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Is ride sharing risky business?

Your parents may have said "never ride with strangers," but Uber, the new cashless ride sharing app, has taken urban regions by storm. Though there are many virtues of the on-demand travel service, liability insurance coverage remains a question mark. What should you ask before tapping the app for a ride? Payne-bw-blogger copy

Let's back up first (after looking both ways and in the rearview mirror). Here's what ride sharing is all about. This is a smart phone application designed to connect drivers for hire with patrons in need of a lift. Uber, the world's leading provider, is currently available in more than 45 countries and more than 100 cities. Uber introduced a disruptive technology application that has up-ended the longstanding practice of licensed taxi cabs controlling the for-hire urban transportation market. Others such as Lyft and Sidecar have joined the chase for app-based fares.

How does it work? Once you download the app, the app will find your location via GPS. You then select "Set Pickup Location," choose your desired car type and then simply tap "Request." In the U.S. and Canada, verification of the request via text message is required. The app then finds the nearest available driver.

No money changes hands as the transaction is billed through the intermediary including the tip. Drivers are paid by app's organization.

The issue of liability insurance is significant for passengers and drivers alike. Though Uber's website tells prospective drivers that they must have a Personal Auto Policy to qualify, the Personal Auto Policy (PAP) insurance form for some insurance companies explicitly excludes coverage for anyone engaging in a ridesharing program, also known as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs).

Should an accident occur in which the passenger is hurt or killed or property (e.g., luggage) is damaged, the driver's personal insurance policy may not pay for bodily injury or damaged property. That could leave the passenger paying out-of-pocket for some of their care or damages. If injuries are not covered by the driver, the injured party may sue the driver or file a claim with their own insurance company for bodily injury if they have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage in their auto policy.

According to the Maine Bureau of Insurance, "Most private auto insurance policies exclude coverage for losses that occur when a covered auto is used to carry passengers paying a fee. While some TNCs purchase liability protection for their services, questions remain about how coverage would be applied in the event of an accident."

Maine Superintendent of Insurance Eric Cioppa said, "Individuals should ensure they are protected before using these new services. Check in with your insurance agent or broker, or contact your insurance company directly, to determine if there may be gaps in coverage should an accident occur when using a TNC."

In Maine, consumers can contact the Bureau's Property and Casualty Division at 800-300-5000. In New Hampshire, residents can call 800-852-3416.

Another interesting feature of the Uber experience is that both drivers and passengers may be rated on a variety of factors. Passengers score their experience on a one-to-five scale in what is called a peer-to-peer rating. If drivers fall below an acceptable standard, they will be dropped from the program. Frequently mentioned transgressions include not knowing where they are driving, being late, rude or exhibiting poor driving habits.

Similarly, passengers also may be rated by the drivers — though those ratings are not public. Drivers interviewed for various articles cited passengers who damage vehicles, get sick in the back seat, smell, are rude or are tardy for their pick up. In crowded cities, simply being on the wrong side of the street can earn a passenger a low rating. The outcome: a would-be-passenger may no longer be able to access the app. The same goes for drivers with low scores.

The upshot is that the Uber ride sharing model may make both drivers and passengers more timely, civil and courteous — and that's not a liability at all.

(Tony Payne is business development director at Clark Insurance. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 207-523-2213)

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 October 2014 17:59

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AT&T Mobility settles with state for $105 million on 'mobile cramming' penalties

Attorney General Janet T. Mills announced Friday that the Maine Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division has reached settlements with AT&T Mobility LLC to resolve allegations that AT&T Mobility placed charges for third-party services on consumers' mobile telephone bills that had not been authorized by the consumer, a practice known as "mobile cramming."

The settlement totals $105 million in monetary penalties to AT&T Mobility and will provide $80 million in direct consumer restitution in a fund administered by the Federal Trade Commission.

AT&T Mobility will also be required to take specific steps to ensure that consumers are not subjected to these kinds of unauthorized charges in the future, the Maine AG's office reported.

Consumers who have been "crammed" often complain about charges, typically $9.99 per month, for "premium" text message subscription services ("PSMS") such as horoscopes, trivia and sports scores, that the consumers have never heard of or requested.

The Attorneys General and federal regulators allege that cramming occurred when AT&T Mobility placed charges on consumers' mobile telephone bills for these services without the consumer's knowledge or consent, the Maine AG's office reported.

AT&T Mobility is the first mobile telephone provider to enter into a national settlement to resolve allegations regarding cramming; AT&T Mobility was among the four major mobile carriers—in addition to Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile — that announced it would cease billing their customers for commercial PSMS charges last fall, the Maine AG's office reported.

Beginning immediately, consumers can submit claims under the AT&T Mobility cramming refund program by visiting www.ftc.gov/att to find information about how to obtain a refund.  If consumers are unsure about whether they are eligible for a refund, they can visit the claims website or contact the Claims Administrator at 1-877-819-9692 for more information.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 October 2014 23:05

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Naked Shakespeare shapes performances to PMA exhibit

Naked Shakespeare is bringing its unique performance style of speeches and short scenes to the Portland Museum of Art for the next Third Thursday, augmenting a stunning exhibit of British art and a new British film series.10-7-14-naked-shake-2

On Thursday, Oct. 16 at 6 p.m., the thespians will offer another artistic perspective on all things England. They will also perform at the PMA on Saturday, Oct. 18, at 11 a.m. Presented in conjunction with the PMA fall show "Treasures of British Art 1400-2000: The Berger Collection," the performance features teams of actors in three different locations throughout the PMA presenting the environmentally-staged pieces that have become the company's trademark. Each piece will run from 10 to 15 minutes.

