If your neighborhood is like ours, you probably see a daily stream of delivery trucks and drivers pass by. Due to COVID-19, more and more people are ordering items and food online; the number of delivery drivers on San Antonio’s roads has skyrocketed to meet our demand.
More delivery drivers and tight deadlines are a dangerous combination. It’s not hard to find news stories about the hazardous working conditions that many drivers find themselves in, and it’s no surprise that these conditions can lead to mistakes and poor decisions that cause car wrecks. However, when a delivery driver injures you or a loved one, you don’t want excuses — you want fair compensation and peace of mind.
Sheltering in Place Puts Pressure on Delivery Drivers, Making Errors More Common
Today, a broad network of delivery drivers helps us get the goods we need, from groceries and paper towels to lunch from our favorite taqueria. Amazon alone partners with roughly 800 delivery contractors that manage 75,000 or more delivery drivers. These delivery partners handle at least 23% of the company’s orders and often face grueling deadlines and unreasonable expectations, which they pass on to their drivers.
While drivers are expected to deliver between 120 and 50 packages during off-peak times, these numbers skyrocket to over 300 daily deliveries during peak periods, which includes during COVID-19 shutdowns. At the same time, orders for oversized items, ranging from furniture and big-screen televisions has increased, making delivery jobs even more difficult.
Many drivers have gone to extreme lengths to meet Amazon and other company’s expectations. Delivery drivers have reported skipping breaks and meals, and many rely on caffeine and other stimulants during the day. In a recent article, one anonymous Amazon driver noted that he has to choose between safety and productivity. The man said he’d even stopped wearing a seatbelt because he couldn’t afford spending seconds buckling and unbuckling it between deliveries.
“It’s a second to cut off the time it takes to complete our routes,” the driver told a journalist, “and one second is a lot of time for us.”
Was the Driver an Employee, Contractor, or Gig Worker?
Commercial vehicle cases are always more complicated than the typical motor vehicle collision that involves two passenger vehicles. Insurance coverage has a lot to do with this added complexity. Texas takes an “at-fault” approach to car crash claims; you’ll typically file claims with the negligent driver’s insurance company. So, before you file an injury claim or a lawsuit, you’ll need to determine the driver’s relationship with the delivery company.
When a delivery driver is an employee, the company is typically responsible for their on-the-job negligence. For example, most UPS drivers are employees. If a UPS driver is texting while driving and rear-ends your vehicle, their employer’s insurance policy should cover your damages.
While most big delivery companies have significant insurance coverage, smaller “mom and pop” delivery services may have much less coverage. In Texas, businesses only have to carry $25,000 in property damage and $60,000 in bodily injury coverage per crash, with a $30,000 per-victim cap in bodily injury claims.
Independent Delivery Partners
It’s easy to assume a delivery driver is a company employee if they’re wearing a uniform and driving a vehicle covered in logos. However, this assumption may be incorrect. Companies like FedEx and Amazon often use delivery partners who use their logos and standardized uniforms. In fact, there’s a good chance that your Amazon delivery driver works for one of the company’s many delivery partners, no matter what their shirt says.
“Big companies rely on delivery partners for one reason: it helps them avoid liability. If one of their partner’s drivers causes a wreck, the victims must sue the delivery partner, not Amazon or FedEx.”
Big companies rely on delivery partners for one reason: it helps them avoid liability. If one of their partner’s drivers causes a wreck, the victims must sue the delivery partner, not Amazon or FedEx.
Many of these smaller “final mile” delivery partners have modest insurance policies. Amazon, for example, favors small delivery companies (with 100 or fewer employees) over larger ones. Small businesses are more likely to cut costs and opt for less insurance coverage.
Companies like UberEATS, Doordash, and Shipt have become part of our everyday life. However, these companies take varying stances for how they cover their delivery drivers, who are gig workers. While UberEATS and Doordash have up to $1 million in coverage per crash, other companies like Shipt, Instacart, and Grubhub do not provide any insurance coverage for their gig drivers. Instead, they insist that the drivers maintain their own insurance policies.
Unfortunately, many personal auto insurance policies will not cover crashes and incidents that occur while the driver was engaging in commercial activity. So, unless the gig driver purchased a special commercial driving policy or rider, they might be uninsured for your claim.
Do You Have Personal Auto Policies That May Cover Your Injuries?
While your liability claims will focus on the driver and their insurance companies, you may also have claims with your own insurer. Most Texas drivers carry at least a modest amount of personal injury protection (PIP) and uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. These policies can provide additional compensation when the at-fault delivery driver has insufficient coverage.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
PIP is a no-fault insurance policy that will help cover your lost income and medical bills. You should have at least a modest amount of PIP coverage unless you declined it in writing. PIP also covers family members that live with you.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Even if the at-fault delivery driver has a larger insurance policy, a catastrophic wreck or multi-vehicle pileup can quickly exceed the policy limits. In these cases, UM/UIM coverage will step in and cover your excess losses. As with PIP, you should have at least a modest uninsured and underinsured motorist policy unless you declined the coverage in writing.
Delivery Vehicles Often Have Onboard Tracking Systems That Collect Potential Evidence
Commercial vehicles, including delivery trucks and cars, often have sophisticated systems that track their every move. These technologies, which are called telematics, provide companies with detailed information about drivers’ speed, location, engine performance, and behaviors. Some even have onboard dash cams that record the view inside and outside the vehicle. These systems can provide an essential source of evidence during an injury claim.
Recently, we represented a young pedestrian who was hit by a reckless delivery driver. We quickly sent letters demanding access to electronic data about the driver’s conduct before and after the crash. We discovered a pattern that the driver had a long history of speeding on the job, and that the company had ignored the problem. If we had not acted quickly, the company may have disposed of this essential information. Unlike a commercial truck’s logbooks, there are no rules about how long a company must preserve a delivery driver’s telematics data.
Crosley Law: Fighting for Crash Victims in San Antonio and Throughout Texas
At Crosley Law, our experienced personal injury lawyers have represented numerous victims of commercial vehicle crashes. Whether you or your loved one were injured by an 18-wheeler, a box truck, or a delivery driver’s personal vehicle, we can help you understand your rights and legal options. We offer free consultations, both in-person and by video conference. Contact us today at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or fill out our brief contact form to schedule your initial consultation.
Gurley, L.K. (2020, July 1). Amazon delivery drivers are overwhelmed and overworked by COVID-19 surge. Vice. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/m7j7mb/amazon-delivery-drivers-are-overwhelmed-and-overworked-by-covid-19-surge
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.