC is liable. But Uber—not Rasier LLC—is the company providing for-hire transportation across the U.S. This could be the mechanism Uber uses to avoid paying out any insurance whatsoever.

On a call with PandoDaily, Rouse reiterated some of the transportation industry's key criticisms of Uber's insurance. Uber's drivers aren't covered 24-7. They're only covered up to $50,000 between rides, which is far less than the coverage required for California taxis. Lastly, since the insurance isn't 24-7 Uber drivers are uninsured when illegally taking street hails.

Critics in the taxi industry have been calling for Uber to release its insurance policy for months now. Since Uber has struck a custom deal with insurance providers, its certificate of insurance wasn't enough for users to know what types of exclusions and exceptions could be included.

The closest the public got to some understanding of the policy was when accidents occured that Uber wouldn't cover. For example, in the case of Sophia Liu the family is suing Uber for wrongful death because the company offered no money for compensation, and the UberX driver's personal policy only offered $15,000.

The leaked policy is a first step, but Uber still needs to release its policy covering drivers when they're between rides.

An Uber rep has promised a response to this story but had not provided it at the time of publication. We'll update as soon as they do.

Update: Uber responded to the criticisms by sending the following statement to Pando:

Uber operates with multiple types of partners including livery/limo, taxi, and ridesharing.  Each type of vehicle and geography has their own unique regulatory requirements. In California, as you know, last fall the CPUC created a new class of license called a Transportation Network Company (TNC) and Rasier-CA LLC has applied for that license. The requirements are such that the TNC be the named insured, thus Rasier is named on the policy. Uber Technologies is an additional insured as the parent company (see page 26), as are the named operators (last page).
In other words, since Uber runs multiple types of businesses it established the name Rasier to represent the ridesharing portion of the company. Rouse's critique of Uber shielding itself from liability with a shell company doesn't bear out since Uber is named an additionally insured entity. It's just buried deep on page 26.

As for whether Uber will release the insurance policy covering drivers between trips as Travis Kalanick promised to consider doing, the Uber spokesperson said, "[T]he comment from Travis you recount was in relation to the $1 million policy linked to already in our blog post." That's, of course, an easy out for Uber. My notes from the press call suggest that neither Pando nor Kalanick specified which policy Uber would consider releasing. We spoke in terms of general coverage.

Either way, Uber is so close to transparency with the public -- one insurance policy away -- that it's not totally clear why the company won't publish the final missing piece. Is it hiding something, or is it simply trying to protect proprietary business information?

Uber Insurance Policy

[Illustration by Cam Floyd for Pando]