Uber mulling extra insurance for its drivers after Hong Kong death

Ride-hailing firm in talks to cover drivers for injuries following Hong Kong’s first fatal accident involving the company

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 7:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 11:58pm

Uber Hong Kong is considering extra insurance for its drivers to cover health care and compensation for personal injury, in the wake of the city’s first fatal accident in April involving the ride-hailing firm.

General manager Kenneth She Chun-chi disclosed the plan on Thursday after it was revealed that the company’s insurance policies only covered third parties and not the drivers themselves.

“In Europe Uber is working with French insurer AXA to offer its self-employed drivers insurance protection for personal injuries and illnesses as extra welfare. But the prerequisite is that Europe has a regulated market for Uber,” he said.

“By the same token, we are now discussing ways to offer extra insurance protection for our driver-partners [in Hong Kong], such as medical and personal injury. But it depends on whether the current insurance policy under the law can allow it to happen.”

Uber rides in Hong Kong are still unregulated by the government and are deemed illegal. Under the law a hire-car permit is required.

Uber’s move to beef up insurance comes after 50-year-old driver Hui Ki-wai was killed when his BMW sedan collided head-on with a taxi in Kowloon’s Argyle Street, resulting in a four-vehicle pile-up.

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The accident, which left four others injured, was the first in the city involving an Uber car. The tragedy sparked questions about whether – and to what extent – the company would compensate those affected in such situations.

The US-based company’s policy with insurer AIG provides third-party coverage of up to HK$100 million (US$12.74 million) per event for bodily injury or death incurred by Uber rides in Hong Kong, based on the Motor Vehicles Insurance (Third Party Risks) Ordinance.

However, Uber admitted the policy would not cover any injuries to its drivers.

“This means the policy only provides insurance coverage against claims for third-party death and bodily injuries,” a joint statement by Uber and AIG said on Thursday.

If an Uber driver were injured in an accident caused by another driver, the Uber partner could make a claim for compensation against the other driver, whose liability would be covered by his or her own insurer, it added.

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Hui would not have been entitled to protection under Uber’s policy. But general manager She said the firm was still in talks over an ex gratia payment to the Hui family as a compassionate gesture, and they had not yet reached a decision.

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 was handling their claims.

Uber’s policy also covered any psychological injuries to third parties as a result of an accident caused by an Uber ride where the driver was at fault, he added.

Coverage begins when the driver takes the order on the app and starts to make his or her way to pick up the passenger. The ride ends when the last passenger is dropped off.