Experience Brings Results

The sharing economy can muddy workers' compensation waters

A couple of months ago, we published a post with the intent of helping Oregon workers understand their rights when they are injured on the job. We wanted to reinforce that the confusing nature of the workers' compensation system should not be a reason for someone who has been hurt at work to settle for less in benefits than they might be entitled to.

There are so many aspects of the law that can be frustrating and it is crucial for anyone who may have a legitimate claim to get educated about what the system requires, what options may exist, and how working with an experienced attorney may be useful.

Questions concerning which workers are protected under the law and which are not may be something that deserves closer attention now, especially by those who may be considering getting involved in the developing sharing economy. By that we mean the business model used by companies such as Uber and Lyft.

These are companies that leverage mobile access and the Internet to link prospective riders with drivers who are willing to provide rides for a fee. From an entrepreneurial perspective, such companies are seen as cutting edge -- providing ready access to transportation at lower-than-cab rates. Transactions are handled by credit card, not cash. The apparent idea behind that requirement is that by eliminating cash, the risk of injury-causing confrontations between riders and drivers is reduced.

But as a recent story in Forbes notes, such confrontations happen, often leaving workers badly hurt and lacking resources to pay for their care. Why; because the sharing economy model considers them independent contractors, not employees.

Oregon law has very clear standards for determining when a worker must be classified as an employee and when they can be classified an independent contractor. But as is the case with nearly any rule, the standards are subject to interpretation and that has spurred some lawsuits around the country.

As those cases get worked out, standards may change. But for now, if you've been hurt and you need to determine whether current standards may apply to you, speak with an attorney.

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