Insurance, Personal Injury

Uber-Intact partnership opens up insurance to sharing economy

The recently announced partnership between Uber and Intact Financial Corp. shows that Uber is setting the standard when it comes to engaging insurance companies, says Fredericton litigator Matthew Pearn.

The Toronto Star reports that Uber teamed up with Intact to “create products tailored for the ride-hailing service, after concerns emerged that some insurance policies may not cover drivers using their personal vehicles for commercial gain.”

Intact said in a statement that it’s too early to provide details about the products, but with the growing popularity of the sharing and on-demand economy, the insurance provider is adapting its product range to meet the changing needs of consumers.

“Uber really is leading the way,” says Pearn, a lawyer with Foster & Company. “The partnership with Intact shows that Uber is being responsible and is identifying gaps in its drivers’ coverage that could affect the sense of security that passengers may feel.

“At the same time, Intact is being proactive in creating an insurance product that it can sell to customers that previously didn’t exist,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. “This gives insurers the opportunity to avoid legal fights over the interpretation of its present policies by coaxing its drivers towards appropriate coverage.”

The Star reports Uber Canada has argued its insurance policies are adequate and that every ride on the UberX platform is backed by $5 million of commercial auto insurance, which covers both bodily injuries and property damage stemming from a crash. However, a spokesperson for Uber Canada says the company is excited to be working with Intact Financial to develop an innovative insurance plan specifically tailored for ridesharing in Canada.

Pearn notes the partnership between Uber and Intact also raises an interesting question for brokers who are investigating what type of coverage drivers need.

“Should brokers be asking about UberX? Insurers usually require an additional premium for drivers who use their vehicles for commercial purposes. Brokers could certainly raise the issue with drivers — especially in urban centres — to see if they are using their vehicle in this non-traditional way,” he says.

The UberX platform — a cheaper alternative to regular Uber service — could have people turning their cars into part-time income streams but not realizing they should be bringing this up with their insurers.

“For traditional, standard automobile coverage, there are exclusions that are created for using your vehicle for commercial purposes,” says Pearn. “These things matter to insurers. You don’t want to fail to disclose something and the insurer decides to return your premium and doesn't pay out your claim if you get into a motor vehicle accident.

“For brokers especially, it should be on their radar with pretty well every client coming through, especially in an area where UberX is being used.”

He says the challenge for insurers is developing a checklist or risk assessment that allows them to price out coverage for this type of activity.

“Insurers have the wherewithal to do this, they just need to see there’s money out there to be made before they decide to go ahead,” he says. “I don’t think it’s the most conservative of industries, so I expect the marketplace will offer more of these products.”

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