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Are Uber and Lyft Drivers Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

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In recent years, ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft have increased in popularity, and many people now prefer to utilize such services over traditional taxi services. Because of its growth, more people are turning to these companies for flexible job options and the opportunity to earn extra income. At first glance, it seems as if ridesharing is a win for everyone. Unfortunately, because it is a relatively new industry, and because drivers are not technically “employees,” state laws that are in place to protect workers may not necessarily apply to Uber and Lyft drivers, leaving with drivers with a lot of unanswered questions. One such question being asked among drivers is whether or not they can receive workers’ compensation if they were to get injured on the job. While the answer may seem straightforward, it is anything but, as the crux of the issue all boils down to how popular ridesharing companies classify their drivers.

Independent Contractors Are Not Entitled to Compensation 

As of right now, all ridesharing organizations classify their drivers as independent contractors. Though the IRS definition of an independent worker leaves significant room for interpretation, an independent contractor is, in essence, a worker that has control over how and when work is to be performed, and at what cost. Though Florida Labor Code, Section 440.02 requires Florida employers to provide employees with workers’ compensation benefits, it does not require employers to do the same for independent contractors. While any company can choose to extend workers’ comp benefits to independent workers, there is nothing in the law compelling one to do so. Because Uber and Lyft do not offer their drivers workers’ comp, injured drivers are forced to pay for their medical expenses and other damages out of pocket.

But, Are Uber and Lyft Drivers Really Independent Contractors?

As mentioned above, the IRS’s definition of independent contractor leaves much room for interpretation. However, it does provide a list of questions employers can ask themselves before classifying a worker, including the following:

  • Does the worker supply his or her own equipment, tools, and materials?
  • Does the worker control the hours of employment?
  • Is the work temporary or permanent?
  • Can the worker choose when and when not to work without fear of losing employment?

The answer to each of these questions when applied to ridesharing drivers is yes. However, many people still believe that Uber and Lyft drivers are misclassified. As Forbes pointed out in a November 2017 article, Uber and Lyft exercise control over driver performance, ride fares, and even what drivers can discuss with passengers, features that all point to an employer-employee relationship. Though several federal court judges have disagreed with this assessment, the seed has been planted and it may not be long before a reclassification is in order.

You Are Not Without Options 

If you sustained injuries in a car accident that occurred while driving a paying passenger around, you may not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, but that does not mean you are without options. Our Tampa workers’ compensation lawyers here at Barbas, Nuñez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian, can first determine whether or not you have been misclassified as an independent contractor and if you are in fact entitled to workers’ comp. If you are properly classified, we can still investigate the cause of the accident and determine if you can recover via car accident claim. To better understand your options, contact our team today.

Resources:

leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0400-0499/0440/Sections/0440.02.html

forbes.com/sites/omribenshahar/2017/11/15/are-uber-drivers-employees-the-answer-will-shape-the-sharing-economy/#4aaa4f295e55

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