Are You Covered for A Car Accident with An Instacart Vehicle?

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With more people sheltering in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, delivery services like DoorDash, GrubHub, and Instacart have become incredibly popular, both for people using these services and for those who make deliveries. All you need to work for these companies is a car and a smartphone, and you can start making deliveries right away. However, while starting work with these companies might be simple, the outcome can be incredibly painful if you were to get in an accident while on a job. As a personal injury lawyer who handles car accident cases for a living, I looked into this potential pitfall when my 18-year-old daughter started working for Instacart when the pandemic hit us in early March.

Few of these companies provide car insurance to their drivers should they get in an accident. Some companies, like DoorDash, do offer the option to purchase auto insurance, but others, like Instacart, offer no such protection. Instacart’s independent contractor agreement requires you to obtain your own car insurance in amounts “consistent with legal requirements, including any required no fault automobile liability or commercial liability insurance.” Their contract language is very clear:

YOU UNDERSTAND THAT INSTACART DOES NOT PROVIDE ANY INSURANCE LISTED ABOVE, YOU SHOULD VERIFY WHETHER YOUR AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COVERS PERFORMANCE OF YOUR SERVICES, NOT ALL INSURANCE POLICIES COVER SUCH SERVICES, AND YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO RECEIVE SUCH INSURANCE COVERAGE FROM INSTACART. YOU FURTHER UNDERSTAND THAT ITEMS LISTED IN THIS SECTION (FOR EXAMPLE, COMMERCIAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE) MAY BE REQUIRED IN YOUR JURISDICTION, AND YOU AGREE THAT IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO DETERMINE IF ANY OF THE ABOVE IS REQUIRED. YOU AGREE TO ABIDE WITH ALL APPLICABLE LAWS, STATUTES, AND REGULATIONS AS THEY RELATE TO THIS SECTION.

The burden falls entirely on their drivers to secure their own coverage. Unfortunately, few of these drivers realize that their personal car insurance may not cover accidents that occur when making food deliveries. This kind of insurance policy, called courier vehicle insurance, must be purchased separately — if it is offered by the insurance provider at all. 

Some insurance providers extended protections to cover delivery drivers during the height of the pandemic. For example, we have Liberty Mutual, and Liberty Mutual had expanded their coverage for customers like my daughter who used their personal cars to deliver food effective from March 16 to May 22, 2020. Now that this temporary coverage ended Liberty Mutual does not offer insurance coverage for food delivery services. That was the end of my daughter’s Instacart career! For this reason, we suspect there are many other delivery drivers on the road today who have no idea that they are not covered. 

Vehicle damage caused by a car accident can cost thousands of dollars. Injuries caused by a car accident can result in tens of thousands in medical bills. And deaths caused by a car accident can end in a wrongful death suit worth millions. These are costs auto insurance helps pay for. If you get in a car accident and you’re not covered by insurance, you could be on the hook for the costs of all the damage and injuries sustained by you and any other drivers or passengers involved. 

Let me paint a horrible, yet totally possible hypothetical, WHAT IF scenario for you to help illustrate the need to get this right BEFORE you start making deliveries. Your 18-year-old daughter wants to earn some money before beginning her freshman year of college in the fall. Finding traditional seasonal work has become increasingly difficult due to the COVID-19 impact on our economy. People, especially the elderly, are reluctant to go to the grocery store for fear of contracting the virus. Thus, services like Instacart flourish and your daughter is able to secure a job using her own car to make deliveries and earn $200-$300 per week or approximately $2,500 for the summer. You and your daughter assume you have the necessary insurance coverage as you have insurance on the car and pay no mind to the fact that the car is now being used in a commercial venture while making deliveries. One day your daughter is making deliveries and as she approaches a pedestrian crosswalk as she is exiting the grocery store parking lot, she momentarily glances down at her phone when she hears it ping indication she received a text message. In that moment of inattentiveness, she drives into a man crossing the street causing very serious injuries to the man. You report the accident to your insurance company and you truthfully (as lying could result in criminal charges) answer the question when asked that your daughter was delivering groceries at the time of the accident. Your insurance company then informs you that your policy does not provide coverage for accidents that occur while the vehicle is being used for commercial purposes. More bad news, the man is left with medical bills totally $150,000 after 2 surgeries and since he can’t work for a year he lost $85,000 in wages. He also now has a permanent limp as a result of his injuries. Your daughter is now personally responsible for this man’s damages which will no doubt run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. If the man files a lawsuit against your daughter, he is very likely to win and get a judgement ordering your daughter to pay the man his damages. Your daughter, being young has no real means of income and no assets in her name so you believe she is judgement proof. Then you learn that the judgement is valid and enforceable for 20 years which means your daughter’s future earnings and accumulation of wealth now has this dark cloud of indebtedness hanging over her head as she enters into the next phase of her adult life. In addition to student loans to pay back after college she will also have the burden of an unpaid judgement to worry about. All this risk for the chance to earn $2,500 over the summer!

I apologize for the scare tactics employed above but this is a very real risk if you don’t ensure you have proper coverage BEFORE you begin driving for one of these delivery companies. Accidents happen every day so being properly insured is so important.

What Do You Do If You Are Injured by An Uninsured Delivery Vehicle?

Ok, so now we know that there may be drivers out there making deliveries without car insurance coverage. What can you do to protect yourself in the event one of these drivers causes an accident and you suffer injuries? How will you get compensated?

Simple answer? Make sure you have enough uninsured and underinsured (UM/UIM coverage) motorist coverages on your vehicle. These coverages are inexpensive and will pay your medical bills, lost wages and compensate you for your pain and suffering if you are the victim of an accident involving an uninsured or underinsured driver. We tell all our clients that they should have at least $100,000 in uninsured and underinsured coverage to protect themselves, more if they can afford the modest premium increase.

Not sure if you’re insured properly as a delivery driver or have adequate uninsured coverage? Give us a call now! We will review your policy to ensure you are properly insured. We offer this service to our community free of charge because, as we discuss below, knowledge is power!   

Knowledge is Power After an Accident.

The best thing you can do if you have been injured in a Boston car accident and want to be fairly compensated is to understand your legal rights before you make any decisions. Before you speak to an insurance company adjuster, sign or submit any paperwork or hire a lawyer, you owe it to yourself to get as much information as you can, so you can make a smart decision on what you need to do next. At Spada Law Group, we offer free consumer guides and videos that answer many of the questions bicycle accident victims have. Take a look, download our free information or contact us for a free consultation. Learn what Spada Law Group is all about and how we might be the right car accident lawyers for you.

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