ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - The St. Paul chill is no match for the sting single-mother Kelly Muñoz feels as she stares at deflated airbags, a jacked front tire, and major front end damage to her 2018 Jeep.
“It’s not drivable,” she explained.
The totaled SUV is parked in her friend’s garage collecting dust.
“It’s just so devastating,” said Muñoz.
The full-time social worker and part-time Lyft driver’s frustration is still palpable two months after she was struck by 23-year-old David Acosta-Rosario of St. Paul Park. Acosta-Rosario was later charged with speeding, driving without insurance and driving with a revoked license following an impact that wasn’t without injury.
“I received a concussion, back and neck pain and currently still getting treatment for my lower-back pain," said Muñoz. "I’m currently seeing a physical therapist and chiropractor that I have to see three times a week.”
Adding insult to injury, Muñoz is forced to rely on her own coverage for the $28,000 she owes on the Jeep.
“I’ve been battling back and forth with both insurances,” she said.
While Lyft agreed to cover Muñoz’s medical expenses, she says, it wasn’t until after the crash that she learned she wasn't completely covered. At the time of the crash, Muñoz was logged into the Lyft driver app, but she didn't have a passenger with her and hadn't been matched with one yet. She also didn't have a “rideshare endorsement” included in her plan through American Family Insurance. Without a passenger and without the endorsement, neither company will accept her auto claim.
“Despite the fact that American Family Insurance is one of the top 10 insurance companies in this country, they don’t even offer it to drivers of Lyft vehicles in Minnesota,” said Muñoz’s attorney, Howard Sussman.
“I believe Lyft has the most responsibility, because they were obligated to explain to Kelly in great detail both in writing as well as training their drivers, including Kelly, to make sure that there weren’t any gaps in coverage,” Sussman said.
Nonetheless, some would argue it’s the sole responsibility of the driver to know exactly how much insurance they need.
In a statement to FOX 9 Campbell Matthews, a spokesman for Lyft, writes,
"Safety is Lyft's top priority and we recognize this was frightening and unfortunate. Upon learning of the incident, Lyft reached out to the driver to extend our support, investigate the incident, and an insurance adjuster was in touch to assist and explain our coverage policy."
Meanwhile, American Family spokeswoman Janet Matthews asserts,
“This endorsement [rideshare insurance] is not yet available from American Family in Minnesota. Again, although we truly sympathize with Ms. Muñoz… and her situation, a personal auto policy does not provide coverage at times when the car is being used for a commercial purpose, such as driving for a transportation network company like Lyft.”
“It’s completely unfair,” Muñoz said, shaking her head.
And she isn’t the only rideshare driver who was blindsided by the news.
“I was not aware of rideshare insurance, nor was it ever spoken about with Lyft [or Uber]. They just needed to see that I had insurance on my vehicle and I assumed that they had accepted it, I was covered,” said Uber and Lyft driver Natalie Beecham.
Beecham only picks up passengers to earn extra cash, but when she heard Muñoz’s story it made her reconsider.
“I stopped driving," said Beecham. "The liability that that leaves you with, I don’t know if it’s worth some spare change if you’re not doing this as your full-time job,” Beecham said.
As Muñoz learned the hard way, the uninformed risk far outweighs the reward.
With no other recourse, Muñoz launched a GoFundMe page to help pay off her Jeep so she can get into a new car. Until then, she has quit driving for Lyft and borrows a friend’s car to get to her full-time job and take her son, Hank, to and from school.
“I’m hoping also that by sharing my story that I’m able to bring awareness for other Uber and Lyft drivers who are in similar situations as me who are convinced that they have coverage with their insurance but may not,” said Muñoz.