Food delivery services have proven to be a lifesaver, especially after the start of the COVID 19 pandemic. You can stay safe from the comfort of your own home without worrying about where your next meal is going to come from. The demand for food delivery services has shot up in the year 2020, and companies in this industry are scrambling to get more drivers to fill this growing need.
However, as more food delivery vehicles ply the roads of Dallas, the number of accidents involving these vehicles has grown as well, sparking government programs to improve delivery driver safety. If you are a victim of a motor vehicle accident involving a food delivery driver, you are well within your rights to seek compensation for the damage and injuries they have caused. However, lawsuits involving food delivery drivers are more complex compared to suing regular motorists. If you plan on filing a lawsuit, it's better to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you navigate this complicated process.
What Should You Do After a Food Delivery Vehicle Accident?
When you hear about food delivery vehicle-related accidents, you automatically think of car crashes involving delivery drivers. Although that is the most common scenario, food delivery vehicle-related crashes can also refer to delivery trucks crashing into a residential or commercial property. If you are the victim in any one of these scenarios, what should you do to ensure that you get properly compensated if you decide to file a lawsuit later on?
This is the most important step you have to take. If a truck accident is unreported, it's easy for the truck driver to deny a lot of allegations later on. When you call 911, the dispatcher will send a policeman or peace officer to the accident scene. The officer will write an accident report, which you can use later as evidence against the other driver.
Get Treated Immediately
A lot of drivers are hesitant to get treated after an accident because it will mean medical bills to be paid later on. However, if you plan on suing the other party for damages, you shouldn't turn down medical intervention, as this can be paid for by the other party later on.
Call Your Insurance Provider
Even if you plan on filing for damages later, you should still inform your own insurance company about the accident. Personal injury lawsuits take time, so you may need to offset medical bills and repair costs with your own insurance policy first. All motorists are required by law to have personal injury protection insurance for situations like this. Your insurance adjuster can also assist you in compiling evidence that you will present to the other party in the future.
If your injuries are not that serious, and you do not require immediate hospitalization, you can start gathering evidence after the car crash occurs. Start by taking pictures or videos of your car and the other car. Don't forget to take pictures of your injuries as well. If you don't need to be hospitalized immediately, consider talking to witnesses and getting their testimonies.
Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
As stated earlier, the process of filing for damages against a food delivery driver is different compared to your regular car accident. Hence, it's better to seek legal representation, especially if you are seriously injured. While you are in the hospital recovering from your injuries, your lawyer can take the necessary steps for you and start settlement negotiations with the other parties involved.
Suing the Food Delivery Company: The Concept of Vicarious Liability
We've stated many times that the process of filing a lawsuit against a food delivery driver is more complex. This is because there may be more than one party involved. In most accidents like these, the plaintiff chooses to sue delivery app companies instead because of a concept known as Vicarious Liability, otherwise known as Respondeat Superior.
What is Vicarious Liability? It is a concept that states that employers are responsible for anything that their employees do. However, this doesn't always mean that you can sue the companies themselves all the time. If you want to go for respondeat superior, you have to prove two things:
The accident was caused by negligence, not ill-intent
This means that the other driver did not purposely want to hit you and that the crash was indeed an accident. For example, you cut off a pizza delivery driver on the road, and they get mad at you because of it. They start trying to hassle you by shouting curses at you and trying to sideswipe you. This ultimately leads to an accident after they hit you intentionally. Because this is a criminal act on the part of the driver, the company cannot be held liable for the accident.
The accident happened while the employee was performing duties related to their job.
A pizza delivery driver hits you while they are on an active delivery, during their work hours, and while driving the company vehicle. This is a clear-cut example of respondeat superior and in situations like this, the company can be held liable for their employee's actions. However, if the same delivery driver gets into an accident outside company hours while driving the company vehicle to run personal errands, the company may not be held liable for the accident because their employee was doing something outside the scope of their job.
Food delivery app companies are required to have a commercial insurance policy, and this is what they use to pay for damages related to job-related accidents. However, keep in mind their insurance companies will most likely have the backing of a large legal team. This team will do everything to try to devalue your claim or help the delivery company avoid the lawsuit completely. Their legal team will do their best to try to prove ill-intent on the part of the driver, or they will try to prove that the accident happened outside the scope of employment.
