NBC10 Boston Responds: Who Is Footing the Bill?

A car plowed into a wall at a Massachusetts man's home, but he figured the driver's insurance company would take care of the damage — not so much. So he reached out to our NBC10 Boston Responds team for help.

Consumer Investigator Leslie Gaydos found that identifying who is responsible for footing the bill is complicated.

Bill Chiccarelli of Lynnfield had a mess on his hands this summer after a car crashed through his stone wall late one night.

"The driver hit the curb, catapulted over the wall. It was the undercarriage that hit the wall and splattered rocks all over the yard," explained Chiccarelli. "There was a police report filed. The report states that the driver fell asleep at the wheel, and hit the wall, and upon investigation, the driver's license had been suspended prior to that for nonpayment of fines."

Chiccarelli says the driver told him he was driving for Lyft and was on his way home. When Chiccarelli's insurance agent informed him the driver did not have insurance, he called Lyft, but says the ride-sharing company told him they weren't liable, because the driver was off the clock at the time of the crash.

It turns out the man wasn't even driving his own car. It was a Hertz rental car — part of a partnership program with Lyft for drivers who need a vehicle. Hertz uses a third-party liability company called Esis to do the liability insurance on their cars.

Chiccarelli says Esis sent out an adjuster, who estimated the damage at $9,000, but the company would only cover part of it.

"Esis informed me that they only carry $5,000 liability on these cars, because that is the Massachusetts state minimum," said Chiccarelli. "All I want to do is get my wall and front lawn back to the way it was. I am not looking for anything more. I don't think I should settle for anything less."

NBC10 Boston reached out to Hertz.

"In Massachusetts, if the renter does not meet the minimum statutory requirements through their personal insurance, Hertz must comply with the statutory requirement as the vehicle owner," the company said. "The driver of the vehicle is financially responsible for any and all damage above the available insurance caused by his negligence."

Lyft says that all of its drivers in Massachusetts are required to have personal insurance, and that the driver involved in this case submitted all the required documentation to confirm his personal insurance when he applied to drive with Lyft.

"Community safety is fundamental to Lyft and we take allegations of unsafe driving extremely seriously," Lyft said in a statement. "We have permanently removed this individual's access to our platform."

In the end, the wall was fixed. Chiccarelli's insurance company paid the difference and he is out his $500 deductible.

"To me, the most disturbing part is that this risk is out there and the public isn't aware of it," Chiccarelli said.

John Koegel, chairman of the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents, says insurance and ride-sharing companies can be tricky.

"Were they in the process of picking up a passenger? Was the application on? Were they doing personal driving? That all makes a difference. It definitely makes a difference," said Koegel.

Insurance experts say if you are thinking of driving for a ride-sharing company, delivering products, or renting out your house, you need to check with your insurance agent to make sure you have the appropriate coverage in place.

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