We have all seen the army of Amazon delivery drivers throughout metro Atlanta and the state of Georgia. They can be in box trucks, delivery vans or even passenger vehicles. With the sheer number of deliveries being made by Amazon every day, one may wonder how many vehicle accidents involving these drivers occur on any given day. A recent article by ProPublica highlighted the retail giant Amazon and its policy regarding auto accidents involving delivery drivers.
Many of the deliveries made by Amazon are by drivers that are independent contractors, versus those with commercial delivery companies such as UPS or FedEx, or regular employees. The reason Amazon has chosen to use so many contractor drivers over the recent years is to cut costs. This is because using contractors does not involve the overhead costs that are involved with regular employees.
The ProPublica article noted that since June of 2015, there have been more than 60 accidents involving the Amazon delivery drivers that resulted in very serious injuries. Ten of these accidents were fatal. These numbers were based on the limited data that was available, so there is a high likelihood of many more unreported accidents.
Amazon claims that it is not responsible for these vehicle accidents because the delivery drivers were independent contractors and not Amazon employees. Relying on this argument, Amazon has avoided paying compensation to victims of accidents involved with its delivery drivers, even though very serious injuries and sometimes death occurred. Instead, the individual contractor driver was on the hook for paying for the injuries as well as sometimes having to indemnify, or reimburse, Amazon for the damages paid out.
An independent contractor is defined as one who contracts to do a certain job without being subject to the methods or control of an employer. Although the law may vary somewhat in different states, generally an employer may be held liable for the negligence of its employees, but not of independent contractors. There are some exceptions, however, to this rule. If the employer maintains the right to direct or control the manner by which the contractor performs the job, then the employer could be held liable.
In the case of Amazon, the ProPublica article noted that Amazon directs the order of deliveries as well as the route to be used by the driver for each delivery. Amazon also tracts the drivers progress and has certain requirements on how many deliveries must be made on time. So the argument has been made that the contractor drivers are in essence employees of Amazon since the company retains a certain amount of control over the contractor’s actions.
Road safety proponents argue that if Amazon were to take the contractor drivers on as employees, not only would people be compensated sufficiently for any accidents that may occur, but there may actually be fewer accidents in the future involving their deliver drivers. This is because as employees, the drivers would be subject to safety standards and training that don’t always apply to independent contractors. Drivers who are employees with other commercial delivery carriers, such as UPS or FedEx, must take a certain amount of training and pass safety testing to be allowed on the road. This is to protect not only the company but also those on the road with the delivery trucks.
The Atlanta auto accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent victims of auto accidents in the metro Atlanta region and across Georgia. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries as a result of a car accident, talk to an attorney at our firm, and learn about your rights to compensation after an injury. Initial consultations are free.