They may also try to pin the blame on you. Texas is a fault state, meaning the at-fault party is liable to pay for damages and injuries caused by the accident. The state also observes comparative negligence, meaning that you can't seek damages if it is proven that you are more than 50% responsible for the accident. As such, the other party's legal team may try to prove that you are the guilty party to avoid the lawsuit.
Suing the Delivery Driver: Exemptions to Respondeat Superior
In most cases, lawyers will advise their clients to sue the company because commercial insurance has larger liability coverage and can surely cover all medical expenses and vehicle repairs that the victim requires. However, there are instances wherein suing the company is almost impossible, and it's better to go after the delivery driver instead.
One such instance is when respondeat superior doesn't apply. For example, a grocery delivery driver hits your car while they're on a personal errand, or if the accident occurs outside of work hours. In cases like these, the company will deny all responsibility for the accident, and you're better of filing a lawsuit against the driver.
Because all motorists carry their own personal auto policy, the driver will have auto liability insurance to pay for bodily injury and property damage. This situation may be advantageous to the accident victim because dealing with the driver's insurance company may be easier and will yield better results compared to fighting against a large company. The downside is that personal auto policy limits are usually lower, which means that the compensation you receive from your lawsuit may not be enough to cover your medical expenses.
Lawsuits Against Independent Contractors
Another situation wherein respondeat superior doesn't apply is when the driver is not an employee of the company. This is actually quite common in business models used by food delivery companies. The drivers are considered independent contractors and are not employees of the company. When the company hires these contractors, they do so in a partnership setting.
These companies usually deliver their services through an app, and all partner drivers have access to the app and when an order comes in, any available partner can choose to accept that order. This means that when these delivery companies look for partner drivers, they look for drivers who already have a driving license and a personal vehicle. This means that the driver owns the vehicle and uses it for work. Because they have a license, it means they also have an existing auto insurance policy.
Because they are considered "partners" and not employees of the company, and they also own the vehicle involved in the accident, the driver is considered the liable party and not the company they work for.
Common Causes of Food Delivery Related Accidents
Sometimes, the choice between suing the driver or suing the company is not as linear as it seems. As stated earlier, Texas is a fault state, meaning it's possible that several parties can be liable for the accident, including the victim. Your lawyer may choose to go after several parties at once if there's enough evidence to prove that more than one party is at fault. These situations depend on what caused the accident in the first place.
Fast Delivery Times
Many food delivery services boast that they can deliver the goods to your home or office within a set amount of time. However, this is also one of the leading causes of food delivery-related accidents. Because drivers are pressured to reach their destination within a set number of minutes, they use risky driving behaviors such as speeding, cutting other cars, and frequently change lanes.
This policy may also force drivers to drive recklessly in bad weather and poor road conditions. In cases like these, while the driver may be found at fault, the company is also liable because of their company policies.
Overworked and Fatigued Drivers
Another reason why a lot of food delivery drivers get into accidents is because of long work hours. Commercial drivers can only drive a maximum of 12 hours, and they can only do that after being off-duty for 8 hours. However, because food delivery is in demand right now, many drivers are going past mandated work hours resulting in fatigued, sleepy, and distracted drivers. Drivers who are impaired because of fatigue can make critical mistakes on the road and are less mindful of other motorists.
To see who is liable in this situation, you have to ask why the driver was on the road for longer than what the law allows. Did the driver doctor their work hours so they can get more money? Or did the company force the driver to work more hours because of overwhelming demands? The answer to those questions will determine who is liable for the accident.
Poorly Maintained Vehicles
Accidents may also happen because of vehicles that were poorly maintained. If this is the case, the person liable for the accident is the person who owns the vehicle and is therefore in charge of maintaining it. If the company owns the vehicle and has done a poor job of maintaining it, they can expect lawsuits not only from the accident victims but from their drivers as well.
Why You Should Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer
As you can see, filing a lawsuit for food delivery vehicle accidents is more complex than it looks because there are several parties involved, and more than one party may be found liable for the accident. Additionally, the other parties are working against you and will actively try to dodge liability or blame you for the accident instead. This may prove too much stress for someone who was a victim of a car crash and is on the path to recovering from their injuries.
Because you have several parties working against you, hiring a personal injury lawyer will ensure that you have someone on your side, looking out for your best interest. At Glenn Law, our personal injury attorneys will use their extensive knowledge of food delivery accident laws and ensure that your rights as a victim are protected, and you get a fair settlement for all the injuries and mental anguish you experienced.