Uber Hong Kong in talks over ‘goodwill payment’ to compensate family of dead driver

Ride-hailing firm will also look into addressing transparency of its third-party insurance

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 May, 2018, 9:04am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 May, 2018, 10:29pm

Uber Hong Kong is in talks over an ex gratia payment to the family of a driver who died last month in the city’s first fatal accident involving the ride-hailing firm, the Post has learned.

Fifty-year-old Uber driver Hui Ki-wai was killed when his BMW sedan collided head-on with a taxi along Argyle Street, resulting in a four-vehicle pile-up.

The accident, which also left four others injured, was the first in the city to involve an operating Uber vehicle. The tragedy sparked a debate, raising questions about whether – and to what extent – the company would compensate those affected in such situations.

In a contract with insurer AIG, the US-based firm said it provided third-party coverage of up to HK$100 million for bodily injury or death for all Uber rides in Hong Kong based on the Motor Vehicles Insurance (Third Party Risks) Ordinance.

However, for Uber drivers or other motorists at fault in an accident involving the company, the third-party insurance will not cover their injuries or death.

In Hui’s case, since an initial investigation revealed he might have passed out at the wheel before his car collided with the taxi, it was understood he was regarded as the party at fault and would not be entitled to third-party insurance protection.

Uber driver may have passed out at wheel before fatal crash, police say

“Under Uber’s third-party insurance policy with AIG, the one at fault would not get any compensation. Hui was not an Uber employee but considering he died as the driver of an Uber ride, as a compassionate gesture Uber Hong Kong hopes to offer some ex gratia payment and other assistance to the family of the deceased,” an insider source said.

“Uber is still in talks with his family and so far hasn’t decided on an amount yet. But other forms of assistance such as counselling are also being provided for the grieving family,” the source added.

In a reply to inquiries by the Post, Uber Hong Kong’s general manager Kenneth She Chun-chi admitted they had reached out to Hui’s family but stopped short of saying whether it would offer the payment.

“We will provide suitable assistance during this difficult time,” he said.

As for the four others hurt in the crash, including a 60-year-old taxi driver and his 32-year-old female passenger who suffered serious injuries, She said AIG, as the insurer of Uber rides in Hong Kong, was handling the claims procedures.

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“The accident has been recorded under the insurance policy and the claims handling process is under way. We cannot comment on the specifics of any particular claims as these are matters which are private for the affected persons,” he said.

Insurance sector lawmaker Chan Kin-por said even without the AIG insurance for Uber rides, all third parties in a road accident would be mandatorily covered by the insurer of the vehicle which caused the accident.

He said even if the vehicle’s third-party insurance policy was invalidated by unlawful activities, its insurer must first compensate the third parties and recoup this from the driver at fault.

“In the event of the driver’s death, it is useless for the vehicle’s insurer to chase debts from the deceased. Now with the AIG insurance coverage for Uber rides, the good thing is Uber takes the responsibility for any compensation to third parties,” he said.

Chan said he had studied the Uber insurance policy and found it to be similar to third-party insurance for ordinary vehicles in accordance with local laws.

“Since Uber’s insurance policy has not been made public, Uber drivers may have doubts about its validity. To foster confidence in the public and its drivers, Uber should fully reveal its insurance policy terms,” he suggested.

She vowed to address the issue, noting public concern over Uber’s third-party insurance.

“We are currently working on ways to ensure that the third-party insurance coverage Uber has in place for driver-partners will be well communicated to our supporters. Please stay tuned for more updates,” he said.