Ride-sharing companies, such as Lyft and Uber, will soon have to cover medical bills of passengers injured during hit-and-runs in their vehicles – thanks to Colorado legislation signed into law on Tuesday.
Beginning in August, House Bill 1089 will require transportation network companies to carry uninsured motorist coverage on their auto policies. Currently, the companies must carry liability insurance to pay for passenger injuries in crashes where their driver is at fault, but they do not have to pay anything when another driver is at fault. Because of this, the bill's proponents say, passengers are unprotected in hit-and-run crashes and crashes where the at-fault driver is uninsured.
“When people are hit in hit-and-runs and there’s no coverage for them, they end up going essentially into medical bankruptcy,” said bill sponsor Rep. Steven Woodrow, D-Denver. “Few people know or realize that, if you’re riding in an Uber or Lyft and you don’t carry your own insurance coverage, you are not covered for your injuries in the event of a hit-and-run.”
The Colorado legislature passed the bill last month, receiving a 21-13 vote in the Senate and a 36-24 vote in the House. Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill Tuesday. More than 20 states already require ride-sharing companies to carry uninsured motorist coverage.
Supporters of the bill said many ride-sharing customers have no reason to carry their own auto insurance since they do not drive or own cars, leaving them at risk. In addition, estimates show that around 13% of Colorado drivers are uninsured.
In September 2020, Brian Fritts was involved in a hit-and-run crash while riding in the back of a Lyft in Denver. Fritts, now 34, suffered a broken jaw and multiple broken vertebrae in his neck. He had two major surgeries and racked up over $176,000 in medical bills to date — bills he said Lyft left him to pay on his own.
“I assumed that I was going to be taken care of,” Fritts said while testifying in support of the bill. “Just to find out that there’s loopholes in the ride share system that make it so, just because I don’t have my own insurance, I can’t get covered.”
Opponents argued that the bill is unfair because it would lead to ride-sharing companies increasing their prices to make up for the new insurance costs. Bill sponsors estimated the increase would be approximately 6% or an additional $0.06 for every $1.
The caucuses in both chambers mostly split on party lines on the issue, with all Republican lawmakers voting against the bill except for two — Sen. Dennis Hisey of Colorado Springs and Sen. Kevin Priola of Henderson — and all Democrat lawmakers voting in favor of the bill except for three — Rep. Matt Gray of Broomfield, Rep. Alex Valdez of Denver and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada.