On Tuesday, Palm Beach Commissioners agreed to allow Uber to operate on a temporary basis as they try to hash out an agreement on how to regulate the ride-sharing company. Broward County commissioners are also still trying to find a way to regulate Uber while lawmakers in Tallahassee are looking into two bills that would make ride-sharing companies legal in the state.
But the main issue that continues to arise from opponents of Uber, especially from cabdrivers and now one prominent consumer advocate, remains passenger safety in regard to Uber drivers' being insured.
It's a topic that has been debated since Uber began to blow up. And it's a complex topic that has even some Uber drivers wondering what's what.
Last year, New Times reported on how cabdrivers not only expressed concern over the way Uber runs its insurance but how it was harming the industry and was a growing threat for passengers. For its part, Uber has told New Times that it does, in fact, offer liability coverage for its drivers, per incident.
But Uber's detractors say the company has not exactly been transparent with its policies.
And this could end up hurting taxpayers, say Uber's opponents.
"Palm Beach County and its residents will be left to foot the bill to subsidize Uber when drivers start having accidents, get hurt, and hurt others," Jennifer Condie, owner of Polo Cab Co. in Palm Beach, tells New Times in an email. "Uber and their private insurance refuse to pay claims, and drivers have their insurance canceled."
Meanwhile, consumer advocate Walter Dartland, who is also executive director of the Consumer Federation of the Southeast, says it's important for consumers to read the fine print when it comes to Uber's insurance and safety regulations, even with the company saying its drivers are covered.
Uber's legal terms warn that passengers "may be exposed to transportation that is potentially dangerous, offensive, harmful to minors, unsafe or otherwise objectionable."
"It's questionable whether this insurance covers incidents of drivers attacking passengers, as in a recent case where a passenger might lose an eye because an Uber driver attacked him with a hammer," Dartland tells New Times.
Dartland is referring to a 2014 incident in San Francisco where a passenger accused an Uber driver of attacking him with a hammer after the two had a disagreement over the route the driver was taking. The victim had his skull fractured in the attack.
The driver, Patrick Karajah, ended up pleading not guilty to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious bodily injury.
"The scary truth is that events like this occur more often than you'd think, and it is unclear whether Uber will accept any responsibility for this important consumer protection," Dartland, who also runs UberNightmare.com, says. "Uber drivers may not be aware of what liabilities they are exposed to and deserve to know the truth."
Uber has told New Times that its priority has been rider safety.
"We're definitely committed to providing the safest rides for our drivers and customers," says Kasra Moshkani, general manager for Uber in South Florida. "In addition to background checks, we provide insurance to drivers. From the moment a rider is matched, Uber provides $1 million in coverage to the driver."
Whatever commissioners from either county decide, it's clear, at least from the company's biggest critics, that the insurance situation is something that's going to need to be addressed more clearly.
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