Key Points in This Article:
- Many Michigan restaurants are now offering food delivery services in hopes to keep the industry in business due to coronavirus ‘stay home, stay’ safe orders, especially in metro areas like Detroit, Lansing, Flint, and Grand Rapids.
- Someone new to this important job might not realize that their car insurance doesn’t cover them if involved in a Michigan car crash – even as an independent contractor, a friendly family member helping a business, or in a quick work-for-cash job.
- Most car insurance companies have exclusion for workers who use their car as a business, including delivering food and groceries for businesses.
- Be sure to tell your auto insurance carrier about your new food delivery job so accidents claims will be covered vs. leaving you personally liable for any damages and injuries you cause to yourself and others.
Coronavirus Forces Michigan Restaurants to Offer Food Delivery and Hire New Drivers – But Are These Drivers Insured?
With Gov. Whitmer’s ‘stay home, stay safe’ executive order directed to all Michigan residents due to coronavirus, restaurants and even some bars are now offering food delivery options. It’s only natural for more drivers responsible for delivering these meals to be on the road, in addition to the already popular services such as Uber Eats and Door Dash being consumed by busy orders. Metro areas like Detroit, Lansing, Flint, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids will likely experience the most increase in delivery and takeout options.
During this extraordinary time, our team at The Law Office of Lee Steinberg, P.C., is asking our readers to support Michigan restaurants by ordering food delivery or takeout or purchasing gift certificates from their favorite local spot.
- In Metro Detroit, BEYOND Juicery + Eatery and BMG Media have partnered to provide the community with a list of local restaurants. View the Detroit Food Updates list here, where you can find a place offering remote dining options and menus.
- In West Michigan, Local First, a non-profit organization, has compiled a list of open businesses ready for meal delivery and takeout.
- In Grand Rapids, social media users are using the Instagram account @gr_support_local and posting about new food delivery options.
Unfortunately, some of these new drivers hired by restaurants and food delivery services may start their jobs before they understand the scope and implications their new role can have on their auto insurance – especially if involved in a crash while driving a personal vehicle without the right coverage. For example, if you have a job delivering goods as a Shipt driver or Instacart driver and you don’t tell your auto insurance, you are driving uninsured. You must buy insurance for when driving for these companies. This is because your personal auto insurance won’t cover you if you’re in an accident.
What New Delivery Drivers Must Know About Their Auto Insurance
In normal circumstances, when you are driving your car, truck, or motorcycle and cause an accident, your car insurance carrier would pay for any damages you cause, such as personal injuries or property damage. The car insurance company will also provide you with an attorney to defend yourself. But, when you start using your vehicle as part of your employment to deliver food, the scenario and coverage can look very different.
Meant initially to exclude newspaper delivery people, most insurers have an exclusion for using your car as a business, including delivering food and groceries via electronic apps. This means a food delivery driver’s car insurance may not cover them if involved in a Michigan car crash – even as an independent contractor or when receiving cash payments.
This is especially true if you failed to tell your auto insurance carrier about your new job. In this case, the carrier has the right to deny claim coverage altogether, leaving you personally liable for any damages and injuries you cause to yourself and others.
Food Delivery Drivers Are Frequently Asked These Questions After Being Involved in an Accident
In the event you are involved in an accident while delivering food, you should be prepared to answer these common questions to show who is liable for the accident.
- Were you “on the clock” at the time of the accident?
A driver who is out making a delivery or driving to a restaurant to pick up a package should be compensated for that time. But the employer may argue that people working outside of those boundaries were driving on personal time when the accident occurred, a similar argument that applies to Michigan ride-share drivers. The amount of liability coverage these drivers are responsible for paying depends on whether a ride is taking place.
- Are you an official employee or an independent contractor of the food delivery service group?
While this answer shouldn’t carry too much weight, it can add a layer of complexity and confusion to the case because private businesses are increasingly trying to shift obligations onto their workers by categorizing them as contractors. Be aware of any attempt by a food delivery company to push accident accountability on you.
- Do you own the delivery vehicle involved in the crash?
The owner of a vehicle used for business purposes does have an obligation to maintain it in good working condition, similar to truck drivers who must check over their rig prior to traveling.
The best ways a food delivery driver can be protected is to be a good driver, keep your vehicle safe and maintained, be honest in reporting to your car insurance company about your job, and purchase the insurance coverage expected by your employer. Let them know you are working for a food delivery company in Michigan and will be using your personal vehicle for this purpose. Knowing this, the car insurance carrier can adequately measure all of the risks involved, and you can be covered for any loss (accident) you may have caused.
Are You New to Food Delivery? Involved in a Michigan Car Accident?
The Law Office of Lee Steinberg, P.C. is here to help. We are prepared to represent food delivery drivers, as well as people who have been injured by drivers. We can fight for benefits that include your medical bills, your lost wages, out of pocket costs, as well as reimbursement for family members taking care of you.
If you have any questions, please call us at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733). Contacting us is free, and there are no fees or costs until we win your case.
Also read: Firm Update Regarding COVID-19
Video Transcript 1
What’s become very popular with the COVID-19 outbreak of course, is home delivery of groceries, of food, and that has taken off dramatically here in Michigan and throughout the country. If you are driving for Shipt, or driving for Instacart, driving as a delivery person in general for any type of restaurant or food business, you have to understand something. Your personal auto insurance, your no-fault auto insurance in Michigan, will not cover you when you’re on the job and working for that restaurant or Instacart or for that company. So, it’s like you are driving without insurance. You have to let your insurance company know that you will be driving for Instacart, or whoever, Shipt and DoorDash whoever it is, and let them know that is something that you’re going to be utilizing your car for so they can add that to the insurance policy.
The ramifications of this are immense. If you get in a car accident, and let’s say you get hit by a drunk driver while you’re driving and making a grocery delivery, and the other person caused the accident, was a drunk driver that hit you, your own auto insurance company will most likely if you don’t tell them, if they still think you’re driving your car for personal reasons, they’re going to deny the claim and they’re actually going to be able to get out of paying anything and everything. On top of that, because under Michigan law you’d be deemed driving your car without insurance, you won’t even be able to go after the drunk driver who caused the accident. That’s the law here in Michigan. If you don’t have insurance on your car, you can’t make a claim for no-fault benefits and you can’t even go after the guy who caused the accident.
So, it’s so important that you let your auto insurance company know what you’re doing. They might add a little bit. It won’t be that much more money, but it’s just the reality of the situation here. And I’ve taken so many calls in the last year for folks who’ve driven for Uber, for Lyft, and for DoorDash, which has become really popular here, and they’re screwed. There is no case. They got smashed, someone ran a red light. I can’t do anything to help them because they didn’t let their insurance company know that they were driving for a business purpose.
Video Transcript 2
Uber and Lyft have done a really good job making sure that their drivers are insured. And so it’s very rare now, you’ll have a Lyft or Uber driver who doesn’t have a separate insurance policy for while they’re driving for Uber or Lyft in their own car. It is the exact opposite, I have found, with DoorDash, Instacart, Shipt, these other companies. I haven’t seen any requirements, at least here in Michigan, where they make and ensure that their drivers have adequate car insurance for when they’re driving for them. They’re still considered independent contractors. They’re not employees. So because they’re independent contractor factors, Shipt and these large companies, look at them as just expendable, not employees, but just expendable people. You’re either going to work for us when you’re on the clock or you’re not. We don’t care about anything else, including car insurance. If you want to pay for it, you’ve got to find that insurance yourself. So it’s really the wild, wild West out there. So it’s incumbent upon the individual delivery person to find that car insurance themselves, because DoorDash isn’t going to do it, unfortunately.