Amazon is the largest online retailer on the planet. Billions of amazon packages get delivered around the U.S. every year. Even as the number of packages rapidly expands, delivery turn around times keep getting faster and faster. When you buy something on Amazon the speed at which the package arrives at your door now is often astounding. You can literally buy something on amazon on Monday afternoon and by the time you wake up Tuesday morning the box with the smile logo is at your door.
One of the ways Amazon has been able to accomplish this is by becoming not just an online retailer, but one of the largest shipping companies in the world. 10 years almost all Amazon packages arrived in a USPA mail truck or by UPS. Today they probably come to your door in a white van with the Amazon smile logo on the side. This is because Amazon is now delivering its own packages through a new division called Amazon Logistics.Amazon Logistics
Amazon Logistics is Amazon’s own shipping and delivery division that has literally exploded in size and scope over the past few years. Today, Amazon Logistics is so massive that it now rivals the traditional big 2 carriers, Federal Express and UPS, in terms of size and volume of deliveries. In 2019, Amazon Logistics delivered 3.5 billion packages worldwide. That accounted for about half of all Amazon’s orders and this percentage is only expected to grow even higher going forward.
So how does Amazon Logistics compare to other major carriers? At 3.5 billion annual package deliveries, Amazon Logistics has now surpassed FedEx which deliveries a little over 3 billion every year. UPS is still bigger with about 5.2 billion packages delivered. However, that might change in the near future as Amazon Logistics has been doubling its delivery volume just about every year.Amazon Delivery Accidents
The explosive growth of Amazon Logistics has, invariably, led to an increasing number of auto and truck accidents involving Amazon delivery drivers. Amazon delivery drivers are logging millions of miles a day in high-risk environments like neighborhood side streets and driveways where people jog and kids play. This amount of driving in these types of areas would lead to a lot of accidents under any conditions. When you factor in the added pressure of making deliveries on time, it is little wonder that people are getting killed and seriously injured by Amazon drivers.
Tracking exactly how many accidents Amazon Logistics drivers have caused is almost impossible because of the way the division is structured. Almost all of the drivers in those white vans that come up your driveway are not actually employees of Amazon at all. Rather they are independent contractors that have joined the Amazon Logistics delivery network. Amazon itself is usually not even a named part in accident claims involving their drivers.
Even with this limitation, a recent report from ProPublica revealed at least 10 fatal involving Amazon delivery drivers over a 4 year period. The actual number could 4 times that. Compared to collisions involving regular passenger vehicles, accidents involving Amazon delivery vans tend to cause more serious injuries and damage. This is primarily because the delivery vans are bigger and heavier than a typical car so the force of the impact is much greater.
If you have been involved in an accident caused by an Amazon delivery van or truck, you may be wondering whether you can sue Amazon for your injuries. In most cases, you won’t be able to sue Amazon directly, but you should be able to get compensation from the delivery contractor instead.
Most of the white Amazon delivery vans you seen out on the road today are not actually owned by Amazon (even if they have the smile logo on the side) and the driver is not an Amazon employee. Rather, the delivery driver is usually an independent contractor that works for Amazon Delivery Partner Services (a division within Amazon Logistics). This means that the defendant in an accident claim would not be Amazon, but rather the delivery contractor such as ABC Delivery, LLC. Most delivery contractors for Amazon are small, local businesses. In many cases, the contractor may just be 1 person and a single van.
Since the drivers are independent contractors, Amazon can avoid any direct liability for accidents caused by the driver. The responsible party in the accident is going to be the contractor, not Amazon. Just because Amazon is not directly liable for accidents, it does NOT mean that the accident victims cannot get financial compensation. Amazon requires all its delivery contractors to carry a certain minimum amount of liability insurance to cover any damage or injuries they may cause in an accident.
All independent contractors who deliver for Amazon are required to have something called Amazon Flex Insurance coverage. Amazon Flex Insurance provides delivery contractors with auto liability coverage of $1 million. This covers damages and injuries caused to 3rd parties with limits of up to $1,000,000 per accident. This is very similar to the amount of liability coverage that most trucking companies carry. So if you get hit and injured by an Amazon driver, there should be at least $1 million in insurance coverage for you to collect from.
One catch, however, is that the Amazon Flex Insurance and its $1 million in liability coverage only applies if the accident occurs when the contractor is “on the clock.” If the accident occurs after the driver has completed his or her deliveries for that day and is on their way home or back to their office, the accident is not covered by the Flex Insurance.
The $1 million in liability coverage under the Amazon Flex Insurance for contract drivers is more than enough to cover damages for 95% of auto accident cases. Even auto accident cases resulting in major injuries, such as fractured legs, rarely have a settlement value greater than $600,000. But in a small percentage of major auto accident cases, damages can easily exceed $1 million.
So what happens in these cases when the $1 million in coverage is exhausted? Can Amazon be held legally liable for damages in these situations? So far the answer seems to be no. Legally, companies like Amazon are fully liable for the negligent acts of their employees, but not for the actions of independent contractors. There are several ways to get around this and hold Amazon liable, but none of them are very easy.
The first way to go after Amazon directly would be to argue that Amazon had so much control over the contractor that the court should treat them as an employee for liability purposes. This is a VERY difficult legal argument that will probably fail 99 times out of 100. Although it may seem like Amazon has absolute control over its contract drivers, the reality is different. Among other things, subcontractors can hire and fire their own drivers freely and without any input from Amazon. This alone is probably enough to undercut any legal arguments based on control.
The other way to potentially go after Amazon directly is with a claim based on negligent hiring or negligent supervision. We see these types of claims a lot in truck accident cases. The plaintiff has to show that Amazon’s decision to hire the contractor in question was somehow inappropriate or negligent. Here is a quick, oversimplified example of how this type of claim against Amazon might work.
Let’s say John Doe from Baltimore wants to work as a delivery driver for Amazon. He makes all the investments to buy the delivery van and goes through the sign-up process and gets hired by Amazon Delivery Partner Services as an independent contractor. But it turns out John is an alcoholic with 2 prior drunk driving convictions. After 6 months of working as an Amazon contractor, 2 customers have made complaints about John’s driving. John then gets really drunk and hits a 4-year-old while making a delivery for Amazon. In this situation, the plaintiff could sue Amazon for negligent hiring and/or supervision. The theory would be that Amazon failed to properly screen John and should never have hired him in light of his prior DUIs.
So far there have not been any reported cases in which a plaintiff has successfully held Amazon directly liable under either of these theories. Based on information gathered by the New York Times, Amazon has been named as a direct defendant in a total of 45 auto accident cases involving one of its contract drivers. In most of those cases, Amazon was dismissed out of the case early on. The rest resulted in confidential settlements that may or may not have involved payment from Amazon.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with an Amazon delivery van, we can help get you the financial compensation you are entitled to. Call us today at 800-553-8082.