Online retailer Amazon.com grew into a household name over the past several decades due largely to the company’s ability to deliver packages to customers within days—sometimes hours. However, recently, there have been reports that Amazon drivers are placing the public at risk as they hurry to customers’ homes and businesses in an attempt to get packages to their destination on time.
For example, in a recent (but now deleted) Reddit post, a motorist explained that an Amazon driver blew through a stop sign, coming to a stop in the middle of the intersection. The driver positioned their vehicle such that it blocked two lanes of traffic. The driver then got out of his vehicle and held up a makeshift stop sign to prevent other drivers from proceeding through the intersection, allowing a whole fleet of Amazon vans to pass through the intersection while ignoring the stop sign. The Reddit user who made the post attached a video of the incident. However, the post and accompanying video are no longer available, as the post was subsequently removed from Reddit.
While this is an unconfirmed report, the fact that others describe similar instances supports the general concern that some Amazon drivers are engaging in dangerous driving behavior.
According to Amazon, anyone with $10,000 and interest in launching a business delivering packages is encouraged to apply to be an “Amazon Delivery Service Partner.” Amazon provides this separate company with access to its technology and offers Delivery Service Partners assistance in training and technical and logistics support. Each Delivery Service Partner is its own company and not an employee of Amazon. Thus, if a driver employed by an Amazon Delivery Service Partner is injured on the job, they would only be entitled to benefits under the DSP company’s worker’s compensation insurance, not through Amazon.
The other program through which Amazon hires people to work as delivery drivers is Amazon Flex, an app-based gig work platform. Amazon Flex delivery drivers are characterized as independent contractors, not employees, and they sign up for hourly blocks on their own schedule. This arrangement is reported to be intended to shield Amazon from liability for any negligence on the part of its drivers. Under general principles of personal injury law, companies are not legally responsible for their negligent acts of independent contractors, whether companies or individuals. However, whether Amazon’s efforts to protect itself from liability through this work arrangement for drivers contracted through Amazon Flex will withstand judicial scrutiny is still an open question.
According to a recent news report, some Amazon warehouse employees have instructed drivers to disable the software that tracks Delivery Service Partners’ driving behaviors. The report explains that the smartphone app “collects information about a driver’s acceleration, braking, cornering, and speeding.” It also keeps track of how often a driver uses their phone outside of the app.
By disabling the app, drivers’ behavior is not monitored and thus not reported to Amazon. This allows drivers to engage in reckless driving behaviors.
If Amazon relies on an independent contractor to perform its deliveries, as it does when contracting drivers through the Amazon Flex program, the company probably isn’t going to be held liable in many instances. However, the more influence Amazon exercises over drivers, the more likely it is that courts will consider them agents or “employees” of the company. This means Amazon could be liable after an Amazon driver hits your car, despite its efforts to shield itself from liability.
A few of the factors that courts may consider when assessing whether a delivery driver is an “agent” of Amazon include:
Anyone injured in a car accident caused by an Amazon delivery driver certainly has the right to pursue a legal claim for compensation. The question isn’t whether they can sue but rather who they can name in the lawsuit. Amazon drivers and even companies that operate as Delivery Service Partners may not have the means or insurance coverage to fully compensate an accident victim after an accident. Of course, naming Amazon in a lawsuit would ensure that there are sufficient assets available to compensate an accident victim for their injuries, which is what makes this question so important.
If you or a loved one was recently injured in an accident with an Amazon delivery driver, reach out to the dedicated personal injury lawyers at Console & Associates, P.C. Our team of car accident attorneys has followed all news and legal developments related to Amazon and its relationship with its Delivery Service Partners and its Amazon Flex independent contractors. We command an impressive understanding of when Amazon may be liable for an accident and how to effectively pursue a claim for compensation after an accident.
For nearly 30 years, we’ve stood up for the rights of accident victims, helping them obtain meaningful compensation for what they’ve been through. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, give Console & Associates, P.C. a call at (866) 778-5500. You can also connect with us through our online form.