When it comes to Uber and Lyft services, the regulations regarding workers’ compensation and death benefits are typically murky since these workers are technically independent contractors.
So what happens when they get hurt—or even killed—on the job?
On November 23, a late-night shooting occurred in Union City, Georgia. When the shooting stopped, an Uber driver was found dead.
The shooting took place near Cru Lounge x Lanes – Soufside, a bowling alley and nightclub on the 5100 block of Goodson Connector Road. This business, which is new to Union City, is a bowling alley by day (kid-friendly) and club by night. It’s owned by Cru Lounge Atlanta, known as the largest Black-owned nightlife chain in the U.S.
The victim was found next to a Toyota sedan, which had at least 3 bullets through the front windshield.
Upon investigation, police learned that the driver had dropped a woman off at a nearby lounge. The security guard of the business insisted that the Uber driver needed to pay to park, and this angered the driver (according to a witness).
At this point, the Uber driver pulled a gun and told the guard that “he’ll kill all of them” and then fired a warning shot. The security guard responded by firing at the car and killing the driver.
As of November 24, police have not released the identity of the Uber driver. The security officer was detained by Union City police, but they haven’t released whether charges will be pressed or not.
Workers’ compensation for independent contractors
In short, independent contractors are not eligible for workers’ compensation in Georgia.
To be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, a person must be a full-time, part-time or seasonal employee or a statutory employee. If the employer has the right to control the employee’s time, manner, methods and means of execution of the work to be completed, then the worker should be considered an employee rather than an independent contractor.
When it comes to Uber/Lyft, the distinction between employee and independent contractor is huge. It can make all the difference between whether you receive health benefits, workers’ compensation and death benefits—starting with whether or not you have to establish liability.
When a third party is at fault for an accident, the injured Uber or Lyft driver can typically get some coverage through their personal health insurance, or on a lien that will ultimately have to be repaid through the proceeds of their claim against the at-fault driver.
However, if the independent contractor driver is at fault, they may not be able to get compensation for medical treatment. They may not have health insurance or the co-pays could be so high that they cannot afford treatment.
On the other hand, if an injured worker is considered an employee (not an independent contractor), it doesn’t matter whose fault the accident was.
The driver would automatically be eligible for medical treatment under the workers’ compensation statute in Georgia. This means that they would receive medical treatment at no cost to them and be reimbursed for travel to and from the doctors.
In terms of the Union City shooting, it seems unlikely that Uber driver’s family members could claim death benefits since most Uber/Lyft drivers are considered independent contractors and the Uber driver possibly instigated the firefight. However, workers’ compensation is a complicated process and without an experienced lawyer on your side, you may never know what benefits you could receive.
If you have questions about the process or you’ve been injured on the job, reach out to Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys. We’ll help walk you through every step and answer your questions along the way, all while fighting for your rights.