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Injured Driver Sues Uber; Demands WC Coverage

Happy Monday, dear readers!  And, to those of my beloved followers who are members of the Jedi Faith, May the 4th Be With You.

Today’s post comes from the workers’ paradise of San Francisco, with the story of an Uber driver who reportedly sustained injuries following an attack from one of his passengers.  The passenger was taken into custody and has entered a plea of not guilty, but the Uber Driver is now suing Uber, demanding that he be covered by workers’ compensation.

Uber, of course, is arguing that no employment relationship exists, and that Uber drivers are independent contractors.

This has been an area of contention for some time, as Uber does not pay for workers’ compensation, Uber doesn’t obtain medallions from cities, and Uber skips a lot of the operating overhead that its competitors (like traditional taxi cabs) pay and pass on in fares.

Sooner or later, there’s going to have to be a determination about this: are Uber (and Lyft) drivers independent contractors or employees?  Your humble blogger, of course, submits that they are, in fact, independent contractors, and so fall outside the scope of California’s workers’ compensation laws.

The main case and authority on this point is, of course, the Supreme Court decision in Borello.  When analyzed in light of Borello, it appears that the Uber driver is an independent contractor.  What does Uber provide?  It provides a dispatch service – the passenger sees a list of available drivers, picks one, and sets a destination.  Uber takes a reported 25% commission and keeps a publicly-viewable log of driver reviews.

What do the drivers provide?  Their time (drivers set their own hours by turning on or turning off the Uber app), their own cars, their own gas, their own charm… What part of this spells an employment relationship?

Furthermore, the driver in this particular lawsuit, like every single driver that downloads the Uber app and starts picking up passengers, knows full well what he (or she) is getting into.  There’s no question when new drivers download the app that they love the independence of being an Uber driver – but independence comes with a price, and that involves bearing your own risk.

Now, bear in mind, dear readers, every Uber driver can call up an insurance broker and buy a workers’ compensation policy for him or herself – but the driver in this case elected not to do that, and so do so many more because they’d rather bear the risk of an injury while driving for Uber than pay California’s workers’ compensation premiums.

Children might be forgiven for gambling and then claiming they didn’t understand the risks.  Grown men and women should be expected to bear the risks of their own ventures.

Here’s hoping Uber succeeds in fighting off this challenge!  Have a good week, dear readers!

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