By Dillon Thomas
DENVER (KCNC) — Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft will soon have to further protect drivers and riders with greater insurance coverage following a series of loopholes one Colorado man fell through. Gov. Jared Polis recently signed a bill that will soon require the companies to cover most underinsured drivers and riders when injuries are a result of a collision during a ride.
The legislation comes after Brian Fritts, a Colorado man, was badly injured in September of 2020 while riding in a Lyft. Fritts, who does not own a vehicle, was riding to work in a Lyft when the vehicle was struck by another on I-25.
The driver who caused the crash did not stop, driving away as the vehicle Fritts was in, rolled off of the interstate. Fritts was rushed to the hospital with injuries to his skull, jaw and spine.
“I have complete vehicle PTSD of highways. It is a scary thing,” Fritts told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.
Fritts was fortunate to survive the crash. However, his medical bills amounted to nearly $200,000. After leaving the hospital Fritts assumed insurance from other parties would cover his medical bills. He thought either the driver’s insurance, or Lyft’s, would cover the bills due to the fact that he was not at fault for the crash.
Because Fritts did not own a vehicle he did not purchase motorist insurance that would cover his bills if injured in another vehicle. He always assumed that companies like Lyft and Uber would have either insurance or policies for their drivers that would cover riders like himself.
Unfortunately, Fritts soon found out that he was going to be on the hook for a lot of the bills.
“The mailbox always has a new bill from one of the multiple doctors I have seen through the process,” Fritts said.
The driver of the car Fritts was in had insurance. However, their policy said that medical bills caused by a crash should be covered by the party at fault. However, due to the crash being a hit and run, there was no way to charge the driver at fault.
From there Fritts’s lawyer, Eric Faddis, hoped that Lyft would cover the bills. However, after reviewing their policies, he learned Fritts was only able to claim around $50,000 from the company. Other than that, Fritts would have to pay out of pocket.
“There was a legal loophole in our statutory scheme in terms of what types of insurance these rideshare companies have to carry,” Faddis said. “I contacted my local legislator and said, ‘Hey look, we need to fix this. We have a problem that is putting tens of thousands of Coloradans at risk. Possibly more.’”
State lawmakers came together to approve the legislation that would require the rideshare companies to create another layer of insured protection for underinsured drivers and passengers who fall into situations like Fritts.
Polis signed the bill into law this week. The law is expected to go into effect before the year’s end.
“Now that that loophole is fixed, Lyft essentially has to provide additional protection for riders and drivers who are injured as a result of using their services,” Faddis, of Varner and Faddis Elite Legal, said.
Fritts said he was disappointed that it took his pain and suffering to expose this loophole. However, he was grateful that others won’t have to experience the financial and emotional distress he has.
“Anybody who this happens to, at least in Colorado, now knows that there is a protection. There is a security blanket at the bottom,” Fritts said. “Somebody had to undertake what happened to me. If it had to happen to somebody I am glad it happened to me, and now it won’t happen to somebody else.”
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