Can an Injured Uber Driver Get Workers' Compensation?

Can an Injured Uber Driver Get Workers’ Compensation?

A reader wrote in to ask this question: “I’m an Uber driver hurt in a car accident where another driver rear-ended me. It’s obviously his fault, not mine, and the police report reflects that. Can I get worker’s comp for my back and shoulder injuries until I’m able to drive and earn money again? The accident happened in Texas, if that matters.”

Can an Uber Driver Qualify for Workers’ Comp?

The quick answer to this question is: No. In most cases, an Uber driver cannot collect workers’ comp for injuries from a rideshare service auto accident.

The reason is simple: Federal law currently classifies both Uber and Lyft drivers as independent contractors. Contractors in most U.S. states cannot apply or qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. This applies to every state; however, some states offer more protection to Uber and Lyft drivers than others.

For instance, the state of Washington guaranteed Lyft and Uber drivers in Seattle all the following perks:

  • A minimum per-mile rate.
  • Workers’ comp insurance.
  • Paid time off.
  • The right to appeal if either company ends their employment. 

But not every Lyft or Uber driver in Washington will benefit from this change. That’s because rideshare service drivers outside the Seattle area still count as contractors, not employees.

Not every state offers these benefits to rideshare-service drivers. But some are negotiating for changes that should benefit these workers, much like Seattle did. Until then, however, Uber and Lyft drivers are contractors in most U.S. states. As such, drivers for these apps are exempt from coverage under each state’s workers’ comp insurance laws.

Are All Uber and Lyft Drivers Independent Contractors?

Essentially, yes: Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors no matter where they live and work.

And being an independent contractor means they won’t qualify for most job-related benefits, such as:

  • Workers’ compensation.
  • Paid time off.
  • Vacation time or pay.
  • Health insurance.
  • Other perks that come with a standard 9-to-5 job.

How does one tell the difference between an employee and an independent contractor? In the case of Lyft and Uber drivers, the fact that they use their own vehicle and pay for their own gas to drive people from one place to another is one important factor. Also, they have the flexibility to work when they want for as long as they want — or not work at all.

One test that courts find useful to distinguish between an employee and an independent contractor is called the ABC Test. The “A” in this test determines whether the worker is free from control and direction while doing their job.

The “C” of this test requires that the worker is routinely engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business that’s similar or identical to the service they perform. Most Uber drivers also have contracts that allow them to drive for Lyft. Still others drive for meal delivery services, like Uber Eats and Grub Hub. This might make it obvious that they are independent contractors.

But it’s the “B” of the ABC Test’s rules that can make things seem a little more complicated. This rule says the worker must perform services outside the usual course of business for the hiring individual. In this case, Uber is the hiring individual. And Uber’s usual course of business is providing on-call transportation services via privately owned vehicles instead of a company car.

Which State Laws Specifically Provide Workers’ Comp for an Injured Lyft or Uber Driver?

While federal law classifies all Uber and Lyft drivers as independent contractors, states can enact different laws for their residents. Unfortunately for our reader, Texas isn’t one of the states whose laws provide workers’ comp coverage for contractors.

Four states have passed laws to provide a Lyft or Uber driver the right to workers’ comp benefits:

In addition, Vermont and Connecticut might do so in the future.

What does this mean for our reader? The workers’ comp requirements in Texas are the most lenient of all states. In fact, only construction companies on contract for government business must carry workers’ comp insurance. Other businesses may do so, but it’s entirely up to them.

What Can I Do if I Think I Deserve Workers’ Comp Benefits?

Even in the least restrictive state of Texas, a party who believes he has a right to workers’ compensation but got denied can file a complaint. Specifically in Texas, workers have the right to file compensation claims if they believe they have a genuine case and the employer refuses to pay benefits.

Can An Attorney Help Me?

The workers’ compensation attorneys in our network handle claims on a contingency basis. In other words, they’re not likely to accept your case unless they believe you’ll win. That also means you’ll pay $0 for an attorney to help you if your case doesn’t win. If you feel that you deserve benefits but were told you don’t qualify, get a no-cost claim review by phone. Having a workers’ comp lawyer can improve your chances of winning benefits and get you the most money you deserve.

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Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.