- March 7, 2023
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Car Accidents
You’ve been in a serious car accident. You’re alive, and the at-fault driver hasn’t disappeared on you. You know that those are two big strokes of luck compared with what could have happened, what does happen to multiple people every day in Georgia.
Even so, the situation you’re facing is far from easy. You’re still trying to figure out what the long-term effects for your body are going to be, and how much time and money it will take to get you to the fullest possible recovery. You’re probably missing work, missing out on plans you were looking forward to, and worrying about the people who usually rely on you.
You may even be facing the devastation of losing a loved one in the crash.
The last thing you need to hear at this moment is that your claim is being denied. Maybe you’re getting a little help from the uninsured driver coverage on your own insurance policy, if you have it, but that’s all.
And why? Not because of anything you did wrong, and not because the other driver was completely uninsured, but because they were carrying an Instacart delivery at the time of the crash. The driver’s insurance company insists that this means your damages aren’t their problem, and Instacart is no help either.
Below, we’ll go into detail on why Instacart crashes are such a threat to public safety, the barriers to fair compensation, and how we can help you beat this infuriating insurance game of “Not It.” If you would prefer to discuss your particular situation directly with an Instacart accident lawyer in Georgia, feel free to reach out by phone or chat at any time.
Instacart Drivers Often Have to Rush and Compete to Make Ends Meet
Instacart has been sued in both California and New York for allegedly misclassifying its workers as independent contractors, as a way of skirting employee rights laws, including minimum wage. The California suit ended with a $46.5 million settlement in favor of workers.
Still, Instacart’s delivery drivers (referred to as “shoppers” within the company), remain independent contractors in most of the country, in name if not in function. Instacart provides no guarantee of minimum hourly pay or yearly salary, paying these contractors only for completed deliveries, no matter how long they take. There’s also no guarantee of support for on-the-job injuries, or expenses like vehicle maintenance, although some of the company’s ever-changing payment arrangements do include mileage.
Drivers have routinely reported take-home pay below the legal minimum for employees, as well as broken promises of quarantine pay and systematic tip theft, the latter of which sparked another class action suit.
All of this adds up to a lot of incentive for Instacart drivers to work fast, taking on as many orders as possible in the hope of scraping together enough delivery payments to justify the day’s work, let alone build up a buffer in case of illness or car trouble. In the unfortunate event of car trouble, it’s crucial to have the support of a reliable Car accident lawyer in Atlanta who can assist you in navigating legal matters.
Amateur drivers racing the clock to make ends meet is a solid recipe for serious accidents. If anything, it’s surprising that Instacart crashes don’t happen more often.
Private Auto Insurance Policies Exclude Work-Related Accidents from Coverage
It’s standard practice for auto insurance companies to offer multiple tiers of coverage, with cheaper personal coverage at the bottom, and pricier commercial driver coverage higher up.
When a driver who only has basic individual coverage gets into an accident while driving for work (not counting a standard commute), the insurance company will deny all claims related to the accident. This includes claims for injuries the driver caused to innocent bystanders.
For the most part, this practice is legal, and the odds of forcing a settlement out of the private insurance company are slim.
This is a serious problem for Instacart accident survivors, because Instacart drivers are very likely to be carrying only personal coverage. Instacart emphasizes how quick and easy it is to sign up to drive for them, so many drivers probably don’t even realize that they’re expected to change their insurance policy. Those who do know may not be able to afford an insurance upgrade with what they earn on the app. In such cases, consulting experienced motorcycle accident attorneys in Atlanta could be crucial.
Instacart Vehemently Rejects All Responsibility for Insuring Its Drivers
Instacart’s independent contractor agreement specifically places the responsibility for auto insurance on the contractor, emphasizing that Instacart itself does not provide any such coverage.
In their words, “On a continuing basis, [the driver] shall be solely responsible for… securing and paying for automobile insurance in coverage amounts consistent with legal requirements, including any required no fault automobile insurance or commercial liability insurance.”
Instacart does not, however, require its drivers to prove that they have obtained commercial auto insurance before allowing them to make deliveries. They simply include this language in the terms for their app, where drivers may choose to read it, or not.
If you’ve been harmed by an at-fault Instacart driver, you can expect Instacart to point to its contract and deny any liability for the damages.
The good news is that, if you yourself are not an Instacart driver, you have not signed this contract. You are not bound by its arbitration clause, which limits Instacart drivers’ rights to sue the company. You do have the right to challenge Instacart’s refusal of responsibility and pursue compensation in court.
