Companies like Uber and Lyft are popular throughout Atlanta as the “sharing economy” grows and expands. Businesses that connect drivers to passengers raise complex legal questions about exactly what responsibilities these businesses have to the people who perform work for them. Uber drivers have discretion to set their hours and decide what trips to take, so are more autonomous than typical employees. However, they have to undergo background checks and meet certain requirements and they earn their money through working for Uber. They may fall into a grey area between employee and independent contractor and there have been ongoing legal struggles about how they should be classified.
This creates issues when it comes to workers’ compensation. The question is: do Uber, Lyft, and other companies in the sharing economy need to buy workers’ compensation insurance for employees? If not, do these workers go uninsured for injuries on-the-job? What happens if an Uber driver is hurt by a passenger or is in a car accident at work? Is Uber to blame and do workers’ compensation benefits kick in, or can the employee sue Uber? All of these questions need to be answered so workers can understand their rights and get appropriate benefits and compensation when they are hurt on-the-job.
An Atlanta work injury lawyer should be consulted whenever an injury happens, but especially when someone in the sharing economy gets hurt. If you believe you were incorrectly classified as an independent contractor or that an employer should be providing workers’ compensation benefits to you but isn’t, you need to get legal help. An attorney can help you to explore all of your possible options for enforcing your legal rights and getting fair compensation after injuries occur.
What Happens to Injured Atlanta Workers in the Sharing Economy?
Georgia has attempted to provide guidance on the ride-sharing industry. Business Insurance reported that Governor Nathan Deal signed a law into place in May addressing insurance requirements for Uber, Lyft, and similar businesses. The law says that the driver is a “transportation network company driver” and that the transportation company must have a $1 million liability insurance policy for death, personal injury, and property damage. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage of at least $1 million per incident also must be maintained. The insurance covers the period of time that a driver accepts a request to provide a ride on the digital network of the transportation company up until the time the ride is completed or until the driver completes the transaction.
The fact a driver is treated as an employee could mean the driver is entitled to work injury benefits for any injuries that occur on-the-job, including car accidents the employee causes. This would be consistent with other rulings in other states that make Uber and car sharing companies responsible for ensuring the safety of their drivers. The Washington Post, for example, reported that Uber drivers in California have to be treated as employees and not as independent contractors after a state Labor Commission ruling. Since they are employees, workers’ comp benefits must be provided for them.
The law is still evolving nationwide and in Georgia on how Uber workers should be protected, and workers need to carefully monitor new developments to know what their rights are. If an injury happens and an Uber driver is harmed, or if any employee in the sharing economy gets hurt in connection with work tasks, speaking to a lawyer is likely the best course of action due to the evolving nature of the laws.
Parsons & Associates, P.C. is an Atlanta workers’ compensation law firm serving Atlanta, Savannah, and surrounding areas throughout Fulton County. Contact Parsons & Associates, P.C. today at 770-422-9000 or contact us online if you have been injured at work.