As Uber continues to increase in popularity, some Uber drivers are now being given the option to purchase personal injury insurance. While not available in all 50 states, Uber will now begin to charge an additional 5 cents per mile in 8 states in order to cover potential personal injury scenarios that their drivers may encounter.
This optional pilot program comes months after a similar program was launched in the UK after several companies within the gig economy including Uber were accused of unfair treatment of their workers.
Currently, the United Sates generally covers a workplace injury through workers’ compensation programs. Because Uber drivers are contractors, workers’ compensation isn’t offered. To combat this issue, Uber has decided to shift the cost of personal injury insurance to the consumers which will give drivers the choice between pocketing the cash or using to pay for insurance.
This pilot program will initially launch in Illinois, Massachusetts, South Carolina, West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Delaware. This program will operate with insurance companies Aon and OneBeacon and it has been publicized that they will pay upwards of $1million in medical expenses and up to half of a driver’s weekly earning. Additionally, the insurance companies have agreed to help Uber pay a maximum of $150,000 in survivor benefits.
While this new initiative is a step in the right direction, it comes years after several car accidents involving Uber drivers have occurred. One in particular occurred when an Uber driver reported that losing his leg in an Uber car accident left him unable to work. His story and many others is a reminder that the necessary demand is there for this new pilot program; however, Uber still is unsure of how many drivers will actually sign up for the new program.
Before Uber begins to celebrate this “gig economy” win, many labor groups have been quick to push back on the initiative stating that they believe this new pilot program is an attempt to avoid paying the full cost of insuring their workers. To take it a step forward Rebecca Smith, the National Employment Law Project Director released an email statement that read: “Instead of paying workers’ compensation premiums to cover all of its workers, as responsible businesses do, Uber will charge drivers for the medical care and time-loss benefits that the rest of us get by virtue of working at a job,” the statement reads. “What will it take for Uber to stop the end-runs and other shenanigans and finally act like a responsible employer? If Uber valued its workers, it would simply pay its workers’ compensation premiums and cover all of them.”
Whether drivers choose to opt in or opt out to the personal injury insurance is totally up to them; however, by opting out they are putting themselves at risk of a lawsuit by other drivers should he or she be involved in a car accident while driving for uber. Protection from personal injury is available, it is up to the driver on whether or not they choose to embrace it.