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‘Gig’ employment and workers’ compensation

The “gig economy” is exploding. People who drive for Uber and Lyft, deliver for Grubhub and DoorDash and run errands and do household repairs for TaskRabbit and Handy are part of that workforce.

These workers fall into the category of independent contractors rather than employees. They have considerable freedom to choose when and how much they work. However, they also get few, if any, benefits — including workers’ compensation benefits to cover lost wages and medical expenses if they’re injured on the job.

Gig economy jobs are often risky ones because they typically involve a considerable amount of driving — often at busy times on the road in all types of weather under considerable time pressure. One study last year of people who drove and/or delivered for an app-based company found that 42% reported being in a collision that involved some amount of vehicle damage.

Meanwhile, 10% reported being in an accident in which they and/or someone else was injured. Last year, a bike courier for Caviar (a food-order service) was killed when he collided with an SUV in Philadelphia during a rainstorm.

The classification of gig workers is currently being challenged via lawsuits throughout the country — including one filed by three UberBlack drivers in Philadelphia. They’re claiming that the ride-hailing giant is violating two state labor laws and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. A decision by the Third Circuit is pending.

What kind of insurance benefits Uber drivers have available to them varies by state. In New York, for example, Uber must participate in something called the Black Car Fund, which provides benefits to black car and limo drivers who work for participating companies.

If you decide to spend part or all of your working hours in the gig economy, it’s a good idea to find out before you start what kind of benefits, if any, are available to you if you’re injured on the job. No one anticipates suffering an injury. However, it’s wise to know what legal options you have if you are — particularly if your employer in some way contributed to or could have prevented your injury.

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