DENVER — Rideshares could soon start costing passengers a little more after a bill was signed into law requiring companies to up their insurance coverage.
The law stems back to a 2020 crash where Brian Fritts and his roommate were seriously injured. Fritts was riding in a Lyft heading home when the vehicle was struck by a hit-and-run driver. It rolled and the driver who caused the accident fled.
Fritts doesn’t remember the accident; he remembers waking up in a hospital later on and being told what happened and the extent of his injuries.
Five of his vertebrae were shattered, his jaw was broken and one of his lungs collapsed after a rib punctured it.
“They put a rod, a titanium rod in my neck and six screws to keep my neck in place. (The crash) broke my jaw so they had to reset it by re-breaking it the other way,” Fritts said.
His roommate was also seriously injured. Both were wearing their seatbelts. The crash put Fritts out of work for months and required surgeries and rehab. When the medical bills started coming in, he assumed Lyft would help cover some of the expenses.
“We submitted the claim to Lyft and to their insurance policy and they, astonishingly to us, denied it,” said Eric Faddis, Fritts’ lawyer.
To be clear, the crash was not the Lyft driver’s fault. At the time, Colorado had no laws to require rideshare companies to hold insurance coverage for their passengers when it comes to hit-and-runs or uninsured motorists, something Fadddis considers a legal loophole.
“I'm a personal injury attorney and I had no idea that someone in Brian's position would not be covered under these circumstances,” Faddis said. “So if a personal injury attorney doesn't know, how do we expect tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Coloradans, to know that they are not protected when they get into a ride share and are injured under these circumstances.”
Fritts doesn’t have a license or a car of his own so he doesn’t have car insurance that would have covered him either. He now faces roughly $167,000 in medical bills on his own.
So this year, Fritts and Faddis began working with state lawmakers on a bill to close some of those legal loopholes.
House Bill 22-1089 requires rideshare companies to carry $200,000 in insurance per person for uninsured motorists and $400,000 per occurrence and mandates that both riders and drivers must be covered at all times.
The bill was signed into law by Governor Jared Polis this week. During the legislative debate, though, rideshare companies fought back, saying the change will increase costs at a time riders can least afford it.
"We continue to disagree with this bill. It does little to achieve its stated goals, but would significantly increase costs for riders and inhibit our ability to invest in other vital Colorado priorities, such as increasing electric vehicle adoption to reduce carbon emissions across the state,” Lyft representatives said in a statement.
The company estimates that it will need to raise fares by at least 6% to cover the increased insurance coverage.
It also comes as rideshare companies get ready to tack on a 35 cent-per-ride fee as part of major transportation legislation that passed last year to help pay for the state’s roads, bridges and transit.
While the governor and lawmakers did pass a delay to the gas fee until the transportation law, other fees, like the one applying to rideshares, are still set to go into effect starting on July 1.
Lyft contends that between the two fee increases, Colorado will be one of the most expensive markets in the country to operate.
Uber also has concerns with the bill.
"We're disappointed that the legislature rejected compromises that would have protected riders without higher costs, and instead opted to pass legislation that singles out rideshare companies and will almost certainly lead to significant price hikes for everyday Colordans,” a statement from the company said.
Rideshares are also questioning why a law made for the sake of safety only applies to them and not limousines, taxis, shuttles or party buses, for instance.
Faddis says rideshares in particular were targeted for this legislation because of their growing popularity and how they are revolutionizing transportation in the state and he says the extra cost is worth it if it means passengers are better protected.
The increase will amount to roughly 6 cents-per-dollar spent on a ride.
“If that means that folks like Brian Fritts are not saddled with six figure debt and permanent impairment for the rest of their life with no compensation, then that's worth it to me,” Faddis said.
Fritts still relies on rideshares to get him to and from work each day; he even rode in one on the way home from the hospital, but he says he refuses to ride in one that gets on the highway.
He hopes this new law will protect other riders from a situation like his.