"This is one of my favorite things to do — a performance installation," said Michael Levine, founding director of Naked Shakespeare. "The pieces are very specific for the site we're working in."

One set of performances will be in staged in Exhibit Hall where the British exhibit is, including a scene from "Pericles, Prince of Tyre," one of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays, and two speeches from "The Merchant of Venice."

Another performance will be in the rotunda of the older building — a scene from "Measure to Measure" and another from "Macbeth."

The third performance will be upstairs in the third floor open gallery — a scene from "Julius Caesar," a scene from "Much Ado About Nothing," as well as a speech from "Two Gentlemen from Verona."

"It's a fair amount of new material, but also some stock favorites," Levine said, "not just the content of the speeches, but the way that we're staging them. When we pick material, it's usually based on the actors involved and then we figure out where it will be."

But this will be the other way around, he said.

Naked Shakespeare has performed at the PMA before, but there were some challenges.

"It was a New Year's Eve," Levine said. "There was a huge installation there at the time that inhibited our action. This time, we've been working with them more closely, and it will be a case of using the art instead of fighting against it."

Naked Shakespeare has been practicing at their new home at Mechanics' Hall on Congress Street, testing out the space that is yet to open to public.

"There's been little public action so far," Levine said, while the Acorn Productions board and the Maine Charitable Mechanics' Association continue to work out the terms of their new agreement.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 October 2014 01:38

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Poli-ticks: Drawing the Lyme in the fight against disease

Ticks are nasty little buggers. They are raising havoc on both animals and people in Maine and New Hampshire. The moose population in both states is dying off due to winter ticks. Humans and pets are being sickened by the hard-to-see deer tick. So what should we know and what can we do to avoid tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme Disease? Payne-bw-blogger

In Maine and New Hampshire, the increase of reported Lyme Disease infections is staggering. A disease that first first was recognized in Connecticut now has spread via wildlife to much of the Northeast. In 2004, about 200 cases were reported in both Maine and New Hampshire. Last year, there were 1,300 cases in New Hampshire and 1,100 cases in Maine. It has a pronounced incidence where lots of people spend time enjoying hiking, working in the yard, walking their pets and hunting for lost golf balls.

Ticks in Maine

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have mapped tick populations of different species. All sorts of data and information about ticks is available on the CDC web site.

Ticks are hitch hikers that love to grab hold of socks, sneakers, bare legs and anything else that touches their forest and field habitat. They also love pets. Dogs and cats that jump on furniture and crawl into beds with adults and children are unwitting hosts and public transport for the little blood suckers.

It is unnerving to wake at night feeling a little something crawling along your skin looking for a meal. It is even more disconcerting to find a tick firmly attached to your scalp, armpits or other areas in which blood vessels are close to the surface. If you find a tick attached to you, remove it with a pair of tweezers at the head so as not to leave any remnant attached to your body. Put it in a jar or zipped baggy and take it to your physician for analysis (more on that below).

Also, recognizing symptoms such as unexplained fever, pain in the joints and nerve-related pain may be worth a trip to the doctor. Identifying and treating the disease in its early stages is critical to recovery and good health. A prescription of antibiotics often beats back the malady but, left untreated, Lyme Disease can result in permanent damage and persistent symptoms.

For your dogs, lameness often is the first indicator of the disease though some dogs also may develop kidney problems according to petmd.com. Vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and swelling are tips that your pet may be in distress.

To prevent bites, apply repellant and be sure to wear long pants when walking through fields and woods and check your entire body when getting ready for bed or changing clothes after a day of outdoor activity. Also, give your pets a careful once-over.

And to put in a plug for the moose, deaths among these giant creatures in both Maine and New Hampshire have resulted in fewer sightings (eco-tourism) and fewer moose hunting permits. New Hampshire estimates that its moose herd has dropped by 42% since 1996. In a 2014 study of 60 monitored moose surrounding Moosehead Lake, half the population died off between this January and June. In Minnesota, the moose population has been cut by nearly 70 percent in just a decade largely due to winter ticks. That state will have no moose hunt this year.

Cases of Lyme Disease reported in 2012

Here's the "poli" part of poli-ticks. Voters in Maine are being asked whether or not to borrow $8,000,000 to fund a disease and insect control laboratory administered by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service. The lab will address everything from testing blood samples for Lyme Disease to researching other infectious conditions that plague both plants and animals. Currently, Lyme Disease blood samples are sent to out-of-state labs and can take weeks instead of days for results which delays treatment. Having an in-state resource will speed analysis and further our ability to know and defend against this and other challenging conditions.

Whether you are mad for moose, a pet person or simply love being outdoors, having a research facility hard at work to flick the tick may be in our collective best interest.

(Tony Payne is business development director at Clark Insurance. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 207-523-2213)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 October 2014 01:39

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