We are frequently asked to represent drivers and other entities who have become involved in accidents in which the other vehicle was being operated commercially for Uber or UberEATS. In those cases, there is often confusion as to whether the opposing driver’s personal auto policy must apply, or whether Uber must provide first or third-party benefits.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently shed some light on that issue in Lowman v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, in which a UberX driver’s eligibility for unemployment benefits was upheld. In that decision, the Court found that, because Uber “controlled and directed the performance of Lowman’s services as a driver-for-hire,” he must be considered as an employee, rather than an independent contractor.
This decision, the first of its kind from a Pennsylvania higher court, rejects Uber’s frequently-made legal argument that drivers are “in business” for themselves and should be considered independent contractors. Instead, Uber’s control over drivers, as outlined in the written agreement signed by all drivers, constitutes an employer relationship.
This may mean that Uber will now be unable to disclaim coverage for drivers who become involved in accidents and forced to provide benefits in personal injury claims. It will now also be harder for Uber to avoid litigation and seek dismissal as a party from personal injury actions, which may also have implications for venue arguments.
The majority decision can be found here.
If you have any questions about this important development, or any other aspect of Margolis Edelstein’s practice, do not hesitate to contact Alexandra Skarka at firstname.lastname@example.org.