The recent Covid-19 epidemic has triggered an increased demand for food and grocery delivery. Though many restrictions on Ohio businesses have been lifted, many people remain hesitant to return to indoor dining and grocery stores. Others initially returned to shopping and eating out but scaled back after reopenings led to increased Covid-19 cases. High demand for food and grocery delivery appears to be here to stay for a while, and not just from restaurants that typically provide delivery services. The rapid growth of third-party services like DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats expanded options beyond restaurants offering traditional delivery. Many grocery and retail stores are now offering additional services including delivery as well.
That’s great news for people stuck at home and looking for a variety of dinner and shopping options, but it also means an increase in delivery drivers on the road and delivery workers on other people’s property. And that means more opportunity for injuries, either on the road or on the customer’s property.
Determining who is responsible for a delivery worker’s injuries can be complicated, particularly since some drivers are employees covered by workers’ compensation and some are independent contractors.
Delivery Driver Automobile Accident Injuries
The first consideration when a delivery driver has been in a motor vehicle accident on the job is whether the driver is an employee or an independent contractor. While there are exceptions, restaurant and grocery store drivers are typically employees, while those who make deliveries for third-party services like DoorDash and Instacart are usually independent contractors.
A driver who is an employee and is injured in traffic while making a delivery will typically be covered by workers’ compensation, meaning he or she can secure compensation through the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). That often simplifies access to medical coverage and replacement income, but generally provides more limited compensation than a personal injury claim.
Workers’ compensation is generally an exclusive remedy as to the employer, meaning that an injured worker can’t file a personal injury suit against his or her employer, even if the employer was negligent. But in some cases, the injured worker may have a separate claim against a third party, such as another driver who caused the accident. The victim doesn’t get to recover twice for the same losses, though. When a third party is liable or partially liable for the injury, the BWC has a right of subrogation. In simple terms, that means that if the injured worker is awarded compensation for the same damages, the BWC may have the right to get paid back for some of the benefits it has paid. An attorney experienced in both workers’ compensation and personal injury claims can explain in more detail how subrogation works, why it may be in your best interest to pursue both claims and to ensure that the BWC does not overreach in their attempts to collect more than they are entitled to under the law.
Independent contractors aren’t covered by workers’ compensation, which means that a motor vehicle accident that happens while the delivery driver is working will play out much like any other car accident claim. If another driver or some other party is wholly or partly responsible for the accident, the driver may have a personal injury claim against that party. Depending on the circumstances, there may even be a claim against the company the driver contracts for–since workers’ compensation doesn’t apply, there’s no prohibition on suing the company if its negligence caused or contributed to the injury.
It’s important to note, though, that the fact that a company classifies you as an independent contractor doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an independent contractor under the law. For more information, see our previous blog post on workers’ compensation and misclassified workers or use the BWC checklist to determine whether you may be misclassified. If you’re unsure whether or not you may qualify for workers’ compensation, the experienced work injury attorneys of Plevin & Gallucci can help.
Delivery Drivers and Premises Liability
Another risk for delivery drivers involves entering the customer’s premises. For example, a delivery driver walking up onto the porch of a customer’s house may be injured by tripping on toys left carelessly on the steps, a broken step or loose rail, or an uneven surface. Other risks may include inadequate lighting, wet surfaces, improperly cleared ice and snow, and animal attacks. For an employee, any of these types of injuries may be covered by workers’ compensation.
Drivers working as independent contractors, as those driving for third-party delivery services often do, won’t have access to workers’ compensation benefits (assuming they are properly classified). However, some companies provide limited benefits to contractors who are injured on duty. For example, DoorDash provides some medical coverage, and even disability payments of up to $500/week for injured workers. If you’re working as a contractor for a third party delivery service, it’s in your best interest to make sure you fully understand what is and is not covered and what additional insurance you may need to provide before an accident happens.
Claims against Third Parties
As in the car crash scenario, workers injured on the customers’ property may or may not have additional claims against third parties, such as the property owner. The mere fact that the delivery person was injured on someone else’s land doesn’t necessarily entitle them to compensation. However, if they can demonstrate that they were injured because the property owner or some other person responsible for the condition of the property was negligent, they may have a premises liability claim.
Talk to an Experienced Ohio Work & Personal Injury Lawyer
Determining how best to proceed after a delivery-related injury can be difficult. Do you have a workers’ compensation claim, a personal injury claim against a third party, or both? Does it make sense in your situation to pursue both claims? Are you covered by your own or company insurance, and if so, how does that interact with any other possible claims you may have?
The best thing you can do after an on-the-job injury is to contact an attorney who is experienced in both Ohio workers’ compensation claims and personal injury litigation. Plevin & Gallucci has been fighting for Ohio injury victims for decades and can provide the information and insights you need to make good decisions about your next steps. The initial consultation is absolutely free, and we never charge a fee unless and until we recover compensation for you.