SB340 Requires Ridesharing Service Drivers To Carry Their Own Insurance

Car Accidents

State Senator Jeff Brandes introduced SB340, which includes among other things, a requirement for primary automobile liability insurance carried by the drivers of ridesharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, rather than the ridesharing services themselves.  The bill also proposes mandatory background checks for drivers.

New Minimum Insurance Requirements

The text of SB340 requires that ridesharing drivers carry their own automobile insurance that actually provides coverage for commercial purposes (remember that virtually all “standard” automobile policies in Florida specifically exclude commercial activity unless you buy a special commercial policy or endorsement).  The coverage limits proposed are $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident for bodily injury and $25,000 for property damage in the event of a car accident.

New Background Check Requirement

The bill also requires ridesharing companies (dubbed “TNC” for “transportation network company”) to perform criminal background checks on all their drivers.  Likewise, the bill explicitly states that drivers are independent contractors and not employees.

What Is The Real Impact Of This Bill?

SB 340 on its face seems like it is serving the public good and it was written that way on purpose.  Who can argue with making background checks mandatory and requiring that drivers buy insurance?  The problem is that SB340 achieves very little in changing anything from the status quo.

With regard to the insurance requirements, ridesharing services Uber and Lyft have insurance of their own that covers damages up to $1 million in the event of an accident while a driver is signed into the app (i.e. either carrying a passenger or going to pick up a passenger).  Therefore, the proposed minimum insurance requirement for drivers serves no purpose except to create a deductible for Uber and Lyft.  This hurts the drivers more than anyone else and takes most minor accidents off the books for Uber and Lyft, thereby making them more profitable.  This solves no problems that currently exist and serves no real public purpose.

Secondly, with regard to background checks, ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft already have a legal requirement to ensure that they only hire drivers who are “qualified” under principles of employment law.  The bill tries to blur the existing line between employee and independent contractor by expressly stating that drivers are independent contractors.  The reason that this is written this way is to try to limit the ridesharing company’s liability for negligence of a driver.

As such, an employer is vicariously liable for the negligence of an employee but is not vicariously liable for the negligence of an independent contractor.  With Uber and Lyft, this distinction should not matter for purposes of liability because the ridesharing service’s $1 million liability policy insures their drivers (in addition to the company) while logged into the app.  However, if ridesharing drivers are in fact “independent contractors” as opposed to “employees,” then the only way to sue the ridesharing service is to say that the ridesharing company was negligent in hiring or retaining the driver.  Not surprisingly, this can be very hard to prove under the circumstances as people with all kinds of background issues are legally permitted by a drivers license to operate a car.  The goal of the bill is to make lawsuits for negligence a driver’s problem and not the ridesharing company’s problem.  This is also not surprising coming from State Senator Brandes who famously claims that Florida is “open for business.”  (he also claimed that regulations hinder business but yet he proposes “regulation” in SB340).

Finally, the last fallacy with SB340 is that the background checks required are for criminal convictions rather than a person’s driving history or character in general.  Again, businesses in Florida already have a requirement to hire qualified employees or face a lawsuit for negligent hiring or retention.  SB340 accomplishes little or nothing beyond what is already required by law, however, because a person’s driving history is not specifically enumerated by the proposed law, then Uber and Lyft would presumably not be subject to a lawsuit because a driver had bad character or a bad driving record.  This is just not good policy.

What Would Make A Real Difference?

I have always been told that you should not complain unless you have a better idea.  If Senator Brandes wants to make a difference in the community, he would require ridesharing services to be responsible for the negligence of drivers and would require ridesharing companies to cover claims for unqualified drivers regardless of employee/independent contractor status.  I fail to see how giving more breaks to big business makes for better accountability.  If big business is not held financially accountable, then there may as well be no accountability whatsoever.  It should not be forgotten that the ridesharing companies themselves are the ones who want these “regulations” and not people who have been hurt.

Talk To A Lakeland Car Accident Attorney If You Have A Case Against A Ridesharing Service

If you were injured in an accident using Uber or Lyft or have a claim against them for the improper conduct of a driver, you should contact a Lakeland personal injury attorney to discuss what options you may have to sue Uber or Lyft for legal liability.  As mentioned above, financial accountability is the only thing big companies pay attention to.  We have the knowledge and the experience to bring your lawsuit against the large ridesharing companies.  Contact us today to schedule your free appointment with an attorney.


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April 07, 2017