Your rights as a delivery driver in California depend on whether you are classified as an employee or independent contractor. Some delivery drivers are employees of the delivery services or businesses they work for and are entitled to significant protections under California labor laws that include the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits when they get hurt or sick on the job. Other delivery drivers, however, are classified as independent contractors by the companies they work for. For those individuals, the legal landscape in California is very much in flux as of late August 2023.
If you sustained injuries as a delivery driver in California, you may have the right to receive compensation for your losses. But your status as an employee or independent contractor could significantly influence the nature and scope of that right. To ensure you receive the maximum amount possible so that you can pay your bills and recover from your injuries, you’ll need an experienced California workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer to handle your claim.
If you got hurt or sick while doing your delivery driving job in California, and you’re an employee of the business you work for, California law entitles you to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ comp is a form of no-fault insurance that nearly all California employers must purchase and carry for their employees’ benefit. It pays for the costs of your medical care and some of your loss of earnings in the event you suffer a work-related injury or illness. You are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits regardless of your job title, age, the number of hours you work, or immigration status. You have the right to receive workers’ comp even if you are an undocumented non-citizen.
In addition, you may have the right to pursue legal action for additional compensation—over and above your workers’ comp benefits—if you got hurt or sick in an accident caused by someone other than your employer. For example, if you sustained injuries in a car accident that happened while you were on a delivery run, and the other driver was at fault, you may have a claim for damages to make against that driver or anyone else responsible for the crash.
An independent contractor does paid work for someone else without being their employee. Under current California law, you are an independent contractor if:
If you are an independent contractor delivery driver rather than an employee of any business you deliver for, you have fewer rights when it comes to your work-related injury or illness. Businesses in California do not have to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their independent contractors. If you get hurt or sick on the job as an independent contractor, you generally cannot turn to a workers’ comp insurance policy to pay for your care or loss of earnings.
As above, however, you may have the right to sue an at-fault party for damages if their wrongful actions caused your injuries or illness. Those damages could include compensation for your medical expenses, loss of earnings, physical pain, emotional suffering, and diminished quality of life, for example.
So which are you? An employee? Or an independent contractor? As a delivery driver in California, that’s not an easy question to answer at the moment.
Many California delivery drivers work for “gig economy” businesses like UberEats and DoorDash. Those companies have historically classified everyone who drives for them as independent contractors. That is, they’ve refused to treat drivers as employees entitled to workers’ comp benefits and other protections of California labor law.
In the past few years, that stance has been a source of significant political and legal turmoil in California. In 2019, Governor Newsom signed the law that established the three-part test for independent contractor status described above. That law, known as AB5, aimed to force companies like UberEats and DoorDash (and their rideshare cousins, Uber and Lyft) to treat drivers as employees, not independent contractors. But a year later, California voters approved Proposition 22, which exempted those same companies from AB5’s provisions.
Since then, court battles have raged over the conflicting mandates of AB5 and Prop 22. As of late August 2023, it’s unclear how they’ll turn out. In March 2023, a California Court of Appeals ruled that Proposition 22 did not violate the California Constitution in exempting rideshare and delivery services from workers’ compensation laws. That decision is now on appeal to the California Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, in a separate lawsuit, the California Supreme Court in July 2023 allowed a case filed by an UberEats driver challenging the company’s classification of himself and other drivers as independent contractors to proceed in state court. The Court rejected arguments by UberEats that the dispute had to be resolved in private arbitration according to the terms of the standard agreement the company enters into with its drivers.
Although that lawsuit focuses on drivers’ entitlement to expense reimbursements rather than workers’ comp benefits, and the decision only allowed a lawsuit to proceed rather than deciding its underlying claims, some observers think it may signal the California Supreme Court’s openness to holding Prop 22’s exemptions unconstitutional and forcing gig economy businesses like UberEats to treat delivery drivers as employees.
In short, California delivery drivers will have to wait a bit longer for the California Supreme Court to tell them whether they have the rights of employees or independent contractors.
If you got hurt or sick while doing your job as a delivery driver in California, you deserve up-to-date legal advice about your rights and options for seeking compensation and a strong advocate who can get you results no matter what direction the laws take.
KCNS Law Group is a workers’ compensation and personal injury law firm committed to securing compensation for California delivery drivers and other gig economy workers who have suffered harm on the job. Contact us at (818) 937-9255 or through our contact form today to learn the latest about your rights and how we can help.