This Catch-22 of Non-Coverage May Not Be Supported by Actual Georgia Law
Slowly but surely, Georgia law has been catching up with new app-based business models and the loopholes many of them exploit.
Delivery companies like Instacart, Shipt, and DoorDash, along with rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, most likely fall into the legal categorization of “transportation network companies.” The term excludes traditional taxi and logistics services, and applies specifically to companies that rely on a digital network of purported independent contractors.
Georgia statute 33-1-24 requires transportation network companies to carry a minimum of $1 million in coverage for crashes that happen during transportation services, and $100,000 for crashes involving contractors who are available on the app but not actively transporting anything.
Instacart’s refusal to carry driver insurance has apparently not been challenged in court in any visible, impactful way, but there’s definitely room for a case. The Stoddard Firm is ready and willing to argue it.
Additionally, Georgia has a history of disallowing gaps in coverage that leave victims and/or at-fault drivers with a surprise lack of coverage. This goes back to Federated Mutual Insurance Company V. Dunton, decided in 1994 by the Georgia Court of Appeals.
In that case, a man caused an accident while operating his employer’s truck as part of his job. His boss had specifically told him that the insurance was taken care of, but when the accident happened, the company declared bankruptcy, and the owner disappeared. No applicable insurance for the truck was ever found.
Ultimately, the man’s personal insurance company was ordered to pay for the other driver’s damages, in spite of the clause excluding commercial use.
Protecting innocent survivors from being left without the means to fund their recoveries is a priority for Georgia courts, and Instacart accident survivors deserve the same support as anyone else.
Between Instacart’s dubious independent contractor categorization, lack of insurance, and the general culture of unregulated commercial driving surrounding its app, there’s plenty of grounds to fight for accident compensation, no matter what Instacart’s contracts say.
What to Do After an Accident Involving an Instacart Driver
If you’re involved in a serious accident, and the at-fault driver is driving for Instacart at the time, it’s crucial to notify Instacart quickly, so that the company can’t claim ignorance later in the process. The at-fault driver may or may not contact Instacart independently. It’s best not to make any assumptions about what the driver will share with the company, if anything.
At the same time, it’s equally important to avoid giving Instacart any additional excuses to deny responsibility. The easiest way to juggle these two tasks is to have a lawyer handle all interactions with Instacart on your behalf. That way, you can be sure not to misspeak and accidentally accept fault that isn’t yours while reporting the incident.
Of course, finding a lawyer is one of several urgent tasks that need to be taken care of in the aftermath of a serious accident, and figuring out where to start can be overwhelming.
For the best chances of physical, emotional, and financial recovery, this is the order we recommend:
- Stop your car near the accident site, out of traffic if possible.
- Call 911. This step is mandatory for all serious wrecks in Georgia. Only injury-free collisions with property damage totaling less than $500 are exempt. If you believe there’s any chance that anyone involved may need an ambulance, let the 911 operator know.
- Collect contact and insurance information from the other driver, and provide your own. If you are aware at this point that the other driver is driving for Instacart, you may want to ask directly whether they have a commercial insurance policy. Do not apologize or discuss fault.
- Accept emergency medical care at the scene, if offered.
- Take pictures of the accident, and write down what you remember of the moments leading up to it. This will form the beginning of your evidence collection. Make a point of keeping all correspondence and documentation relating to the accident and associated expenses in one place.
- Arrange to remove your car from the road and get yourself somewhere safe.
- If you are placed under hospital care after the accident, cooperate. If not, schedule an exam with your own doctor as soon as possible, and follow all medical advice from there.
- As soon as you feel able, begin reaching out to qualified car accident lawyers in your area. You will want to look for someone who is familiar with the coverage gap common to Instacart crashes and willing to challenge it.
- Once you have representation, redirect all contact with insurance companies or Instacart through your lawyer’s office. Do not allow anyone to provoke you into detailed discussion of the accident, either before or after hiring your lawyer.
The experienced, highly qualified lawyers at the Stoddard Firm are committed to protecting accident victims, especially those who have been harmed by callous and dangerous corporate policies. We don’t stick to the simplest cases with the most obvious precedents. We’re willing to be the ones to break unbroken ground in the name of justice.
We’re experts in traffic law, insurance law, personal injury, and wrongful death. We know Georgia, from its roads to its courts, and we fight for every client with the full arsenal of our knowledge and passion.
If you have been injured, or lost a loved one, due to an accident with an at-fault Instacart driver, reach out today at 678-RESULTS or through our 24-hour online chat function to discuss your case in a free consultation.