Food delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash are now part of everyday life. In California, drivers for these services are everywhere, leading to a rise in delivery-related accidents. This raises the question of who is liable if a delivery driver strikes you. Is it the driver? Is it the delivery service they work for? And what if the driver works for multiple delivery services, as many do? The web of employment structures and insurance policies such cases present can make determining liability a complex matter.

The Gig Economy and Independent Contractors

Uber Eats, DoorDash, and similar food delivery services classify their drivers as independent contractors. A California referendum affirms their right to do so, although its constitutionality is subject to ongoing litigation. The difference between independent contractors and employees is important, as it affects liability.

An employer can often be held liable for the harmful actions of employees. However, that’s not the case for independent contractors. The company contracting out the labor is typically only liable if it exerts significant control over how the contractor performs their work.

Insurance Coverage

So we know that Uber Eats and DoorDash use independent contractors. However, these companies are also required to provide insurance for their contractors that activates depending on what the driver is doing at the time of an accident. Here’s how insurance works in three distinct “phases”:

  • Offline – If the driver is offline (not logged into the app or not looking for work), they are liable for accidents they cause. In this case, California law treats the driver like any other driver who causes an accident. Claims are filed against their personal insurance.
  • Available – Things change if the driver is available and looking for a delivery request. During this period, Uber Eats and DoorDash provide drivers with $50,000 in bodily injury coverage per person and $100,000 per accident.
  • En Route – Once a driver accepts a delivery request, their insurance coverage changes again. Now, Uber Eats and DoorDash provide $1,000,000 in coverage.

Determining Liability

A driver whose actions contribute to an accident can be at least partially liable for the consequences. Establishing that a delivery driver caused an accident will require a careful review of evidence such as:

  • Accident scene photos
  • Traffic/security camera footage
  • Physical evidence, such as debris and skidmarks
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Data from the delivery app

There are three additional factors that may affect liability for an accident:

  • Comparative Fault – California uses a comparative fault system when determining liability in auto accidents. Under this system, each driver contributing to the accident is liable for their contribution. If the delivery driver was 70% at fault, they’re only liable for 70% of the damages.
  • Driver Status – After resolving the comparative fault, we must examine the driver’s status. Were they offline, available, or en route? Their status will help determine whether the driver’s or the company’s insurance applies.
  • Company Policies – Sometimes, a driver’s actions may go against company policies and void their coverage. If that’s the case, the driver may be personally liable for damages.

Drivers for Multiple Delivery Services

Many delivery drivers work for multiple services simultaneously. What happens if someone who works for both Uber Eats and DoorDash strikes you?

In such a case, it may be possible to determine which service the driver was actively working for at the time. For example, even if they had active orders for both Uber Eats and DoorDash, which service were they en route to deliver when the crash occurred?

Contact Our Walnut Creek Personal Injury Lawyers

The defrayed liability of the gig economy means that an accident involving a food delivery driver can get complicated in a hurry. Fortunately, you don’t have to navigate the aftermath alone. If you were injured by an Uber Eats or DoorDash driver in Walnut Creek, the attorneys of Casper, Meadows, Schwartz, & Cook can help you seek the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.