Articles Posted in Liability

Companies are often not liable for negligence of independent contractors

dreamstime_s_44128933-300x200Ho, ho, ho. Tis the season when we get together with our families, go to church, and of course shop. More than ever, that means we buy items online and get them quickly delivered to our door steps.

Amazon hires thousands of delivery drivers under a program it calls Amazon Flex. These people have the flexibility to work seven days a week and as many hours as he or she can handle – even after working all day somewhere else.

But it is Amazon which gets the real advantage of flexibility. The company is able to increase its pool of drivers without paying job benefits, health insurance, and vehicle liability insurance.

How does it do this? Flex drivers are somehow not classified as employees but as independent contractors.

So who is liable when there delivery truck drivers cause a wreck? This issue is winding its way through different courts with predictably conflicting results. The Texas Supreme Court rendered a decision on a related case in 2015.

The problem is that allowing delivery drivers to be classified as independent contractors shifts liability and compensation from the company to the individual who may not even have auto insurance. If he does, you can bet it is the minimum coverage. In Texas, that is only $30,000 per one person injured, $60,000 for everyone injured (excepting the driver) and $25,000 for all vehicle damage (excepting the truck). That’s usually not enough money to pay for everyone’s medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.

This disturbing trend is not limited to Amazon. FedEd, UPS, WalMart and other retailers and delivery services also rely on a fleet of independent contractors to make their deliveries.

Oh, Uber and Lyft do this too, but that’s a separate story that happens frequently in our new “gig economy.”

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