After extended debate, a measure heads to the House floor that would require ride-share services powered by mobile apps, such as Uber, to provide more commercial insurance coverage for its drivers.
Over two days of discussion, the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee voted 11-7 to mandate how much rideshare services must insure drivers in “Phase One,” or after they’ve turned on the app but before they’ve triggered a button signaling that they’ve accepted a fare.
Concerns over insurance gaps for rideshare companies, through which drivers use their private vehicles, stem from the 2013 death of 6-year-old Sophia Liu of San Francisco, who was struck and killed in a crosswalk by an Uber driver who was awaiting a fare request. That incident led to a lawsuit against Uber over insurance liability. As a result, California became the first state to pass a measure requiring that Uber supply its drivers with $50,000 in death and injury liability coverage, $100,000 in total coverage and $30,000 in property damage, along with an additional $200,000 in excess liability coverage.
The Minnesota House version mimics California’s, minus the $200,000 in excess liability coverage. Under Minneapolis and St. Paul city ordinance, Uber must already insure drivers for $1 million after they’ve accepted a fare and are transporting a passenger.
The House version is far less stringent than its Senate companion which passed through its first committee Monday and would require Uber and similar companies to furnish drivers with $1 million policies before drivers accept a fare. The Senate measure would make Minnesota’s requirements the strictest in the nation.
Uber Midwest General Manager Michael White has protested the legislation, which he said could affect how Uber operates in Minnesota in the future—if they remain in Minnesota.
Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, pushed instead for adopting the language from the Minneapolis ordinance in the bill, and said a number of insurance nuances remained unresolved in the bill.
“They spent months and months and months on the bill,” Atkins said of Minneapolis developing its own policy. “It strikes me that that is more thoughtful than doing something on the fly that we’re not necessarily in agreement on.”
However, Committee Chair Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, said it was important to move the bill before committee deadlines, and there was still plenty of time for negotiation between the two sides.
I don’t want to vote for something that’s going to be continued to be looked at when there’s a threat that it could put hundreds of people out of work.” He said.
Afterward, Bob Johnson, President of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, said the result came after hours of negotiations, and that they would support what’s in the House bill. He added that it’s likely the House and Senate may come to an agreement on a different figure, but for now, the bill cannot die.
“The reality today is that if we don’t pass this, there is a coverage gap and consumers can’t lose.” Johnson said.
The Senate Transportation Committee will take up the bill Thursday evening.