Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft have become mainstays in Broward County, and Fort Lauderdale specifically. This was even after a protracted battle with county officials that resulted in the companies being kicked out over regulatory disputes regarding driver background checks and vehicle maintenance.
Now, a Florida Senate committee has approved legislation that would strip local governments’ ability to regulate ridesharing businesses such as these. It would put a statewide regulatory system in place and scrap the patchwork system of city and county laws that currently in place statewide.
Previous efforts to pass similar measures in the state had failed. Now, SB 340/ HB 221 is moving at a steady clip through the process. The passing by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee by a 7-2 margin is a first.
Among the requirements outlined by these measures, company drivers to carry $100,000 worth of insurance to cover instances of bodily injury or death. That’s in addition to the $1 million the company would be required to carry (which it already does when the driver is actively traveling to pick up a rider or is driving with a rider). The proposal would also require the ridesharing service drivers to secure $25,000 for property damage while they are logged into the app, even if they are not carrying a passenger.
Regulation of these driver-for-hire systems has been something of a headache in Florida – and nationally – because ridesharing services don’t operate like typical taxi or limousine services. The companies don’t own a fleet of vehicles (the drivers operate their own personal cars) and drivers aren’t directly employed by the services (they are considered independent contractors). That has resulted in major questions about the responsibility of these services when there are crashes. For example, who is responsible to ensure vehicles are properly maintained? Who covers damages for crashes in-between rides? If a crash happens during a ride, is it the rideshare insurance policy that kicks in, or the driver’s personal policy?
Florida’s minimum auto insurance requirements are notoriously inadequate to cover most accidents. The state only requires $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) and $10,000 in property damage. The state does not require bodily injury liability coverage, unless the driver has previous accidents or violations. Even in those cases, the minimum is $10,000 per person and $20,000 per accident – which will not go far in the event of a serious traffic crash. What’s more, that requirement only applies to those traveling on four wheels; motorcyclists aren’t required to carry insurance.
Some auto dealerships require motorists to carry more if they are leasing the vehicle or don’t own it outright. But of course the more important reason to carry more insurance is that drivers who don’t could be personally liable to cover injuries sustained by third parties.
If passed, SB 240 would also prohibit drivers from working for ridesharing services in Florida if they’ve had three or more moving violations over the course of a three-year time frame. The same would hold true for any with felony convictions over the previous five years, as well as convictions for certain misdemeanor charges, such as driving under the influence.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Uber and Lyft’s top-priority legislation clears first-ever Senate hearing, March 14, 2017, By Michael Auslen, Tampa Bay Times
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