Who is Liable for Accidents in the Gig Economy?
This is one of the biggest questions at the heart of the gig economy and perhaps the most difficult to answer. The rise of the gig economy presents new and distinct challenges to workers and their companies. Many companies like TaskRabbit, Uber, EasyShift, Instacart, and others do their best to make sure that almost all liability is placed on the worker.
However, there are a few exceptions to this. For instance, Uber and Lyft have insurance policies intended to cover accidents that happen while the driver has a passenger. But, Instacart and others do not carry such insurance for their workers, and if there is an accident, the worker must rely solely on their insurance.
The glaring problem with this is that not all workers have the proper insurance to cover accidents that happen when they are involved in work activities. So, who is liable for expenses when a gig economy worker isn’t insured through the company they are working for? To understand this better, let’s explore some of the issues at the heart of the controversy.
Gig Economy: What is it?
The gig economy is a term used to describe the recent acceleration of independent contractors performing various tasks. At the beginning of the 2000s, independent contractors made up about 2-4% of all workers. However, with the advent of technology that gives people easy access to side jobs, the number of independent contractors rose significantly.
Today, as much as 43% of the United States workforce works either full- or part-time in the gig economy. This means that workers and consumers who were once protected under a company’s liability insurance are increasingly finding it challenging to hold workers accountable when an accident happens.
Common Types of Gig Workers Involved in Accidents
Drivers for Uber and Lyft are by far the most common gig workers involved in accidents because they are on the roads for several hours each day. However, workers for other companies are quickly joining the ranks of Uber and Lyft as the popularity of gig work grows.
Food Delivery Drivers
Food delivery apps like UberEats, DoorDash, and PostMates have increased our ability to enjoy food delivered to our doorstep. However, these gig workers are under intense pressure to get to the restaurant, pick up the food, and deliver it as quickly as possible to avoid bad reviews. This increases the likelihood of accidents caused by reckless or distracted food delivery drivers.
Grocery Delivery Drivers
Instacart, Shipt, and Dumpling all offer a personalized shopper to run to the store for you and deliver the groceries you need. Like the food delivery drivers, though, these gig workers are pressured to deliver your order daily to avoid bad reviews.
Package Delivery Drivers
Amazon Flex, Roadie, and Dispatch focus more on the general delivery of packages. These gig workers are usually not confined to specific areas in the same way grocery, and food delivery drivers are. They tend to travel much longer distances, increasing their time on the road and the likelihood of accidents.
Housework and Handyman Apps
Takl, Handy, and Thumbtack offer gig workers the opportunities to complete tasks that are in someone’s home or on their property. Even though they spend less time on the road completing their assigned tasks, they can be involved in personal injury accidents in other ways.
Gig Worker vs. Employee: Who is Liable?
The most significant distinction between the two is the flexibility allotted to independent workers versus that of employees. Gig workers are 1099 independent contractors and sole proprietors. They do not benefit from the company offering the work other than compensation for the task performed. In essence, a gig worker is their own individual business. They are responsible for their taxes and insurance coverage.
Employees are the opposite. They are covered under the employer’s insurance and enjoy many other types of benefits through the company. If an employee causes an accident that injures someone else, the employer is held responsible. But, the same is not true for independent contractors.
Accidents and the Rise of the Gig Economy in Florida
The gig economy is increasing across all parts of the US, and Florida is no exception. However, there is a terrible consequence to the rise of the gig economy in Florida: Accidents involving gig workers are rising exponentially. From 2016-17, gig workers’ fatalities were 1,275 (12 percent) of the 10,337 nationwide fatal occupational injuries.
With more than 1.8 million gig workers in The Sunshine State and the number increasing every year, it comes as no surprise there is an increasing number of accidents involving these gig workers. The risk of accidents is compounded by the fact that companies usually do not perform any background checks on the people they use for tasks. This means someone with a history of dangerous driving can move to Florida and immediately begin driving for these companies.
Additionally, because there is no collaboration between the platforms, a gig worker can ignore safety regulations by switching from one app to another. This increases the likelihood of accidents to be caused by tired and distracted drivers. These and many other issues are at the heart of the fight surrounding classifying gig workers as employees.
The Future of Liability in the Gig Economy
The legal system fails consumers and workers by failing to address the concerns surrounding gig workers and liability adequately. In many ways, it is almost as though the legal system took a few steps back from the decades-long advancements in consumer safety regulations and business liability.
The companies who operate the gig economy utilize sophisticated legal tactics to dissuade the legal system from holding them accountable for accidents caused by their gig workers. This is an issue that is not unique to the United States. Many of these companies that operate internationally are also beginning to see pushback from other countries. It is only a matter of time that their ability to stir up legal confusion comes to an end. In the meantime, though, consumers will be at a significant disadvantage.
A Gig Worker Caused an Accident. What Do I Do?
As the legal battles rage on to sort out the many issues with the gig economy, it is essential to know your rights if you are involved in an accident with a gig worker. If you suspect that the person who hit you was engaged in gig work activity, be sure to notate this when you gather their information.
Make no mistake. It will be a struggle to get the compensation you deserve from the companies and gig worker’s insurance. What used to be a relatively simple case against an employee has turned into a much murkier legal battle when gig workers are involved. Don’t find yourself trapped in the muck of these companies denying your legitimate claims.
That is why the next (and most important) step is to immediately contact an attorney that is qualified to handle accident cases involving gig workers. Darrigo and Diaz is Florida’s leading legal team with the knowledge and experience to help you through the complicated process of recovering damages from at-fault gig workers.
The team at Darrigo and Diaz offers a free, no-obligation phone consultation to answer your questions and help you understand the specifics of your case. Reach out to us at (813) 774-3341 to get in touch with a gig worker accident expert. You can also confidentially connect with us by contacting us online.