With the growing popularity of the “gig economy”, especially companies like Uber, a Transportation Network Company (TNC), questions about protecting workers have come front and center. Most drivers for Uber are considered independent contractors which exempts them from some needed protections including workers’ comp. But recently TNCs and insurance companies have been exploring ways to provide better protections for TNC drivers.
The National Conference of Insurance Legislators adopted model legislation in 2015 to address insurance requirements for TNC drivers. Under the model legislation, TNC drivers or the TNC itself, would need to maintain automobile insurance that recognizes the driver is a TNC driver and covers that driver while he is working. The required insurance would need to include coverage for bodily injuries and property damage, as well as coverage for medical payments. While the legislation helps insure general automobile insurance for drivers, something typical auto insurance policies exclude for TNC drivers, it is silent on workers’ comp because the drivers remain independent contractors.
To fill the gap, some insurance companies are looking at ways to provide occupational accident insurance policies to fill the workers’ comp void. The policies being offered are modeled after those available in the trucking industry for years, where many drivers are independent contractors and not entitled to workers’ comp coverage. Specifically, Uber began working with OneBeacon Accident & Health. The occupational accident insurance would cover Uber drivers when they are actively working for Uber. The cost of insurance is based on miles driven, i.e. they pay about three cents per mile. While this policy is not workers’ comp, it does provide accident protection for TNC driers when they were working. In the absence of such coverage, even though a driver is technically “working” at the time of an injury, they would have no insurance to cover the accident or subsequent injuries and damage.
As TNCs continue to grow across the country, and other gig economy industries arise, the insurance companies and employers will need to become more creative in how workers’ on-the-job injuries are handled and what protections can be afforded to them in the absence of a traditional work relationship.