St. Pierre Law

Is a gig-economy company liable when its drivers cause crashes?

The gig economy has changed daily life in significant ways for many in the greater Boston area. We can skip driving and instead order a ride from Uber or Lyft. And if we want to dine at home, most restaurants can now have meals delivered through third-party companies like Grubhub.

Unfortunately, drivers for these companies are also responsible for their share of car accidents. And because of their unusual employment relationship with the companies they work for, it is not clear how much liability a given company will assume, if any. That makes it more difficult for injured victims and their families to pursue compensation.

This is a problem around the country. A recent example comes from Minnesota, where the family of a deceased pedestrian is suing a food delivery driver and the company he was working for on the night of the crash; a local operation called Bite Squad.

The driver was using his parent’s car for work when he struck a 47-year-old pedestrian crossing the street. According to the victim’s family, the young man was speeding and was distracted by his phone just prior to the crash, and he had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.03 percent. This is below the legal threshold for an age-appropriate driver, but he shouldn’t have had any alcohol in his system because he was under 21.

The victim’s family has sued the driver, his parents, and Bite Squad. The company is being named as a defendant because the driver was “acting within the course and scope of his employment.”

To be sure, companies can’t always prevent their drivers from behaving recklessly or dangerously behind the wheel. But critics argue that these app-based services necessarily put drivers, passengers and other travelers at risk because the apps cause significant distraction. That could be an important element in this case and similar lawsuits.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured (or worse) by a commercial driver (working a regular job or in the gig economy), please discuss your rights and legal options with an experienced personal injury attorney.

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