Lyft passenger in accident gets runaround on medical coverage

SEATTLE — A passenger in a Lyft vehicle was injured in an accident on March 1 and has since been unable to get a guarantee of medical coverage to see necessary chiropractors.

Gabriel Diaz, who was in Seattle on vacation from Australia, said he remembered looking up at the light at the intersection of 6th Avenue and Battery Street.

It was green.

Another driver ran the red light and crashed into the Lyft vehicle, causing Diaz to hit the passenger-side window. Since then, Diaz has dealt with excruciating neck and shoulder pain.

“All I remember was being hit in the head and having whiplash,” Diaz said.

He said the two drivers refused to call police, because at the moment, no one appeared to be seriously injured.

Diaz thought he had traveler’s insurance, to cover incidents like this. But he found out that he is only covered in Canada, the U.K. and Germany. He was told these countries have reciprocal relationships with Australia as all of them have universal health care.

With little money to pay for doctor’s visits, Diaz asked both Lyft and the at-fault driver’s insurance company, Allstate, whether they would guarantee coverage and payment of medical treatment without Diaz having to pay upfront.

“They said if you’re in desperate need of medical attention, go today. I informed them I can’t pay for it, I don’t have health insurance here. I’m just a tourist.

I need your guarantee that you can help me go see an emergency room,” Diaz said.

In addition, Allstate said Diaz would need to get a diagnosis from a doctor to proceed with any claims. So he spent $222 at a ZoomCare clinic, where a doctor wrote in a report that Diaz had back trauma. The doctor referred him to specialists, including a chiropractor and wrote that he should see them within two weeks.

Three months later, Diaz has still not seen any specialist. He said he cannot afford further treatment and cannot get any insurance company to cover it.

“The chicken before the egg. Like, how can I get medical coverage if you aren’t going to pay for it, until I get medical coverage?” Diaz said.

Now that his two-week vacation has stretched into a three-month nightmare, Diaz said he would like to return to Australia, where treatment of his whiplash would be free. But he cannot sit on a plane for the 14-hour trip without extreme pain.

He can stand or lie down, but sitting is painful.

A Lyft spokesperson told KIRO 7:

“The safety of the Lyft community is our top priority. In this instance, a third party was determined to be at fault, and therefore the claim is being processed through that individual's insurance. It’s important to remember that from the time the driver accepts a ride request to the time the passenger is dropped off, Lyft drivers and passengers are covered by a $1 million liability insurance policy. This policy includes an uninsured/underinsured provision designed to cover the passenger (and driver) should an at fault party either not carry insurance or not carry enough insurance. We have been in touch with the passenger this evening and will continue to offer our assistance.”

In this case, Lyft said Diaz could come to them after the Allstate claims are settled.

Allstate told KIRO 7 the case is pending and would not speak to specifics of any claim.

Diaz said Allstate offered to settle for $250, to cover his one doctor’s visit, but refused to pay for any further treatment, despite the doctor’s referrals.

While Diaz is frustrated with Allstate, he said he is also disappointed with Lyft. He said Lyft gave him a contact for the company’s insurance agent who was unreachable for months.

“When you hop into a corporation’s vehicle, you expect that they take care of their customers, because we are what make Lyft who they are today.

If they didn’t have us, they wouldn’t be in business,” Diaz said.

KIRO 7 asked the president of the Northwest Insurance Council whether patients would have an alternative to paying for medical services upfront.

In general, he said, it depends on the following factors:

- The at-fault driver’s insurance company (every company has its own claims procedures);

- The specific language of the insurance policy carried by the at-fault driver (they will differ from company to company and even among policies depending on coverage types and amounts);

- What insurance, if any, is available to the injured party;

- The amount of time or distance between the accident/injury occurrence and the time treatment is sought.