With many consumers ordering online for convenient home delivery, roads throughout the United States are full of delivery trucks from companies such as FedEx and UPS as well as those from online merchants like Amazon and other retailers. Online business has grown as a result of pandemic-induced changes to shopping habits, and with that growth has come the proliferation of delivery vehicles on the roads. The presence of so many of these delivery trucks and vans has inevitably led to an increase in truck accidents with these commercial vehicles. Individuals who become involved in an accident with a delivery truck may find it surprising how convoluted the process is for pursuing a claim for damages from such an accident.
What are Some of the Factors in a Delivery Truck Accident?
A truck accident can occur as a result of any of several missteps or oversights. The blame often falls to the driver, but it is possible that the at-fault party might be the trucking company or delivery service. For example, if the company held drivers to an unrealistic expectation for making timely deliveries, the company might be found liable for putting those drivers in a position to take unnecessary risks to make good time. Drivers whose jobs depend on breakneck deliveries may be inclined to exceed the speed limit out on the road or to cut other corners when it comes to safety.
Sometimes vehicle trouble can be behind the accident, as when a faulty auto part fails or a tire blows out. Other factors that may play a role include road or weather conditions, improper load packing, poorly secured loads, driver distraction, and driver fatigue.
Even when the reason behind the accident leads back to driver behavior, it may ultimately point to inadequacies in hiring, training, or supervision on the part of the employer.
The company is obligated to hire only qualified drivers with proper licensing. They must train their drivers in with an emphasis on safety and provide intermittent opportunities to reinforce the importance of safety throughout the driver’s time behind the wheel.
The Driver’s Fault and the Liability Involved for the Delivery Company
When a commercial driver causes an accident, the company they work for might be held liable if the accident happened in the course of the driver’s work. In other words, if the driver was performing normal work duties when the accident occurred, then the accident would be considered work related and the company can be held liable.
However, If the driver was acting in a personal capacity, even if they were driving a company vehicle, their actions would not be seen as related to their job. For example, a driver making their way home after a shift or who stopped on the way back to run a quick errand would not be considered to be engaged in work activities. Any accident that happened under these circumstances would not involve any liability on the part of their employer.
If the Driver is Not Considered an Employee of the Delivery Company
Delivery drivers often have non-traditional arrangements with the delivery service company. Some drivers are considered independent contractors. Independent contractors are essentially workers who pick up work from the delivery service, but they are not considered employees of the company.
This arrangement may work well for an individual worker who aims to make their own schedule and take delivery assignments on their own terms. Working as an independent contractor may even offer higher pay for drivers, but calling workers independent contractors has real advantages for delivery companies that hope to avoid having to provide their drivers with certain benefits and protections.
One such protection has to do with liability when it comes to on-the-job vehicle accidents, where the distinction between employee and independent contractor has major significance for the driver as well as anyone else involved in the accident.
Should an Accident Victim File a Claim against the Driver or the Delivery Company?
When an innocent person becomes hurt in an accident involving a delivery truck, a personal injury can be significant and costly. Any person in such a position will want to have their claim covered in such a way that will ensure that they receive a fair settlement to address all their losses. Significant and lasting injuries incur burdensome monetary damages. It is understandable why a business would prefer to shift the responsibility for those repayments from their own insurance to that of their independent drivers.
It is advisable for an individual with a claim for injuries in a delivery truck accident to seek damages from the company, rather than the driver. This is because the delivery company is much more likely to have substantial reserves to cover the claim.
Whether the policy is through the delivery driver or the company, insurance coverage usually involves claim limits that determine how much an accident victim can receive for an injury. When the policy limit does not offer enough to cover the impacts of the victim’s injuries, the insurance claim may evolve into a personal injury lawsuit. When the victim sues the company, there is a higher likelihood that a successful and thriving delivery company would be able to properly compensate the victim for their injuries than it would be for the delivery driver to so.
The Delivery Truck Driver’s Work Arrangement and the Accident Victim’s Claim for Damages
In order for a claimant to be eligible for damages from the accident, they must prove that someone’s negligence led to their accident. If this negligence existed in the form of driver behavior, it may indicate that the driver was to blame. Yet, the employment arrangement may present another avenue for assigning negligence.
If the driver caused the accident in the course of doing their job, the company may be held liable for the actions of the driver, but only if the driver is considered an employee. However, when the driver is acting as an independent contractor, the company will have no liability in the accident.
This distinction provides powerful incentive for delivery companies to define their drivers as independent contractors, but this is not always an accurate classification for the arrangement.
For a delivery driver to be legitimately considered an independent contractor, the driver should be operating in the capacity of a self-employed driver under the terms of a contract with the delivery company. Things get complicated when it comes to breaking down what the company expectations are with regard to the control the company wields over the employee’s work.
A true independent contractor should have complete control over how the work is achieved, whereas a company that holds sway over the work process may be acting in a role more in line with an employer-employee relationship. When the company has this type of control over the driver, the arrangement can be seen as an employment arrangement, opening up the company to legal liability for the driver’s accident.
What Types of Damages can an Innocent Accident Victim Claim?
An individual who suffered losses in an accident with a delivery truck may be able to collect damages for those losses. Some of the most common categories for damages are as follows:
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Future medical costs
- Lost wages
- Lost earning potential
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
The Theory of Negligence and the Driver’s Liability
In order to substantiate liability, the claimant must prove that the driver, or another liable party, was negligent. Negligence can be proven by establishing the existence of four components; these are as follows:
- Duty of care
- Breach of duty
Monmouth County Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Represent People Hurt in Accidents Caused by Delivery Trucks
If you were injured in an accident caused by a delivery truck, the Monmouth County truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law can help you calculate a fair amount to settle your claim that will take into account costs you have incurred as well as any future monetary losses. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Marlboro Township, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.