With the growth of companies like Amazon, Grubhub and Uber Eats, home delivery services have been increasing in popularity for a number of years. The pandemic led to an even greater demand for home delivery services which resulted in other companies, like Walmart, expanding their delivery services.
The implications for the future of this increase are vast, and still largely unknown. Immediate issues include more delivery drivers and vehicles on the road and more pressure on drivers to get their goods delivered quickly. All of these are likely to lead to more car accidents.
Common Accidents and Injuries
- Car accidents. These can occur when a delivery person is operating a vehicle, walking from his/her vehicle to deliver a package, and/or while parked on the side of the road. Delivery drivers are out all times of the day and in all weather conditions. Rain and snow can lead to additional car accidents.
- Slip and fall accidents. Delivery people are out in all kinds of weather which can lead to an increase in slip and fall accidents. Delivery people can slip on icy sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. In addition delivery drivers are exposed to a variety of different homes and businesses, some of which are better maintained then others. They could be injured tripping over debris or while on stairs.
- Dog bites. With more and more people delivering items to peoples residences, the risk of dog bites from dogs who get out or are not restrained has increased.
- Vehicle safety Issues. A 2021 Business Insider Article states that 10 current and former delivery drivers contracted by Amazon reported that they had been instructed by their managers to ignore safety issues including: “jamming doors, damaged seatbelts, low tire tread, busted rearview cameras, and broken mirrors.”
- Violent crimes. Delivery drivers are the victims of car jackings, robberies and assaults.
- Disease. In our current climate, where COVID-19 is still threatening the world, delivery drivers are risking their own health by coming into contact with people and things that people routinely touch throughout the day like door handles and mailboxes.
- Soft tissue injuries and broken bones. Drivers may experience injuries such as soft-tissue or broken bones from frequent lifting and carrying of heavy and unwieldy items.
Thing to Consider When a Delivery Driver is Injured
When a delivery driver is injured, the first questions may be, who is liable and can the driver recover damages? The answer to these questions is that it depends. It depends on a number of factors including whether or not the employee is an independent contractor or an employee, and whether or not the driver is liable for causing the accident or injury. It is not always easy to determine all the parties responsible when delivery drivers are involved in car accidents or injured on the job.
Some companies and restaurants employ drivers to drive directly for them. Amazon, UPS and FedEx all have drivers who are employees and work directly for them and operate their companies vehicles. They also have independent contractors who are not employees. Those contractors may still drive company vehicles, or they might drive vehicles owned by their employer or the service which they are contracted with. For other services, like Grubhub and UberEats, drivers typically own their own vehicle and work as independent contractors.
In addition, some delivery services, like Amazon, contract at least a portion of their business to private delivery services. In that case, it is the contracted service that is actually the delivery driver’s employer. Or possibly not, the delivery driver could be an independent contractor.
Independent contractors often sign an agreement with the company they are providing services for. One of the clauses in that agreement is likely one that states that the contractor is not an employee and is not entitled to any of the employee benefits that the company typically provides. It might even specifically mention workers’ compensation or disability insurance.
It is important to determine if a delivery driver is an employee or an independent contractor. In workplace accidents involving employees, typically an employee can file a workers compensation claim against their employer to recover for things like medical costs (medical bills, prescriptions, etc.), property damage, and lost wages. However, workers’ compensation is only available to employees. Many delivery drivers are independent contractors, meaning that they are not employees and they are therefore not entitled to damages.
Fault is also important in determining who is liable, and whether there are any damages, when an accident or injury occurs. The state in which the car accident or injury occurs will be critical in determining if the delivery driver could possibly recover any damages. In most states, the comparative negligence doctrine is followed. Under this doctrine, with some caveats, the driver’s damages are reduced by the amount of fault. So for example, if a driver is awarded $100,000 in damages but found to be 20% at fault for the accident or injury, then the damage award would automatically be reduced to $80,000. In a state like North Carolina, which follows the contributory negligence doctrine, if the driver is found to be partially at fault, even 1% at fault, then they will (in most situations) be precluded from recovering any damages. So a $100,000 damages award, even with a finding of 1% fault, could be reduced to $0.
Premises liability is also an issue in delivery driver cases. Property owners are required to maintain their property to ensure that visitors to the property are not injured. A delivery driver who slips and falls because of something not maintained on the property might have a claim against a property owner for premises liability.
Our Charlotte Attorneys Can Help
If you are a delivery driver and were injured while working, or if you were involved in an accident with a delivery driver, you should speak with a Charlotte attorney to determine the likelihood of successfully recovering damages. The Charlotte NC based lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced accident attorneys who can help. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation