The Uber App now operates in London, providing a new form of taxi service. It is easy to use, convenient, cheap, and fast. You request a pick-up on the Uber App, and a driver picks you up in their personal vehicle. You can track your Uber taxi by GPS and know exactly how far it is from you, and its estimated time of arrival. However, the service poses a number of potential legal challenges. One such challenge arises from the wording of the standard Ontario Automobile Policy, the policy of insurance applicable to private drivers in Ontario.
An Uber taxi using a private vehicle charging for rides creates the potential that standard automobile insurance may be voided in the event of a car crash. In particular, an Uber taxi engages section 1.8 of the Ontario Automobile Policy, which lists “Who and What We Won’t Cover” as follows:
there is no coverage under this policy if:
- the automobile is used as a taxicab, bus, a sightseeing conveyance or to carry paying passengers.
As the Ontario Automobile Policy is the uniform personal automobile insurance policy insuring personal vehicles in Ontario, this section applies to the vast majority of Ontario drivers. Unless an Uber driver has purchased a commercial insurance policy, at a significant added expense, it is likely they are operating their private vehicle insured only through the Ontario Automobile Policy. If they are then carrying paying passengers, the Ontario Automobile Policy may not provide coverage, leaving the Uber driver uninsured and an accident victim without access to compensation from the at-fault Uber driver. The effect of this lack of access to compensation would be compounded in instances where compensation is most sorely needed, in cases of serious injury, where a person’s ability to work is impaired, or where there are multiple injured passengers.
Before choosing to take a ride in an Uber taxi, it is reasonable to ask the driver:
- Do you have insurance?
- Do you have commercial insurance?
- Do you have a third party passenger endorsement on your personal insurance?
It may be that Uber drivers themselves may not be aware that they face the possibility of voided insurance coverage and personal financial exposure for injuries suffered by their passengers or others. Until the standard Ontario Automobile Policy catches up to the challenges posed by the Uber service, passengers ought to be aware that they are risking a ride in an uninsured vehicle.