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How Uber is paving the way for workers' compensation

If you know anything about workers' compensation, you probably know that a fundamental factor of eligibility is your employee status. If you're an independent contractor, you're excluded from such benefits. This division can be especially frustrating for contractors working in dangerous fields.

When you think about particularly dangerous professions--workers who put their lives on the line every day--you might summon to mind images of fire fighters or highway construction workers. But you might be surprised to learn that rideshare drivers have also joined the ranks of the most dangerous jobs in the country.

The reason? Aside from the inherent risks that come with spending most of your day behind the wheel, rideshare drivers must also deal with disorderly conduct from their passengers. You'd probably expect drivers to have to take the occasional rowdy, disruptive college kids home after a night of heavy drinking. But the risks rideshare drivers face far surpass that. Rideshare drivers are often the victims of violence ranging from battery to murder. In fact, if you become a rideshare driver, your chance of being murdered increases five-fold compared to the average of all other jobs.

Knowing how much drivers put their personal safety in jeopardy just by going to work, you may think it's unfair for these workers to be denied protections for work-related injuries simply because of their independent contractor status. It seems that Uber would agree with you.

The rideshare company Uber has recently released a pilot program that provides drivers with the option of signing up for workers' compensation benefits. In exchange for drivers giving up a few cents on the mile--and charging passengers an extra 5 cents per mile--drivers become eligible for up to $1 million in compensation in the event of an injury.

The landmark program has only been released in eight states so far, but if successful, Uber hopes to expand it across the U.S. This move could also spur other rideshare companies to follow suit.

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