Who covers crashes involving car-sharing rentals? NJ may set up rules
TRENTON – If there’s a car crash involving a driver who rented a private car through a car-sharing platform, who is liable?
Lawmakers are considering updating state law to ensure coverage exists, especially since the cars secured through such services are sometimes being driven by people who don’t own their vehicle and therefore lack car insurance coverage.
Gary La Spisa II, vice president of the Insurance Council of New Jersey, said peer-to-peer car sharing is like other parts of the sharing economy – things like Uber, Airbnb and DoorDash – that require the Legislature to clarify state law.
“These entities are already here today, and the insurance structure we have today doesn’t quite fit the model,” La Spisa said.
La Spisa said most crashes are already covered by comprehensive insurance policies, but some fall into coverage gaps if a driver has no insurance or it’s inadequate.
James Lynch, president of the trial lawyers’ New Jersey Association for Justice, said most traditional auto insurance won’t cover a car driven using a peer-to-peer service and that the companies should always be the primary insurance – and not just at the minimum state limits, as the pending bill (S2979) now envisions.
Lynch said they should need to carry $1.5 million of liability coverage, not the $15,000 minimum state limit now in place, which will rise to $25,000 in January and $35,000 by 2026.
“This is identical to what is now required of the transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft,” Lynch said of the $1.5 million coverage he suggests.
At a hearing last week, Sen. Jon Bramnickm, R-Union, said there’s a clear benefit to car-sharing platforms but agreed the peer-to-peer business platforms ought to be required to provide more insurance coverage than the minimum limits for drivers – though perhaps less than $1.5 million, he indicated.
“This is a good bill, OK?” Bramnick said. “Because now it’s the wild, wild west. You’re suing everybody and this carrier is denying and where does the injured party go?”
Kenny Montilla, a lobbyist for the car-sharing platform Turo, said the bill as it currently exists is a good one and shouldn’t be updated to increase the amount of insurance companies like his must carry.
“Part of the value in peer-to-peer is the affordability,” Montilla said. “If you raise the insurance across the board or have a higher requirement across the board for peer-to-peer, you’re essentially increasing the rates for consumers as well.”
Car-sharing rentals cost less than going through a traditional car rental company – but those companies say that’s in part because they have to charge some taxes and fees that shared cars are exempt from.