When an Accident Turns your Life Upside Down

Promises Under Prop 22 Are A Dead End For Drivers

September 2023

When an Accident Turns your Life Upside Down

Promises Under PROP22 Are A Dead End For Drivers

By Mandy Bai, Uber driver since 2015

My name is Mandy Bai; I am a Chinese immigrant who has been working in Rideshare since 2015. (U.S citizen over 15 years) For over 6 years, I carried people all over Los Angeles, from the Northern San Fernando Valley to Long Beach.


Ever since I was five years old, I fell in love with driving and I felt so fortunate to make a living doing my favorite thing. I felt so confident when I was behind the wheel, and it let me see every corner of the city nearly every day!


When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, things started to change; people started to call it the “Chinese Virus” and my passengers became hostile to me, disrespecting me, and discriminating against me, just because I am Asian.

Thankfully, like so many other RDU members, AB5 gave me access to unemployment insurance, which helped keep me safe and off the road for the worst of the pandemic. Without that help, I don’t know what would have happened to me, or so many other drivers who could have been exposed to covid.  When unemployment benefits ended in August 2021, I had to start working again. I masked up and worried I might catch the virus, but was also excited to be working again. 

On October 27th, 2021, I was having an otherwise normal day of shuttling passengers from Alhambra to downtown before I got a ride to take five UCLA students to Korean Barbeque in K-town.


As I drove down Vermont Ave, I eased into the left hand turn lane looking for a break in oncoming traffic so I could safely turn onto San Marino. The light turned red, and I waited for the cars to slow before turning left out of the intersection.


Suddenly, one of the oncoming cars runs the red and crashes right into the front of my car! 

I remember it all happening so fast, the whole car jerking back from the collision, as my face slammed forward right into the steering wheel; my front teeth cracked and my jaw dislocated from the force of the impact.


Thankfully my passengers and the other driver weren’t harmed, but I could already tell that I wasn’t okay. The doctors told me that I received soft tissue trauma, and the chronic pain has been with me ever since. 

I can’t sit down for long periods of time anymore without pain. I also became anxious every time I tried to get back on the road to work, fearing that another careless driver was going to crash into me again at any moment. Even eating is a challenge for me, as my jaw is still recovering from the impact.


It’s so painful to be scared of the thing you most love doing, and although I have tried to work since then, the pain is too much for me to work for long. My mother now has to drive me around, and I cannot earn a living doing what I most love anymore. 

The injuries weren't my only challenges. Right after the accident, I had reported it to Uber, and was counting on them to help with the insurance.


The accident had happened while I was working for them, with passengers in the car, and the collision had not been my fault. The response from the company was that because of Prop 22, they were not obligated to pay anything for the accident; claiming that because I had taken time off during the pandemic, I was considered a new-driver and in the initial 30 day window.

They said I was not covered by their insurance for the accident, even though I had worked for the company for over 6 years! Because of Prop 22, I also do not qualify for Workers Comp, or other protections workers are supposed to receive, because I am misclassified as an independent contractor.  


To this day, I am still wrestling with Uber’s insurance, trying to get them to help pay for my accident, and for the medical debt I have from the accident. As I continue to struggle to have Uber pay what I'm owed, I am now in bankruptcy from all of my medical bills, and cannot afford to have my broken teeth fixed. 


I thank god that I survived the crash, but struggle to pay my bills by working Spark, all while having my soft tissue injuries treated, and have to rely on bank loans to help me keep a roof over my head and food on my table.

I wanted to share my story with all of you, because this is the danger all drivers are in whenever we go onto the road. Without full labor rights, we are one accident away from having our whole lives ruined without any support from the companies.


It is why as drivers, we need to fight for our rights if things are ever going to get better, because if it's left up to Uber, they will abandon us when times get tough. It is why we need each other. 

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