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Who do you sue when the delivery guy hits your car?

Just about every business out there is capitalizing on the demand for more personalized services. Grocery stores and pharmacies, in particular, have picked up on the trend, offering free deliveries to attract more customers in their highly-competitive markets.

But if you get hit by an employee using his or her own car to deliver groceries or prescriptions, who covers your costs?

While the law says that an employer is responsible for the negligent actions of an employee that's on the clock and doing his or her job, many small businesses don't realize that their delivery drivers should have commercial auto insurance if they're using their own vehicles to do deliveries. Some employers also fail to update their insurance plans once they start offering deliveries, not realizing that their own policies may be inadequate. Even if the business does have the appropriate coverage for their delivery drivers, the business is still going to be responsible for any part of a settlement or award that exceeds the policy's limits.

This can leave frustrated victims caught in a battle between companies, all seeking to put the expense on somebody else.

For example, Geico recently won a precedent-setting lawsuit in Illinois, allowing it to deny coverage on an accident claim involving a driver who was delivering prescriptions for CVS. CVS did have additional coverage for the driver, but likely didn't want to be stuck for any damages in excess of what its own policy would pay. They may also have been hoping to avoid a rate hike from their insurer over the accident.

CVS tried to argue that the exclusionary language in Geico's personal auto policy, which stated that it didn't cover vehicles used to "carry persons or property for compensation or a fee," didn't apply because the employee wasn't being paid to deliver prescriptions--he just happened to deliver prescriptions as part of his job. In other words, CVS claimed the exclusion didn't apply because their employee's pay wasn't tied to the number of prescriptions he delivered.

The court disagreed. That means that when the lawsuit is settled, whatever isn't covered by the drugstore's insurance will have to be covered by CVS.

Situations like this illustrate why it's so important to have an experienced car accident attorney on your side. It can often be a battle just to get the appropriate party to take responsibility for an accident, even when the law seems clear.

Source: GEICO, "When do you need commercial vehicle insurance?," accessed Jan. 12, 2017

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