This is an issue we feel you should be aware of and keep a close eye on as insurers. Uber has exploded in the market. Competitors, such as Lyft, are also making a sizable dent, but we will focus on Uber for the purpose of this article, as it has become a household name. If you need a ride from point A to point B, you can bet someone will pull out their smartphone, open the Uber app, request a ride and your driver will show up in a matter of minutes. It’s that simple. But we are looking at Uber from a different perspective; as a means for claimants to earn extra cash completely under the radar and undetected.
First and foremost, anyone can be an Uber driver. You apply, they perform a routine background check, and you are out on the road. Although there is no central repository for us to investigate who is a driver, Uber must have a database to keep track. For instance, when you open the app and request a ride, the driver’s name and photograph, vehicle make, model, color, and tag number, along with a standard photograph of the vehicle, pop up on your screen. All of that information is stored somewhere; the problem is that no one has access to it except for Uber.
Secondly, there is discussion about whether Uber drivers are considered employees or independent contractors. By usual standards, it appears that drivers are considered independent contractors, but outcomes of some lawsuits for workers’ compensation benefits purposes remain to be seen. According to Uber’s website, drivers work when they want, earn what they need. They don’t punch a clock. They use their app to let passengers know they are available, and when they feel they have had enough, they turn it off. They can drive any time, as much or as little as they want. They also get paid instantly.
Lastly, the ICU Staff has taken it upon themselves to get some information out of Uber drivers during their own personal rides. So far, this is what we have found:
One driver freely admitted he was out of work on disability and using Uber as a means to earn extra cash. He noted the best part about it is that he can work when he wants, but he likes the 6am rush hour shift in and around the Cherry Hill, NJ metro area.
Another driver mentioned that they are allowed to travel anywhere for rides. However, he noted that if they go beyond the designated geographic area that they originally established to pick up passengers, they have to “notify” Uber and get the go-ahead.
Another driver noted that when an Uber driver contacts you for whatever reason through the app, their personal phone numbers are never given out. The number is essentially “disguised” by a centralized phone number through Uber.
Another scary thought…you could be insuring an Uber driver and never even know it until they get into an accident.
As a strategic partner, we want you to be aware of all new and upcoming risks, and we feel that Uber is a sizable one. We also feel that establishing whether or not a claimant is an Uber driver would be feasible through surveillance.