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California Law and Rideshare Driver Employment Status

Rideshare Drivers: Employee or Independent Contractors?

With the rapid popularity of billion dollar ridesharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, many governmental agencies have struggled to enforce proper regulations. In recent years, ridesharing companies have become a worldwide phenomenon, grossing over $11.3 billion dollars in 2018, but also discovering new controversies along the way. From sexual harassment cases to car accident settlements, Uber alone has paid out over $100 million in penalty charges.


Among the plethora of lawsuits, perhaps the most debated is whether rideshare drivers should be considered as “employees” or “independent contractors.” Depending on the state, the difference between the two classifications can differ greatly, offering certain protections to the driver and limiting the company’s liabilities.

In this article, we will discuss the similarities between the two distinctions and how they affect liability during a personal injury case. The experts at West Coast Trial Lawyers have over 60 years of collective experience and can answer any questions you may have in regards to car accidents and personal injury.

Employee vs Independent Contractor 

Regardless of the job duties or pay scale, a company may choose to classify a worker as an “independent contractor” or as an “employee.” Though this may not affect the specific job requirements, the distinction between the two is very different in the eyes of the law. Companies that hire employees are responsible for the delegation of social security, income tax, and Medicare. Independent contractors, however, are tasked with their own devices and are mostly exempt from labor laws.

How to Distinguish Between an Employee and an Independent Contractor?  

When the courts are determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, they will consider the following:

  • Is the company in direct control of the worker’s daily duties?
  • Is the company supplying tools, reimbursements, and flexible payment   plans?
  • Does the company provide employee benefits, insurance plans, pensions, or paid vacations and sick days?
  • Is the job a key aspect of the business?

Tort Law Liability

The court defines tort as an error a worker makes that causes physical damage or personal injury to another person, whether purposely or because of negligence. The tortfeasor, or person who is responsible for the violation, is liable for a victim’s compensation. This can include, but is not limited to, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and the violation of personal rights.

Liability for Independent Contractors 

Generally speaking, most states do not accept responsibility for the negligence of their independent contractors. It is understood that an independent contractor acts separately from the company and, therefore, is personally at-fault for any wrongdoings that may occur. However, as tort laws continue to evolve, the lines of responsibility begin to blur.

Liability for Employees 

If a worker is considered an employee, then any mishaps that occur while the employee is working may fall back on the employer. This includes, but is not limited to, misconduct, carelessness, or honest missteps.

Whenever someone is injured or if personal property is damaged, the law considers this to be a “risk of business,” and the employer must take appropriate actions to rectify the situation.

California Tort Law 

It is no surprise that the progressive state of California has a unique set of regulations when it comes to tort law. When compared to other states, California courts consider the following unique points:

California Rideshare Drivers 

Both Uber and Lyft have made aggressive charges toward keeping their drivers enlisted as independent contractors. This works in the company’s benefit as the driver would be at-fault for any wrongdoings while on the job.

However, recent news has highlighted unsavory acts from rideshare drivers, such as sexual misconduct, driving while intoxicated, and even physical altercations. Though these heavy-hitting billion dollar ridesharing companies have taken a strong stance against California’s AB5, their efforts have gone to waste since rideshare drivers are now considered as employees and should reap all the benefits as such.

Who to Sue for an Uber or Lyft Accident? 

Pedestrian Deaths in Los Angeles

Now that California has enforced AB5, the rules have changed dramatically. According to this law, many independent contractors, including everyone from rideshare drivers to exotic dancers, are now considered as employees.

Therefore, if there is an accident with personal injury and property damage, the employer may be held responsible. If you were involved in an accident and you are unsure of your rights or whether you should make a claim, contact the professional attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers.

Available Damages

Accidents happen. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Below is a brief explanation of damages. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence.

Economic Damages
Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out-of-pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries.

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out-of-pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Punitive Damages
The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact were only incorporated in 5 percent of all verdicts.

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help

If you were involved in an Uber or Lyft accident, our experienced personal injury attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers will help you get the compensation you deserve for your losses. We are committed to resolving your legal issues as quickly as possible while receiving the best results. Our clients are represented on a contingency fee basis. If we do not win, you owe us nothing. There is no financial risk to prevent you from reaching out.

Contact us today by calling (213) 927-3700 or emailing [email protected] to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our knowledgeable, caring, and compassionate legal team.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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