So you’ve got a side hustle.
Well, you’re not alone. Times are tough for many Americans, and there’s an interesting combination of people who want to boost their income and people who can’t (or are hesitant to) shop for themselves amid a public health crisis.
For many people today, the opportunity to shop or deliver for Instacart, Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates, Shipt, DoorDash, FreshDirect, Peapod, or similar grocery and food delivery services has been a huge help in uncertain times.
There are lots of advantages to this type of work — like setting your own schedule, being your own boss, and having independence and autonomy (to an extent) over how you do the job. But these types of gig-economy jobs also lack some of the protections that you’d normally have with a traditional employer/employee relationship.
Workers’ compensation is how most employees receive benefits if they’re hurt at work. The workers’ comp system varies from state to state, but the overall concept remains the same: If an employee is injured at their worksite or while performing tasks related to their job, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance must cover costs for the injury. Costs include medical treatment, a portion of lost wages, and other items as determined by the state.
But there are specific criteria for determining who qualifies as an employee. Some independent contractors are covered by workers’ compensation insurance, and there are specific factors that would be used to qualify.
What if I’m injured while shopping or delivering food for work?
As an Instacart shopper (and this also goes for DoorDash, Shipt, or any similar business), you’re legally not an employee of the company. You’re your own boss, but that means if you slip or trip and fall, are involved in a car accident, or if you’re injured some other way, you aren’t covered under workers’ compensation. Costs for your injuries will need to be paid by your own health insurance policy where eligible or out of pocket.
Each company has different policies determining the rights of contractors. It would take far too long to detail each of these policies for every grocery and food delivery company out there, so we’ll focus on one of the most popular grocery delivery companies: Instacart.
The Instacart contract
Instacart shoppers are bound by its independent contractor agreement. The agreement says, in part, that the shopper is:
“[A]n independent provider of personal shopping and/or delivery services… you desire to enter into this Agreement for the purpose of using the Instacart Platform to obtain business opportunities to perform personal shopping and delivery services on behalf of consumers. You shall not be entitled to any employee benefits accorded to Instacart’s employees, including but not limited to, workers’ compensation, disability insurance, health insurance, vacation, or sick pay.”
The agreement continues to specify that the worker must secure their own workers’ compensation insurance, disability, health, and other insurance policies.
Instacart Shopper Injury Protection insurance
In 2019, Instacart added injury protection insurance as a benefit for shoppers. The company introduced this as part of its “Shopper Perks Program.” The insurance is comprehensive coverage for all full-service Instacart shoppers for up to $1 million for medical expenses, disability payments, and survivors’ benefits for eligible dependents.
Isn’t that basically like workers’ compensation?
No. Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance where you don’t have to prove that anyone (your employer, a coworker, yourself, or any other person) was at fault for your injury. This operates like any other insurance policy — you file a claim and the insurance company makes a determination about whether it’s an injury it covers and for how much.
Instacart doesn’t cover auto insurance. You need business auto insurance if you’ll be using your personal vehicle to make deliveries. If you’re involved in an accident during an Instacart shopping trip and you didn’t have business insurance on your policy, your insurance company can deny your claim.
For more, visit: Rideshare Liability: What to Do in An Uber & Lyft Car Accident
Typical injuries for personal shoppers
There are 2 main categories of risk for a person who provides personal shopping or food delivery services:
- Car accidents
- Slip and fall or other premises liability accidents
A car accident could happen at any time when you’re performing a shopping trip, in the parking lot of the store or restaurant, or on your way to deliver items to the customer’s home. If you’re involved in a car accident while undertaking a personal shopping or delivery trip, you’d handle it the same way you’d handle a car accident at any other time. Work with your insurance company and the other drivers to reach a settlement for your injuries.
Premises liability is the principle of law that a property owner or manager is responsible for the safety of visitors to the site.
With respect to a supermarket or restaurant (for example, if you’re doing DoorDash or GrubHub deliveries), that means the owner or management company has a duty to maintain premises (both indoors and the outdoor walkways and parking areas) that are safe and free from hazards.
If you slip and fall because of a puddle on the floor in the supermarket, for instance, you might file a personal injury lawsuit against the store for the costs related to your injuries.
Premises liability would also be the area of law involved if you’re injured on the customer’s property — that includes a trip and fall on steps or walkways, a dog bite, tripping over tree branches or other debris, or other property-related hazards.
What to do if you’ve suffered an injury as a personal shopper
1. Seek medical attention
After any injury — no matter how small — the key to legal financial recovery will be proof that you were injured and that the injury cost you money. If you wait to seek a medical evaluation, you might not be able to prove that the accident in question was the cause of your injury.
2. Obtain witness information
If your accident happened in a store or parking lot, there might be video surveillance footage that captured the incident, along with the events leading up to it. This could be extremely valuable if you pursue a claim.
If not, try to get names and contact information for anyone who might have observed what happened. You don’t have to take a statement from anyone, but it’s important to be able to contact them later.
3. Don’t talk to the store’s insurance company
You might get a call from the store’s insurer. They’re going to immediately look for ways to avoid liability, and they’ll be looking for ways to make the accident your fault, not theirs. You are not obligated to speak with a store manager or insurance company without seeking the help of a personal injury lawyer.
4. Seek advice from a personal injury lawyer
If you are seeking compensation from a supermarket chain or other large retailer, there’s a strong likelihood that they have a team of lawyers who deal with cases just like yours every day. Their priority is to make your claim disappear, but in a way that costs them as little money as possible. They might try to make you an offer that sounds like a good amount of money, but if your injury is severe or will require future medical care or disability, it can be hard to know if it will be enough.
That’s why it’s important to know who IS on your side… and to turn to a personal injury lawyer where necessary. If you have a complicated case and you need financial compensation — especially if there will be substantial medical bills or if you’re unable to work during your recovery — an experienced, qualified lawyer is the person who can help you receive the money you need to move forward, whether it’s by negotiating with insurance or filing a lawsuit.