First things first – What’s a ZipCar? In a nutshell – Zipcar is a pay as you go car sharing plan.
You become a member and pick a car sharing plan that meets your needs. Once you join, you can reserve cars by the hour or by the day. The rates change based on where you drive and the type of car you are driving.
Over Labor Day weekend there was a bicycle accident involving a Zip Car. With all of the discussion about ride-sharing services and their level of insurance coverage per passenger I thought it would be worth while to discuss the insurance coverage of Zip-Car, not a ride-sharing service, a car sharing service. The bicycle accident took place at 2633 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614 around 8:15 PM on Friday night. It has already been input into our bicycle accident map of Chicago. The cyclist walked away from the scene of the accident with a limp but was overall okay.
What are some problems associated with a ZipCar?
Let’s use our common sense for a moment. People become skilled at certain activities by doing said activities. Driving is one of them. Did you ever go a week or two without driving a car? Perhaps like on a vacation where you did not need a car? You get back to town and jump in your car and realize that you’re a bit out of practice when it comes to driving your own car that you’ve driven hundreds and thousands of times. People who drive ZipCars generally only need a car on occasion. For a monthly fee, they have on-demand access to cars parked around the city. They are able to check out different cars without much effort. So now, you have someone who may be out of practice in driving a car coupled with the fact that he is probably not very familiar with the car he is driving. This is a dangerous combination for other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians who have to share the road with the ZipCar driver.
Next, ZipCar pays for insurance. There’s a small deductible, but ZipCar carries the insurance policy on their fleet of cars. The liability insurance coverage it provides for members is capped at $300,000 per incident, no matter how many people they may hurt. Drivers under 21 get far less coverage as it would be too costly for Zipcar to pay money to provide $300,000 in coverage to younger drivers. Zipcar does very little with its under 21 drivers, offering the “minimum financial responsibility limits required by law in the jurisdiction in which the accident occurs or the claim is adjudicated.”
While $300,000 of coverage isn’t bad, it would not cover a ZipCar caused accident in which the injuries were catastrophic or fatal. Still, a lot of the critics of ZipCar talk about this $300,000 not being enough (and I agree).
So what happens if I’m in an accident with a ZipCar? Do I file a lawsuit against them?
The answer is: “Probably not.” Assuming the accident was the fault of the ZipCar driver, you would pursue a claim or file a lawsuit against the at fault driver. ZipCar’s insurance company would step in and defend and indemnify (pay for damages) the ZipCar driver, up to the insurance limits. Essentially, pursuing a case against a ZipCar driver is the same as pursuing any other car accident caused by a negligent driver.
There is at least one exception I can think of as I write this article. What if the accident was caused by ZipCar? For instance, what if the accident was caused because the ZipCar itself was poorly maintained? Maybe the ZipCar provided to a particular driver had faulty brakes or tires preventing a ZipCar driver from avoiding an accident. In these types of situations, there very well may be a case against ZipCar. ZipCar has thought of this and noted in its initial public offering that in the event that it was responsible for an accident, it had coverage up to $5 million in the United States, quite a bit more than it offers its members. Hmm – interesting – ZipCar insures its members up to $300,000 and itself to $5,000,000.