In this day and age, the majority of us are familiar with a delivery-service-gone-wrong scenario, whether it’s receiving the wrong size shoes before your big conference, or a Christmas gift arriving on your doorstep well into the New Year (and in pieces). What do you do when this happens? You go straight to the source—the shoe company or gift shop where you purchased the items is responsible for making the order right.
For simplicity’s sake, it’d be great to say that this is always the case. But today, delivery service has been permeated by third-parties, who usually work as independent contractors managing delivery between restaurants or other businesses. Think Amazon, GrubHub, Uber Eats, and Postmates.
And as much as we love the fact that you can pretty much order anything you want from anywhere and someone will deliver it to you, it makes liability astronomically complicated when a delivery vehicle crashes into you. Since these vehicles are not your run-of-the-mill cars, you’re looking at a legal case that has more in common with a trucking accident if you want compensation.
When the Third-Party Delivery Service May Be Liable
Fair warning: third-party delivery service liability situations can be extremely complicated, with many hats in the ring. Plus, the service itself is still relatively new, and laws and regulations are constantly changing. This makes hiring a delivery accident attorney who has up-to-date knowledge in the field all the more important.
Generally, it is difficult to hold a delivery service accountable for the actions of an independent contractor. This is because independent contractors are not official employees, allowing the service to skirt liability for incidents, often car crashes, involving their drivers.
This was exactly the case for a family whose 6-year-old son was hit and killed by an Uber driver who was logged into the Uber app at the time of the incident. The family sued Uber in civil court, but was unsuccessful because Uber demonstrated that the employee was an independent contractor, and that Uber did not cause the accident (TIME).
A third-party delivery service may be considered liable, however, when it can be proved that the company failed to comply with regulations or its stated rules regarding independent contractors. (Or the people it hired were acting as employees, even if they were called independent contractors.) If, for example, a delivery service driver attacked a customer and it was discovered that the service did not properly vet the driver at the time of hire, the service may be considered liable. Or suppose the company hired a driver with a history of DUI and traffic violations, who then caused a catastrophic wreck. Such a thing was foreseeable; and the company may indeed be liable.
When the Individual May Be Liable
The simple answer here is almost always. Assuming the incident involved some fault on the part of the independent contractor—i.e., he was driving the car that crashed, he hit a pedestrian while driving, he physically harmed a customer—that contractor carries at least some liability. Even if the delivery service is liable, the individual and his insurance company will probably also be liable.
In some specific instances, there may be problems with the delivery that were out of the driver’s control, such as the quality of the food. A customer who got sick after eating food delivered by a third-party would most likely hold the restaurant liable rather than the driver, assuming the food was delivered in a reasonable amount of time. (If not, that’s another story.)
What Happens After a Delivery Incident Occurs?
So now you have a better idea of who is liable under which circumstances, but what really happens after an incident (most commonly a car accident) occurs? What steps do you need to take?
First, it is good to know that some rideshare and delivery services have liability insurance policies that may cover you in the event that you are injured after a delivery driver hits your car. There are particular qualification, however, as the driver usually has to be on duty and conducting business at the time of the crash for the insurance to apply.
Regardless, actions you should take after an accident with a delivery service driver are similar to any other car accident (see our previous blog about what to do, part 1 and part 2). Write down important names and contact information of witnesses, write down the name of the delivery service driver and company, take tons of photos, see a doctor, and talk to a lawyer. On the off-shot that you were hit by a driverless truck or Uber, do the same thing.
If you suffered injury and have medical bills, a knowledgeable Belleville truck accident attorney like the ones at Hipksind & McAninch, LLC, will analyze the rules and regulations of the city or state where the incident occurred, in addition to the company’s policy. In doing this, we should be able to hold the responsible party liable in court, and earn you the compensation you deserve to pay damages and medical bills.
Big, multi-million dollar companies and their insurers use certain tactics to devalue injury claims. We know these cases since we used to argue against them as big-city St. Louis civil defense firm lawyers. Now, we only help victims, and we have the front-lines knowledge from the “other side” to do it very well.
For a free, no-time-limit consultation with John Hipskind and Brady McAninch, please call (618) 641-9189. Clients love us, even if we just point them in the right direction, so don’t be nervous to pick up the phone. May your deliveries always come on time!