Ridesharing Dominates 2016 Western Region Headlines

By | December 30, 2015

Goodbye to the news year 2015, and while there will be no shortage of headline-making topics to associate with the passing year, there was one subject that dominated Insurance Journal’s Western region news stories.

Care to guess?

No if fair if you peaked at the headline, but for the honest reader here’s a hint: the year’s biggest topic hands down involved a new type of business that infuriated taxi cab drivers and offered both promise and danger for personal insurers.

Ridesharing was the topic of three of the top 10 most read stories in the West in 2015. Stories on that subject comprised five of the top 20 stories.

A late-May announcement that Farmers would become the “First Major California Insurer to Offer Ridesharing Endorsement,” came in as the fifth most read story in the West in 2015.

The announcement was made at the Los Angeles office of California Department of Insurance by California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Farmers Group Inc. CEO Jeff Dailey. The pair outlined the new ridesharing endorsement on Farmers personal auto insurance policies that added 8 percent onto a customer’s premium and enabled drivers to select coverages including comprehensive and collision, uninsured and underinsured motorist and medical payments coverage.

ridesharingThe story was also popular on Facebook with 259-and-counting recommendations.

Fallout from ridesharing activities were also a popular topic with Insurance Journal West readers. A story in September about Uber and Lyft drivers racking up citations at Las Vegas Airport was the seventh most read.

Less than a week after the state of Nevada cleared rideshare drivers to operate legally, droves of drivers evidently headed to one of the best known spots to pick up an assured fare. The problem was a county business license and an airport operating permit required before companies can do business at the airport had yet to be approved.

No. 9 on the most popular in the West list was an article on USAA’s announcement that it was offering auto insurance coverage in Colorado to protect ridesharing drivers from the moment their ridesharing mobile apps are turned on until they are matched with a passenger.

The program extends a member’s existing auto policy coverages and deductibles, costing $6 to $8 more per month, according to USAA.

But the top story for the year in the West was not about ridesharing. It focused on an Arizona Supreme Court ruling in July that could potentially expose agents who write auto policies to malpractice lawsuits if they are accused of failing to inform their customers about uninsured and underinsured motorists coverage. This despite a signed waiver acknowledging the customer is rejecting UM and UIM coverage.

The case involved a woman who after being in a crash with an uninsured motorist accused her agent of failing to procure the coverage she had asked for – although she signed the above-named waiver.

After a series of hearings and decisions, the Supreme Court sent the case back to trial, stating that the waiver provides a “safe harbor” for carriers, but not for agents, who owe a duty of care to their clients.

The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Arizona Inc. quickly vowed to take up a fix with the state Legislature and set about getting the word out on the dangers of the ruling for agents.

Rounding out the top 10 most read stories in the West were:

Assiduous mathematicians will note that only nine stories so far are listed. This is because our West news archive page is also ranked among the top 10 in views, but this only counts for IT folks and bean counters.

Stories in the top 20 that were not about ridesharing entail some interesting subjects, including one about a student who sued his university after having his hand crushed by meteorite, a $40 million award in a TGI Friday’s killing and a story that extolled both about the dangers of drought and El Niño in California.

I’ll leave it to you to find those if you’re interested.

Anyone interested in one more guessing game? The first reader who emails me the one thing in common – hint: not ridesharing, or insurance – from four of the top 10 stories in the West will have a $10 gift card to Starbucks mailed to them.

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