Americans love to order online, and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has only increased the amount of goods being delivered to people’s homes. Many high-risk groups such as the elderly and those who are immunocompromised have chosen to have everything from groceries to household goods delivered rather than risk shopping in public. Even before the pandemic, delivery drivers were in demand for consumer products and all kinds of take-out food.
Of course, many goods have always been transported by truck and delivery drivers. Delivery drivers are always on the go trying to get goods and packages to their destinations on time. Whether operating a motor vehicle in heavy traffic, picking up or carrying heavy or awkwardly shaped boxes, or loading and unloading the truck, putting in long hours doing this strenuous job can lead to injured workers and illnesses such as the following:
- Repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) from lifting, loading, and carrying heavy loads. MSDs include back, neck, and shoulder injuries such as herniated disks, slipped disks, bursitis, and tendinitis.
- COVID-19 exposure.
- Exposure to diesel fumes and other toxins.
- Broken bones, muscle sprains and strains, or head and neck injuries from slip and fall accidents.
- Traumatic brain injury and other head injuries from motor vehicle accidents.
- Dog bites.
Delivery drivers have a tough job, and over years of driving a delivery truck, some of these injuries can develop into serious problems requiring surgery. A study of workers delivering packages for Amazon in Colorado found that first-year drivers suffer slip and fall accidents and dog bites at higher rates than other delivery workers. This year in particular has seen an increase in road accidents and injuries among delivery drivers because of COVID-19-related lockdowns and increased online holiday shopping.
Drivers who have been injured while performing their delivery duties should reach out to a seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer for assistance.
How can Delivery Drivers Avoid Injury and Illness?
Every delivery driver has to maintain a schedule, but it is important to remember that rushing is the cause of many work-related injuries. Taking time to use good safety practices is never wrong because an injury can mean missing work altogether. The following tips are something every delivery driver should know:
- Proper footwear is crucial. Sturdy closed-toe shoes with good-traction soles can prevent many injuries. The right kind of shoe protects from dropped packages landing on a foot, supports and cushions the foot throughout a long day, and helps prevent slip and fall accidents.
- Drivers should enter and exit the truck cab with the three-point rule: always have three limbs of the body in contact with the truck, either two feet and a hand, or two hands and one foot. The driver should step or climb down from the truck, but never jump straight off a truck platform or loading dock.
- Drivers should carry packages carefully. Piling up packages may save an extra trip back to the truck and seem more time-efficient, but carrying a pile that obstructs the view could cause a trip and fall accident and a visit to the hospital instead.
- The area around the truck and at delivery locations should be checked for potential safety hazards. Uneven or cracked sidewalks, snow and ice, puddles, tree roots, and wet entryways are common causes of slip and fall incidents. Drivers should use back-up cameras as well as rear view and side mirrors before moving the truck.
- Drivers should keep windows and mirrors free of dirt and debris.
- Delivery drivers should wear a mask with two layers for protection from seasonal viruses and COVID-19. They should wash hands often with soap or with hand sanitizer if water is not available. Drivers should stay six feet away from other people when outside of home and report any symptoms to a doctor.
- A driver should come to work well rested, stay hydrated, and eat healthy snacks to help maintain alertness.
- Delivery drivers should not drive distracted, avoiding temptation by storing cell phones away. Meals should be enjoyed during a proper break instead of eating behind the wheel.
- Drivers should obey all the rules of traffic and not speed while making deliveries.
How can Delivery Drivers Avoid Dog Bites?
Dogs are a common threat to delivery drivers, as they instinctively want to protect their property from strangers. When dealing with dogs, it is important to stay absolutely calm and do not show any signs of aggression such as screaming or making direct eye contact. Aggressive dogs interpret signs of aggression from others as an invitation to fight. Direct eye contact is taken as a challenge, and some dogs will not back down from challenges. Someone should never attempt to run, as aggressive dogs have an instinct to chase and catch animals and running will trigger this behavior. Dogs tend to lose interest if they do not feel threatened and if the person they encounter does not show any fear.
If possible, drivers should attempt to distract the dog with an object thrown in another direction such as a water bottle or dog treats. Many delivery drivers carry dog treats to deter aggressive dogs.
Can Delivery Drivers Collect Workers’ Compensation?
Employment classification determines who can collect workers’ compensation benefits. Employed drivers who are injured on the job are able to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits even if they were partly at fault for the accident that caused their injuries. Drivers employed directly by a delivery company are usually required to wear a uniform and drive a company vehicle. They follow a schedule given to them by the company and have a supervisor. Those eligible for workers’ compensation are prevented from suing their employer directly for work-related injuries.
Some delivery drivers are independent and manage their own hours and drive their own vehicles. Independent and subcontracted drivers are generally ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, they may be able to seek damages for any injuries through a personal injury claim against the responsible party. Independent drivers can also turn to their insurance carrier for compensation for injuries and property damage if they are properly insured. It is important for independent delivery drivers to confirm that they have the right type of auto insurance. A car being used for business purposes is considered a higher risk and will not be covered by personal auto insurance. Checking with the insurance company is the only way to get the appropriate coverage.
Sometimes a delivery driver may file a claim for injuries caused by the negligence of a third party. For example, if faulty brakes or tires were the reason for the accident that caused a driver’s injuries, the manufacturer can be held liable. The same is true for another driver whose negligence causes an accident or negligent vehicle maintenance by a third party responsible for maintaining the delivery vehicle the driver was operating. Premises liability law holds property owners liable for injuries that happen on their land if unreasonable safety hazards were left unremedied. Also, in many states, dog owners who do not secure their pets are liable for any injuries sustained by visitors to the property.
Workers’ compensation benefits can cover medical bills for treatment of a work injury or illness, prescription medication, and replace wages lost if the injured driver needs time off from work. Anyone injured in a work-related accident should report the injury immediately to their supervisor or manager and see a medical professional for treatment.
Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP Advocate for Injured Delivery Drivers
If you have been injured on the job as a delivery driver, the Cherry Hill workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP are available to discuss your legal options. Workers’ compensation is the focus of our firm. Regardless of your employment status, we can help you. Call us today at 856-761-3773 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients in Camden, Cinnaminson, Delran, Maple Shade, Pennsauken, and throughout South Jersey.