Lack of clarity on coverage caused lawyers to avoid accident cases involving rideshare apps
On March 15, Uber will have been in Toronto for 14 years. Jasmine Daya, a personal injury and insurance law lawyer and managing principal of Jasmine Daya & Co., says that when ridesharing apps first emerged, they were not properly insured because their business model was a totally new concept.
Initially, when personal injury lawyers took on a case involving a rideshare vehicle, it was not clear if the insurance company insuring the vehicle would honour the policy if it knew the driver was using it for a rideshare service, which would require special insurance. The lawyers also did not know which insurance company insured which app and had to call the various insurers and ask if they insured the vehicle.
“There would be hoops and hurdles for us to jump through,” she says. “Oftentimes, we found that the insurance would not cover the driver of the vehicle that our clients were injured in.”
The situation was so difficult that some lawyers would simply avoid cases involving a rideshare vehicle because they did not want to “waste time and energy on it,” says Daya. This left accident victims “in the wind,” she says.
“It was a very unfortunate situation because our job is to help those in their time of greatest need, which is when they're involved in a motor vehicle accident. That's why personal injury lawyers are supposed to be doing what they do to protect those injured individuals.
“When I heard that there were lawyers out there that just did not want to deal with it, it was quite upsetting. The trend that I've seen now, thankfully, is that we don't see that anymore.”
In recent years, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) has approved an auto-insurance product for ride-sharing companies. While lawyers did not previously know which insurer worked with which app, that information can now be found easily on FSRA’s website. For example, if the accident involved an Uber driver, Economical Mutual Insurance Company insures Uber. Aviva Insurance Company of Canada insures Lyft. There are 13 different ridesharing apps listed on FSRA’s website.
Daya says there is oversight from the companies to ensure drivers are signed up for the proper insurance policy with the right company.
She says there are two main components to a personal injury case when someone is injured in a motor vehicle accident. The first is accident benefits. Ontario has a no-fault system, so everyone is entitled to benefits regardless of who is at fault. The “priority rule” dictates that the passenger will go through their own insurance company first if they need treatment because of the accident, such as chiropractic therapy, physiotherapy, or massage. If the passenger does not have coverage, they use the rideshare company’s.
The second component is the tort action. If the passenger’s injuries are severe and permanent, the required treatment is greater than that provided in the accident benefits policy, and they have lost income above the income replacement benefit, they can start a tort action against the person at fault for the accident.
“It could be the Uber driver. It could be the other motor vehicle involved. It could be both,” says Daya. “Now, thanks to proper oversight, we know that there's proper coverage, and we know that there is adequate coverage for our clients.”