September 02, 2020 Articles

Where the Sharing Economy Meets Reality: Part II of III

Challenges and gaps in insurance coverage for hired, borrowed, and non-owned automobiles.

By Peter Georgiton, Christopher Meeks, Arden Levy, and Kristin Davis

The automobile represents a critical aspect of the modern economy. For many individuals and businesses, the automobile in its various shapes and forms provides necessary transport to job and work sites, as well as necessary capabilities to conduct a variety of personal and professional tasks. In addition, the automobile is an aspirational and hobby item for many people,[1] and automobiles owned for such purposes are often not used for a policyholder’s domestic or economic needs. In recent years,  services such as Turo[2] and Drive Share by Hagerty[3] have opened up the possibility for automobile owners to make their unused or aspirational/hobby automobiles available for rental, bringing a peer-to-peer option to rental cars similar to how Uber and Lyft brought a peer-to-peer option to taxis and car services. Indeed, the rise of ride-sharing services such as  Uber and Lyft has spawned a specialized peer-to-peer rental service called HyreCar, which specifically caters to Uber and Lyft drivers who need to rent a vehicle.[4] Likewise, in the commercial sphere, services such as COOP by Ryder[5] allow businesses to make their unused or infrequently used vehicles available for rental in a similar peer-to-peer setting.

Each of these services provides access to insurance for the rentals arranged through them.[6] However, to the extent a lessee or lessor participating in a peer-to-peer rental service possesses a commercial automobile policy, that policy may provide liability or property coverage (or both) for the rented automobile as well.[7] While peer-to-peer rental services are a relatively recent development, the rental, lease, sharing, and use of automobiles between peers has a considerably more significant and long-standing history with commercial automobile policies. This section explores the insurance coverage issues that may arise under commercial automobile policies on both sides of a relationship involving the rental, lease, sharing, or use of an automobile. As discussed in greater detail below, determining what constitutes a covered “auto” and, frequently, coverage in a commercial context is an often fact-specific and highly technical inquiry requiring mastery of the relevant policy language as well as comprehensive knowledge of the business relationships and equipment at issue.

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