New Year Changes New York Livery Firms’ Workers’ Compensation

December 18, 2009

Some New York independent livery companies will have a new insurance requirement for licensing starting Jan. 1, 2010.

The state is requiring that independent livery bases in Westchester, Nassau and New York City either join a new Livery Drivers Benefit Fund or provide proof of workers’ compensation coverage for all of their drivers.

The new law signed by Gov. David Paterson in July makes these livery bases employers of all the drivers they dispatch for the purpose of workers’ compensation. Thus they must either have workers’ compensation coverage, or join the new injury fund to cover their drivers.

Before the law change, injured livery drivers could go years without compensation as their cases bounced between the no-fault insurance and workers’ compensation systems, according to backers of the change.

The new law defines which drivers are employees and which are independent contractors. It also created the Independent Livery Drivers Benefit Funda to provide full workers’ compensation coverage for independent-contractor drivers who suffer serious injuries on the job.

The fund provides benefits for drivers who are dispatched by qualifying independent livery bases licensed in Westchester, Nassau and New York City.

Effective Jan. 1, 2010, in order to obtain or renew a license, each base must provide the governing Taxi and Limousine Commission with proof of a workers’ compensation policy for its drivers, or a certificate that it is a member of the new fund.

Membership in the fund costs $260 per affiliated vehicle. Loss costs for the workers’ compensation alternative (assigned under new classification code 7364) are expected to be $2.70 per $100 of payroll—or between $1,300 and $1,500 per car.

The fund only covers drivers while on dispatch from an independent livery base. All other employees, dispatchers and office workers must be covered by a separate workers’ compensation policy.

To join the new fund, eligible livery firm owners must first resolve any outstanding debt with the Workers’ Compensation Board. Then they must obtain and sign a form that affirms their eligibility for the fund before completing an application from the insurer, Hereford Insurance Co., and submitting it along with payment.

Every independent livery base applying for membership in the fund must affirm that the livery base is not classified by the governing Taxi and Limousine Commission as a black car base or luxury limousine base and is not a member of the New York Black Car Operators’ Injury Compensation Fund, Inc. Their livery drivers must set their own hours and days of work, choose which dispatches or fares to accept and not have their pay subject to federal income tax withholding by the livery base.

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