The idea of Uber workers’ compensation has been a topic of debate almost from the beginning. It wasn’t long after the rideshare company was founded in 2009 that accidents and injuries became an issue. Normally, employers who have five or more employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance. The coverage pays their workers with work-related injuries or illnesses for medical treatment and time off from work. The exception to the rule that has caused the controversy is that of independent contractors.
What Is an Independent Contractor?
An independent contractor is a person or business who provides goods or services according to a contract or verbal agreement. They aren’t employees of the person or business to whom those services are provided. They don’t have taxes withheld or get any of the benefits that regular employees do.
Uber has made the argument that their drivers are independent contractors. They drive their own cars and provide rides to customers independently. According to Uber, this classification releases them from the duty to pay overtime, benefits, and workers’ comp insurance.
However, even the courts disagree on whether this classification is correct. Some have ruled that Uber drivers are employees because the company directs the drivers on what to do and who to pick up. Others have sided with Uber, saying that the drivers act independently and use their own property. They are also paid by the customers, and not directly from Uber.
Once the entire system Uber uses is considered, there’s a lot of evidence for calling Uber drivers employees. Most aren’t trying to get rich or start a new career as a driver. Many have found it a convenient way to make a little extra money to help with their bills. When they get in an accident and get injured, failing to have Uber workers’ compensation often ends up making matters worse for them. Without legal representation, injured drivers don’t know their rights or how to get compensated for their losses.
How Uber Works
Uber and other rideshare companies are available in cities where there is a big demand. Drivers apply to the company and they must meet the requirements. This includes a vehicle that passes Uber inspection.
Once the driver is ‘hired’, Uber provides them with a commercial insurance policy. The coverage varies, depending on what phase of the ride the driver is in. For example, while a customer is in the car, the driver is covered for $1 million for 3rd party liability. That coverage drops while the driver is on the app but isn’t driving a customer. This insurance is meant to cover damages and liability to the customers. It also comes with a large deductible that must be paid before anything else.
Uber does offer Driver Injury Protection in some states, which pays up to $1,000,000 for the driver’s medical expenses. However, drivers are responsible for paying their premiums. They also have the option to take out private Uber insurance coverage to protect them during an accident. The problem for many drivers is that the added expense of insurance makes their time spent driving even less productive.
The Cost of Not Having Uber Workers’ Compensation
One of the best arguments that Uber drivers are Uber employees is the management and distribution of funds. The Uber app calculates the cost of the ride. The app takes payment from the source linked to the rider’s rideshare account. Although the company says the drivers get payment from the customers, that isn’t entirely true. Uber deposits the driver’s pay into their account via direct deposit every week.
Before the payment is made, Uber takes a 25% fee for each fare. They also adjust the sum the driver receives for any reimbursements, promotions, or bonuses. The company then sends a detailed payment statement explaining the payments and fees. In other words, the company has complete control of the payments received from customers and paid to the drivers.
The amount Uber chargers for fares depends on the distance and time it takes. It also depends on the time of the ride. During those times when rides are in high demand, surge pricing is added to the fare.
Uber says that their drivers can make $25 or more per hour. The company has also made claims that drivers in NYC make a median income of $90,000 per year. Independent studies have proven that the number is much lower. It sounds appealing to people who need a little extra money to get by. They can make their own schedule and drive as little or as much as they want. But they aren’t considering the fees, the maintenance on their vehicles, and the risks to their health and their bank account when an accident happens.
The Bottom Line
Another way to look at the difference between independent contractors and employees is that of an attorney. An attorney who owns his own firm and advertises it as an attorney business and gets paid by the hour by clients is an independent contractor. An attorney who is employed by a firm to provide certain services in return for a regular salary is an employee. It’s clear that some of the practices by Uber point clearly to the company’s drivers being employees.
Will Uber Workers’ Compensation Happen in the Future?
Some people believe that the rideshare platform is ahead of its time. The law hasn’t had time to catch up with the new technology. Meanwhile, if you get injured while driving for Uber, you may still be able to get Uber Workers’ Compensation. These cases are more challenging than the rest. But, with an experienced workers’ comp attorney and the right evidence, you may be able to prove your case.
If you are injured while driving for Uber, contact The House of Workers’ Compensation for a free consultation to discuss your case. We specialize in workers’ compensation law to provide our clients with the best representation possible. We stay on top of current trends and offer the best possible outcome for your Uber Workers’ Compensation case.