Geico not cool carrying Uber or Lyft drivers

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One of the contentious issues involving ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft in Tampa and across the country has been regarding the soundness of their insurance policies.

Controversy about what type of policies Uber and Lyft drivers operate with burst out into the open after a tragic incident last New Year’s Eve in San Francisco exposed possible gaps in coverage. That’s after an UberX driver hit and killed a 6-year-old and injured her mother and brother while logged into the UberX app. That driver’s personal policy had only the California minimum coverage, according to the family’s attorney.

Pressure built on both companies to reveal more about their policies, and that happened later in the year. Uber’s insurance policies are written by James River Insurance Co., based in Richmond, Virginia. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation recently informed Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission head Kyle Cockream that they were not certain that it would provide the coverage to operate legally in Florida.

Lyft now also offers a $1 million limit for body injury and/or property damage, that applies from the time a driver accepts a ride request in the app until the time the ride has ended in the app. That coverage had previously only applied after a driver’s personal auto policy had been exhausted. In July Lyft announced that it had  voluntarily converted its policy from excess to be primary to a driver’s personal policy during the period from the time a driver accepts a ride request until the time the ride has ended in the app.

And that’s a good thing, because one major carrier that insures driver’s personal policies, Geico, has made clear that they will not cover anybody who admits to them that they work for a company like Uber, Lyft or Sidecar.

A document unearthed by the San Francisco Chronicle shows that as of 8/28/14,  Geico is now advising all of its agents that they will not insure ride-sharing drivers. In the sales process, agents are informed that “If a customer advises of ridesharing (Uber Lyft, etc.) as part of their usage please Group Reject the the policy using “Vehicle Use -Unusual Exposure,” although there have been previous reports that Geico was already canceling policies of customers who informed them that they were offering ridesharing with their personal vehicles.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.