Due to the rash of restaurant closings and/or restrictions related to social distancing brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, many of us have turned to “carry-out” and “home delivery” in order to continuing enjoy our favorite restaurants. However, with an increase in the number of vehicles involved in food delivery comes a potential rise in the number of automobile accidents. In today’s post the commercial vehicle accident lawyer at The Doan Law Firm will discuss some of the legal issues that you could face if you are injured in an accident involving one of these vehicles.
In general, restaurant food delivery services operate along the same lines as rideshares such as Lyft and Uber: you use the delivery services app to order and pay for your food and your order is delivered to your front door, usually in less time than it would take for you to drive to the restaurant, place your order, and then return home. In most cases, your food will be delivered by someone using their own vehicle although some restaurants are using their own employees to take orders and make deliveries. The “Big Four” of restaurant delivery companies are GrubHub, DoorDash, UberEats and Postmates.
Each of the “Big Four” have their own employment hiring and service standards, particularly when it comes to minimum age for drivers and required automobile accident liability insurance coverage.
UberEats requires that its drivers be at least 19 years of age to drive a car or truck and have a year or more driving experience. UberEats has “fleet-wide” liability insurance coverage for its drivers, but this policy is only valid while a driver is enroute to pick up an order and while enroute to make a delivery. UberEats does require a driver to have non-commercial proof of liability insurance.
To drive for GrubHub, a driver must be at least 19 years old and have “insurance.” However, GrubHub usually doesn’t tell its “independent contractor” drivers that a driver’s liability insurance does not apply if the vehicle is engaged in commercial (“money-making”) use! GrubHub does not provide a driver with the option to purchase additional liability insurance at a discounted rate through a national “fleet-wide” program. GrubHub requires its drivers to carry personal accident liability insurance as a condition of employment.
DoorDash requires its drivers to be 18 years old and have “… a valid driver’s license, insurance, and a clean driving record.” The company does not offer commercial vehicle liability insurance to its drivers.
Postmates is owned by DoorDash. Its age and insurance requirements are the same as for its parent company.
By making its drivers “independent contractors,” delivery services hope to avoid being held liable should a driver be involved in a traffic accident. Unfortunately, most delivery drivers are unaware that their personal automobile accident liability insurance does not apply if they are using their vehicles for commercial purposes. This will lead many accident victims to ask “What should I do if I’m involved in an accident involving a food delivery driver?” At The Doan Law Firm our commercial vehicle accident lawyer says that, depending on circumstances, you have one of three options.
If you were injured in an accident where the vehicle was being privately operated by a restaurant and not by a delivery service, you may have a claim against the restaurant and the driver’s insurance carrier. In some accidents, this option may be influenced by state insurance laws so it is always best to speak with a lawyer who is familiar with your state’s laws.
If you were involved in an accident with a driver who is covered by a company-wide liability policy, such as UberEats, you must file your claim with the insurance carrier. Since the insurance carrier will have its own legal department, we always recommend that you consult with an experienced commercial vehicle accident lawyer to make sure that you receive all the compensation you deserve.
Finally, if the driver’s personal insurance carrier refuses to honor your claim, you may be able to argue that the food delivery service is liable on the grounds that it failed to warn a driver that personal liability insurance would not cover an accident. This is an area or law that is relatively new and related cases are just now moving through the courts. In these situations you should speak with a lawyer with experience in handling potentially complex insurance cases under your state’s insurance laws.