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Ride-share drivers push for workers’ compensation coverage

Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months due to criticism of their business models and employment practices. Many drivers for these services argue that they are improperly classified as independent contractors and thus deprived of many of the rights and protections that the laws provide for employees. The right to receive workers’ compensation benefits is one such issue hinging on the outcome of two separate lawsuits currently pending out of state.

Uber, Lyft and similar ride-share companies operate by providing taxi-like transportation services on a peer-to-peer business model. Drivers use their own personal vehicles and connect with customers using a smartphone app. Both Uber and Lyft operate in the Columbus area and in other Ohio cities. In January 2015, however, Lyft suspended its services in Columbus due to the company’s objections to new city ordinances that increase regulation of peer-to-peer transportation providers.

Drivers say they are employees, not independent contractors

In two separate lawsuits awaiting resolution in California, drivers for ride-sharing services argue that they are incorrectly classified as independent contractors, claiming that they are in fact employees. The distinction is important because workers’ compensation benefits, minimum wage requirements and many other laws designed to protect workers do not apply to independent contractors.

Drivers involved in the lawsuit say they have been improperly classified as independent contractors as a cost-saving measure for the companies, which puts them at risk if they are injured in a crash while working. Although the companies provide drivers with some insurance coverage, injured drivers still may end up in protracted legal battles over liability issues.

Workers’ comp benefits apply regardless of fault

Avoiding unnecessary courtroom battles is one of the main purposes of the workers’ compensation system, which is designed to provide injured employees with quick access to medical care and financial benefits without the need to prove who was at fault. In Ohio and other states with similar workers’ comp systems, workers who are hurt on the job can typically receive benefits regardless of who caused the injury, even if it was the result of their own mistake or poor judgment.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 3 people die in the United States every day due to a work-related transportation injury. Many more suffer non-fatal injuries caused by on-the-job crashes. If you or a family member has been hurt in a crash while working, you may be entitled to financial benefits for your injuries and lost income. Contact the Philip J. Fulton Law Office for more detailed information about your rights under Ohio’s workers’ compensation laws and for help pursuing a claim.