Though the name has been hotly contested, there’s no debate that the gig economy, or the private-citizen-to-private-citizen trade of goods and services, is alive and thriving. From cars to dwellings to clothes to furniture to even friends, app developers have helped facilitate the expansion of a market that lets regular people sell or rent their stuff or labor to strangers online. On the whole, the results have been wonderful. Sellers are finding new, creative ways to bring in extra income, and buyers are happy to spend extra money for a better, more personal experience.
Some dubious scenarios surrounding accident and theft coverage for the sellers in these situations, specifically regarding who’s on the hook for costs, have arisen. One woman publicized a horror story of an AirBNB gone bad when she rented her beautiful condo and returned to find her house trashed, her stuff ransacked, and her memories scattered all over. A man who took odd jobs on Airtasker discovered while he was on a gardening job that the house where he was worked had asbestos. These incidents and more beg the question: Who’s on the hook for insurance in the gig economy?
Insurance agencies got hip to Uber quickly and discontinue the policy whenever a driver has the app open, although Uber allows a small amount of coverage while they’re on the app. AirBNB used to offer nearly no protection whatsoever, but now offers some protection from rare vandalism and theft. Airtasker offers a little insurance to its workers as well, but its policy has a lot of caveats as to which tasks it will offer worker’s compensation for; for example, the business will not offer insurance coverage to building jobs, fitness training, taxi driving, and other “risky” jobs.
The classic argument that the apps offer in court when they’re sued for insurance liability is that the people who use the app do so willingly knowing full well that the coverage is minimal. Furthermore, if a person were doing handiwork for a neighbor without the facilitation of the app, the worker would not expect any sort of compensation in the event of an accident.
Still, there’s a clear void in the market for who’s responsible for accidents that are incurred in the gig economy. Welcome Bunker, an insurance agency that handles the leg-work for freelancers, independent contractors, and other who don’t have employers to cover their risks. Put most simply, Bunker allows contractors and employers to get on the same page regarding required insurance and proof of coverage. While it doesn’t necessarily offer insurance, it does ensure that the employee is covered enough to prevent suits on either side. While the site is still rather young, it’s starting to help fill the coverage void for non-traditional workers.
As the gig economy grows and diversifies, insurance will continue to play catch-up, but if you’re participating in the gig economy either as a buyer or seller, you need to know what you’re covered for on your personal policy and the company’s policy.