Side Hustle Injuries: PA Workers’ Compensation for Uber & Lyft Drivers
Ride share companies like Uber and Lyft have exploded in popularity in Pennsylvania. Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians have signed up to drive for companies like these. Ride share drivers continue to provide an ever-increasing number of rides for customers. From 2017 to 2018 more than 36 million Uber and Lyft trips were performed out of Philadelphia alone. Companies like these provide valuable jobs and extra income for Pennsylvanians, but what happens if you get hurt while driving for Uber or Lyft?
If you get hurt on the job under normal circumstances, you will typically qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Those benefits include coverage for lost wages and medical coverage for the work injury. Employers typically maintain insurance policies that provide these benefits, which means workers do not have to bear the cost of a work injury by themselves.
Although those benefits are available to most workers in Pennsylvania, coverage is not universal. Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, there are certain types of employees who are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, including independent contractors.
The independent contractor exception creates a major hurdle for ride share drivers who get hurt while working. The question of whether to classify ride share drivers as employees or independent contractors represents an ongoing legal battle, but companies like Uber and Lyft insist their drivers are independent contractors.
How can Uber and Lyft drivers protect themselves?
You can expect that the company will deny any coverage for workers’ compensation benefits. Your medical expenses will have to be covered by some other insurance policy and the company will not pay for any lost wages, even if you also miss work from your normal job.
Despite these challenges, you can take steps to protect yourself as a ride share driver. In 2017, Uber began offering a pilot injury protection insurance program in Pennsylvania. The program is voluntary, but costs drivers 4 cents per mile. The insurance offers coverage similar to workers’ compensation benefits, including medical bills and partial lost wages for drivers who are hurt on the job. There are key differences with traditional workers’ compensation benefits, though. These differences include a cap on lost wages at half of the driver’s weekly earnings, a $1 million total cap in benefits per accident, and no coverage for work-related mental health disorders. The policy also doesn’t give drivers access to a workers’ compensation court in order to settle a dispute over coverage with the company.
Even if you only drive for Uber or Lyft part time, the natural danger of driving as a job means that you should do what you can to protect yourself. Knowing the limitations of coverage for work injuries and weighing the additional cost of insurance coverage could make a huge difference if you get hurt working your side gig.