Just in the last few years, ridesharing programs such as Uber and Lyft have grown in popularity, providing people with more flexible job options and an opportunity for additional income. Unfortunately, state laws that are supposed to offer protections to potential employees have not necessarily kept pace with the popularity of these types of programs. In the end, this growing gap is leaving a lot of unanswered questions, particularly for rideshare drivers.
One major question being asked among drivers is whether they can receive workers’ compensation benefits if they suffer injuries in a car accident during the course of work. While it may seem simple enough, the answer to this question can be quite complicated due to how programs like Uber and Lyft classify their drivers.
Employees versus independent contractors
The crux of the issue for many rideshare drivers is whether they should be classified as an employee or as an independent contractor. While employees under many state laws are guaranteed access to workers’ compensation benefits in the event of a workplace accident, the same isn’t always true for other employee classifications.
Partners and independent contractors, for example, which are both titles Uber and Lyft use when classifying its drivers, aren’t always considered eligible for workers’ compensation benefits and are often forced to pay for medical care out of pocket.
Are rideshare drivers being misclassified?
As a November 2017 article for Forbes points out, many people, including a large number of rideshare drivers, feel the two companies are misclassifying their drivers. In several cases, the lower courts have agreed, pointing out that companies like Uber exert control over driver work performance, ride fares and even what drivers can discuss with passengers – all features of an employment relationship, which should classify drivers as employees. Unfortunately, some federal court judges have disagreed with this assessment, affirming that drivers are independent contractors and therefore not eligible for employee protections.
Workers’ compensation may still be possible
As we explained in a September 2016 blog post, all hope is not lost for workers who are misclassified as independent contractors versus employees. It may still be possible to collect workers’ compensation for injuries suffered while on the job. Though challenging, these types of cases don’t always end badly for injured workers, especially if the right evidence is presented and the worker is represented by an attorney who understands the full scope of the law and remains up to date on court rulings.