Transportation Network Company Drivers’ Rights To Workers’ Compensation

There is a new workers compensation law for Transportation Network Drivers. This new law amends several existing Washington State laws to establish new requirements for Transportation Network Companies, giving Transportation Network Company drivers certain rights and protections while allowing them to remain independent contractors.  

Per RWC 49.46, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is responsible for enforcing the new law.

What is a Transportation Network Company (TNC)?

A transportation network company (TNC), often referred to as a rideshare company, acts as a digital intermediary between passengers and drivers of vehicles for hire. TNCs, such as Uber and Lyft, use a smartphone app to connect passengers with drivers who use their personal vehicles to provide transportation services. The TNC then takes a percentage of each fare as a commission for providing the platform that connects passengers and drivers. 

TNC drivers covered by workers’ compensation

Starting Jan. 1, 2023, TNCs must provide workers’ compensation coverage for their drivers during dispatch and passenger platform time. If a driver is injured during this time, they have the right to file an L&I injury claim. This coverage applies to 

  • Passenger service drivers (Uber and Lyft)
  • Food and good delivery drivers (Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub, Freshcart, etc.)
  • Not taxi drivers. Taxi drivers are still exempt from workers’ compensation

Workers’ compensation benefits available for Uber and Lyft drivers 

If a driver’s injury claim is approved, benefits can include 

  • Medical care directly related to the covered injury
  • Potential partial wage replacement
  • Return-to-work assistance
  • Disability or pension payments for the severely injured. 

When does workers’ compensation cover TNC drivers?

TNCs will report and pay premiums for L&I coverage for their drivers during dispatch platform time and passenger platform time. This means TNC drivers only receive coverage during dispatch and passenger platform time. 

Dispatch Platform Time

As per WAC 296.128.99010, Dispatch platform time is defined as

“The time a driver spends traveling from a dispatch location to a passenger pick-up location. Dispatch platform time ends when a passenger cancels a trip or the driver begins the trip through the driver platform. A driver cannot simultaneously be engaged in dispatch platform time and passenger platform time for the same transportation network company. For shared rides, dispatch platform time means the time a driver spends traveling from the first dispatch location to the first passenger pick-up location.”

Passenger Platform Time 

Passenger platform time is defined as

“The period of time when the driver is transporting one or more passengers on a trip, or portion of a trip, as follows:

  1. For a dispatched trip with a passenger pick-up location in Washington the entirety of the trip, regardless of the passenger drop-off location; and
  2. For a dispatched trip with a passenger pick-up location outside of Washington, the portion of passenger platform time and mileage that occurs within Washington.”

If a driver is injured during either of these periods, they have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim.

When does a TNC driver have a third-party claim?

Many TNC drivers filing an L&I claim after an auto accident also have a third-party claim. A third-party claim is an L&I injury claim and a personal injury claim arising out of the same set of facts. You have a third-party claim if you are injured on the job by someone who is not your employer or co-employee.

  • An Uber driver who gets in an auto accident and is not at fault will have an L&I claim and a third-party claim against the at-fault driver.
  • Similarly, a DoorDash delivery worker who slips in a restaurant will have an L&I claim and a possible third-party claim against the restaurant.

Reporting an injury while driving for Transportation Network Companies 

If independent contractors are injured while driving for a TNC, there are two crucial steps to take immediately

  1. Get medical attention
  2. Report the injury to your TNC

While receiving medical attention for your injury, inform the medical professional that the injury occurred while you were working, then file an L&I injury claim with their assistance. 

You can file an L&I injury claim online or call toll-free at 1-877-561-FILE.

What to expect from L&I after filing a TNC injury claim  

Maintaining open communication with L&I to address account and claim topics and ensure timely resolutions is essential.  

Once you have filed your claim, L&I may contact you to verify whether you were in covered status (dispatch platform time and passenger platform time) when the injury occurred. L&I will confirm that you were injured in covered status with the TNC before assigning the claim to the TNC’s L&I account. 

If the injury doesn’t meet the coverage criteria, L&I will reject the claim. 

Additional rights and protections for rideshare drivers (Uber and Lyft drivers ONLY)

In addition to L&I benefits, ESHB 2076 provides Uber and Lyft drivers in Washington State with other key rights and protections as independent contractors, including

  • Notice of rights
  • Minimum per mile, per minute, and per trip rates for drivers.
  • The right to paid sick time.
  • Protection from companies retaliating against a driver who exercised their rights under the law.

These aspects of the new law only provide statewide protections for drivers who perform passenger services for rideshare companies. Food and goods delivery drivers (Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub, Freshcart, etc.) do not have the right to these protections.

Notice of rights

Rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft must provide each driver with a written notice of rights within 48 hours of beginning to provide passenger platform services. 

Minimum pay rates

The law establishes minimum per-mile, per-minute, and per-trip rates for Uber and Lyft drivers. L&I will adjust rates based on inflation annually on September 30th, which will take effect the following January.

Additionally, TNCs shall pay all tips to drivers. Driver tips are an addition to, and may not count toward, the driver’s minimum compensation.  

Washington drivers will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours of passenger platform time worked, which can be used once the driver has recorded 90 hours of passenger platform time on the TNC’s driver platform. 

Driver resource center 

The law also creates a Driver Resource Center to represent Uber and Lyft drivers during deactivation appeals and to provide culturally appropriate driver services, outreach, and education. 

L&I has contracted with Drivers Union to operate the Driver Resource Center for the tens of thousands of rideshare drivers statewide.

Retaliation protections  

It is illegal for Transportation Network Companies to retaliate against a driver for exercising any of the rights provided in this law. 

If a driver feels a company has retaliated, the driver may file a complaint with L&I within 180 days of the alleged retaliatory action. If the department finds the allegation true, and the TNC and driver do not reach a resolution, the department can fine the company.

We can ensure you receive the L&I benefits you deserve

If you’ve suffered an injury while driving for a TNC and are struggling to receive the benefits you deserve, schedule a complimentary phone consultation with Sharpe Law Firm today. 

During our phone time with you, we can answer any questions and clarify any uncertainty regarding your rights under these new laws. Then, if we find a TNC is violating these rights, we can help you determine the best path forward.

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Christopher Sharpe is the go to attorney for injured persons. His law firm is helpful, honest, and knowledgeable about workers' compensation and personal injury law in the State of Washington. Chris has been helping injured Washington State workers for over 40 years. He has built a successful law practice by thoroughly educating, honestly helping, and successfully representing workers throughout Washington State.

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