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Transportation Brief: Occupational Accident Coverage in the Gig Economy

by Shannon M. Cohen, Gregory M. Feary, Jeffrey S. Toole

Sep 21, 2017

Occupational Accident Coverage in the Gig Economy

The collaborative economy or “gig economy” continues to make its mark on the independent contractor landscape. As these services and the companies that oversee them mature, the market is responding to contractors’ business needs in much the same way the market has responded to independent contractors in other, more traditional business models. One example is a new work injury policy with a pricing and coverage structure to address the on-demand, collaborative economy model in which workers may provide services for a variety of companies for successive short periods of time.  

Uber and insurer OneBeacon unveiled a plan to provide such structured work injury insurance a/k/a occupational accident insurance (occ-acc) for independent contractor drivers earlier this year. While some of Uber’s drivers and third-party commentators have criticized the occ-acc program as an attempt by Uber to avoid offering workers’ compensation coverage (without regard to the threshold question of whether workers’ compensation coverage is in fact required), other industry participants and legislators have appeared willing to evaluate occ-acc as an alternative to workers’ compensation that is specifically tailored to independent contractors in the collaborative economy. In fact, three states have had such laws in place for several years as applied to more conventional owner-operator freight transportation. The value of this development is that it may lead to creative insurance coverages that can account for the increasingly flexible independent contractor model. 

To the extent critics’ arguments gain traction, Uber has addressed similar concerns by adopting a decisive strategy of lobbying state legislatures to enact laws that favor the emerging gig economy, e.g., obtaining legislative exceptions to licensing laws imposed upon taxi services. Early signs indicate Uber may well pursue a similar legislative strategy to address the independent contractor status of its drivers. If it chooses to pursue legislative clarification on the issue, this could be an opportunity to clarify similar obligations in other areas of trucking and transportation. The Firm regularly monitors state and federal legislative initiatives that affect driver classification.


Scopelitis’ Transportation Brief® is intended as a report to our clients and friends on developments affecting the transportation industry. The published material does not constitute an exhaustive legal study and should not be regarded or relied upon as individual legal advice or opinion.


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