Amber N. Morris


The rise of Uber and other transportation network companies (“TNCs”) has created a puzzling question: At what point in time does a TNC driver’s personal vehicle become a commercial vehicle? This question is of the utmost importance when a party disputes liability after a motor vehicle accident in which one of the drivers was a TNC driver. Automobile insurance, however, fluctuates between states. In Pennsylvania, for example, drivers elect to be insured by either full tort or limited tort coverage, with full tort drivers exchanging higher premium rates for more comprehensive coverage. A commercial vehicle exception in Pennsylvania’s statute, however, upgrades a less-covered, limited tort driver to full tort status if the driver was a passenger of a vehicle “other than a private passenger vehicle.”
This Comment first explains automobile liability insurance in the United States, with a focus on Pennsylvania liability law. This Comment then proceeds to discuss the rise of TNCs and laws addressing TNCs in Pennsylvania. Next, this Comment analyzes the overlap of Pennsylvania TNC and liability laws to determine when a TNC driver’s personal vehicle becomes commercial and how this distinction affects the driver’s tort election status.
Ultimately, this Comment suggests that a TNC vehicle is commercial any time the TNC driver is logged into the digital network. Thus, a limited tort TNC driver should be upgraded to full tort status if an accident occurs any time the driver is logged onto the digital network. Finally, this Comment recommends that choice no-fault jurisdictions should amend their TNC insurance laws to explicitly address the issue of tort status and unambiguously confirm that a TNC vehicle is always commercial when the TNC driver is logged onto the digital network.



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