Rideshare drivers are people who offer rides to passengers who either don’t have vehicle, wish to save gas money, or are unable to driver for various other reasons. The customers use an app or the internet to order a ride. The rideshare driver comes to get them, similar to a taxi, and takes them where they wish to go. The most common way to get a ride from a rideshare driver is to use a rideshare app, like Uber or Lyft, on your mobile device. However, one thing that separates taxi drivers from rideshare service drivers is that taxi drivers are designated as employees, while rideshare drivers are not.
Because taxi drivers are employees, they are covered by workers’ compensation benefits if they get into an auto accident. Because rideshare drivers are independent contractors, they do not have this coverage. Fortunately for rideshare drivers, there are plenty of people who are fighting to change the system. Their efforts have been so effective that Uber is about to try something new in South Carolina.
The Risk of Serious Injury and Death Among Rideshare Drivers
Because rideshare drivers drive for a living, they are among the most at risk workers in Greenville, South Carolina. The same is true for others who drive for a living, including taxi drivers, commercial vehicle drivers, and delivery drivers. Auto accidents happen every day. The more a worker is on the road, the higher their odds of getting into an accident. This is especially so for rideshare drivers because they are frequently on the road during high traffic hours, such as the daily commutes to and from work and the nightly trips out and about with their passengers trying to avoid intoxicated driving. Because the risk is so high, it is essential for rideshare drivers to have some form of insurance coverage to turn to, beyond the right to file an auto insurance claim or litigate a case in a civil court.
How is Uber Trying to Solve this Problem by Providing Coverage to Rideshare Drivers?
Unfortunately, most rideshare drivers have no recourse for receiving benefits and compensation beyond filing an auto insurance claim. If the driver has the right coverage on their own vehicle, then they may be able to turn to their own insurance. Typically, they will have to turn to the auto insurance policy of the at-fault driver, assuming that another driver is at-fault.
It takes time to investigate an auto accident, establish liability, and then negotiate for a fair settlement with the insurance company. In some cases, these incidents will result in a lengthy trial. Until a settlement or favorable judgment is reached, the rideshare driver can be left out in the cold with no way to cover their medical expenses, property damages, and lost wages. This is why it is important to find a more practical and effective solution. Uber is working to be a leader and setting an example in terms of providing coverage to their rideshare drivers. They are not offering Greenville, South Carolina, workers’ compensation to their drivers, but they are gearing up to offer a similar type of coverage.
The coverage, which is simply an optional personal injury policy, will provide wage benefits and medical benefits to injured drivers, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. It does not prevent the driver from pursuing a third party auto accident claim, but it keeps the driver from having to wait for the results of a claim to get any coverage for their damages and losses. The driver is also not required to have the coverage, but will have to pay for it if they choose to. The payment has been structured to be affordable. Rideshare drivers with Uber will be able to purchase the coverage at 3.75 cents per mile, which would be compensated by a 5 cent increase in prices for passengers. It will provide coverage up $500 per week in wage benefits and up to $1M total for wage and medical benefits combined.
If this experiment works in South Carolina and a few other large markets (like Massachusetts, Illinois, and Pennsylvania), then the optional insurance coverage may soon be offered throughout the United States. It may also serve as an example for other rideshare services, like Lyft, to follow. There is currently no way of knowing for certain how popular the coverage will be for Uber drivers, though it certainly seems like the most responsible and practical of options at this time. It will keep Uber drivers from facing the tremendous hardships that are associated with serious injuries in auto accidents.
Is Uber Doing Enough to Provide Coverage to Injured Workers?
While Uber is certainly making a solid effort to protect and provide for their rideshare drivers, there are some flaws in the plan. Primarily, the issue that has been argued by activists from organizations like the National Employment Law Project is that rideshare drivers do not really meet the description of independent contractors. In some ways, they do. For example, an Uber driver can set his or her own hours, choosing when and where to work, and which clients to accept. On the other hand, Uber drivers do not get to set their own prices, as a true independent contractor would. This puts rideshare drivers in a kind of employment limbo, where they are neither employers nor independent contractors, by definition. However, they are still currently labeled as independent contractors. This means that they are not technically eligible for workers’ compensation coverage. The National Employment Law Project thinks that this should change and that rideshare drivers should be classified as employees.
Are You a Rideshare Driver Who Has Been Injured in a Work Related Auto Accident?
While rideshare drivers may not currently be eligible for Greenville, South Carolina, workers’ compensation benefits, they can still use some legal guidance, advice, and representation when it comes to seeking coverage for their damages after a work related auto accident. At the Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm, our dedicated Greenville, SC work injury legal team will understand what you’re going through. We highly recommend that you take advantage of the new personal injury protection insurance plan as soon as it is offered, and that you contact the personal injury, auto accident, and workers’ compensation attorneys at our offices when you have been in an accident. We will gladly help you through the challenges ahead, starting with a free consultation to explore your options and discuss your rights under the current laws.
Dan Pruitt is a Personal Injury Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from University of Georgia, and has been practicing law for 25 years. Dan Pruitt believes in fighting for the injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.