NYC law would force delivery apps to cover costs of driver accidents

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Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub could soon be on the hook for costs related to accidents involving their delivery workers, The Post has learned.

A City Council proposal would require the apps to cover a courier’s out-of-pocket costs when it comes to things like medical care and property damage, according to the bill spearheaded by Council member Mark Gjonaj (D-Bronx) and co-signed by Francisco Moya (D-Queens).

If passed, New York would become the first city to require food delivery companies to reimburse delivery workers when the workers incur costs related to a crash, according to people familiar with the bill.

While the bill does not require the companies to provide commercial liability insurance — because the state has purview over insurance matters — it would effectively force the companies to procure such policies, a person familiar with the proposal told The Post.

“In the nation’s largest food delivery market, it is absolutely unacceptable that our food app drivers are not universally covered for accidents,” Gjonaj told The Post in a statement. “We cannot expect our delivery workers — many of whom are low-income —to either pay for commercial coverage out-of-pocket or forego it entirely.”

A food delivery worker riding a bicycle in the rain.
Food delivery workers began organizing last year, which has resulted in a number of new laws providing them more protection.
Getty Images

Right now, if a courier gets in an accident while delivering an order, he’s generally responsible for paying his own medical bills and for fixing any damaged property. Likewise, if someone is hit by a courier, for instance, that person is pays for their own medical care and property, barring a lawsuit.

Because the couriers are independent contractors, the delivery apps generally aren’t responsible for accidents. That would change under the New York proposal, if passed, shifting at least some of the liability of a driver’s out-of-pocket costs to the delivery apps.

The bill doesn’t mention limits on payments to couriers or detail other specifics.

“If it’s something that the delivery worker would have to pay, then the apps would have to pay regardless of who is injured or damaged,” according to a person familiar with the bill, who also didn’t detail any limits or other specific guidelines on payments.

An Uber Eats bicycle delivery worker crossing a street.
About half of all delivery workers in NYC report that they have been accidents while they were working, according to a recent survey.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

It’s the latest salvo by Big Apple lawmakers against the delivery apps that were taken to task for alleged predatory practices against restaurants — particularly during the pandemic when the commissions the companies charge restaurants were capped — and more recently against their own delivery workers.

In September, the City Council passed a package of laws that improve the working conditions for delivery workers by giving them access to restaurants’ bathrooms when they are picking up orders, providing them minimum payments per trip — which will become effective in 2023 — and requiring greater transparency and disclosure on tips.

As for the latest bill, Gjonaj said the coverage would also extend to people like pedestrians who are struck by delivery workers, some of whom ride their bicycles or e-bikes on the pavement, which is not allowed, or drive the wrong way on streets and are the cause of accidents. 

“This legislation is a bulwark against a financially ruinous accident, for themselves and others involved,” according to his statement.

The delivery workers began to organize during the pandemic with the help of a group called Los Deliveristas Unidos, whose mission is to advocate for gig workers’ rights and which was instrumental in the package of laws passed in September. A recent study this group conducted with Cornell University found that 49 percent of delivery workers reported having been in an accident or crash while doing a delivery and 75 percent said they paid for their medical care with their personal funds.

The delivery companies, including Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats, are already at loggerheads with the city having filed a lawsuit in September in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York over the commission caps that the city wants to make permanent.

The cap, which limits the amount that the apps can charge restaurants to 15 percent of food orders for delivery services, has cost the companies hundreds of millions of dollars combined through July, the suit argued.

DoorDash has filed a similar complaint over commission caps against San Francisco.

The latest New York initiative would carry penalties of up to $1,000 per each driver contract for failure to provide agreements that provide accident coverage. 

For its part, DoorDash says it already offers its delivery workers coverage: “DoorDash is constantly working to support Dashers and improve working conditions for all delivery workers, which is why we offer occupational accident insurance at no cost to Dashers with no-opt-in required, free and discounted road safety equipment,” the company said in a statement to The Post.

Grubhub and Uber Eats declined to comment until they see the details of the bill.

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