Who is liable when an accident includes a delivery driver?
It’s a complicated question with a lot of variables, but the simplest answer is both driver and employer.
Whether delivering pizzas or parcels, the law is the same. It’s dependent on what the driver was doing at the time of the accident. Liability is also tied to the employee’s status, the ownership and condition of the vehicle and the driver’s own insurance policy. In most scenarios, an employer is at least partially culpable whenever someone is injured or property is damaged in the course of their work. The employer is often better off financially and can afford a settlement more readily.
If a driver was on the clock and performing a work task, then the employer is liable for damage caused, as well as for their own worker’s well being (under workers’ compensation). Delivery is part of the employee’s job description and an accident on the road is the same principle as an accident in an office, warehouse or any other work environment. It’s a legal concept called respondeat superior.
Factoring who is liable
Many delivery drivers are independent contractors and work under different stipulations than a regular employee, however. Depending on the task, a driver may be more liable than the contracting company in some cases.
When it comes to employer liability, a vehicle’s condition is important when figuring the cause of an accident. As work equipment, if a business supplies a vehicle that lacks maintenance, for example, they would be at fault.
In the historic Dominos Pizza “30 minutes or its free” cases, an official company policy was perceived to encourage reckless driving. If there is improper training or a company emphasis that neglects safety, this is cause for a lawsuit.
Reimbursement for damages also depends on insurance coverage. Most insurance companies require special coverage for commercial driving, including for low cost services like fast food delivery. If a delivery driver doesn’t have the right insurance (and many don’t), then you won’t receive the right compensation as a result. The driver’s insurance will deny the claim, meaning you need to climb up the ladder to the employing company.
In most cases, a commercial driver is a low wage earner without the insurance coverage or income to handle a claim. Even if a driver was reckless, the employer carries at least partial responsibility. Any businesses with delivery drivers will have back-up insurance to cover their own liability in cases where the driver doesn’t.
Just because a car accident happened on the job instead of the commute doesn’t change the process or remove fault. If you’ve been in an accident with a delivery driver it’s more essential than ever to document the process. A police report that documents the exact time of crash proves it was during work hours. Similarly, with the potential for three of more insurance companies reviewing the case, it’s essential to have an accurate and thorough record of what happened.
If you’ve been in a collision with a delivery driver, both driver and employer may be at fault. Because of the complicated relationships between employers and employees, the different insurance policies available and the deep pockets of many delivery companies, having an experienced lawyer look at the case is the best way to determine action. Sometimes that will be a claim against the driver, often against the company and sometimes against both.