As far as corporations go, Amazon is as big as they come. The Seattle-based multinational boasts an expansive business profile, including massive interests in ecommerce, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing. Amazon’s impressive business reach has enabled the company to create products and services that are making life easier for people in many ways.
Sadly, the company’s constant efforts to improve its business profile and reap massive profits have not come without cost. For several years now, Amazon has been mired in controversy. The company has been indicted in multiple complaints, including the sale of dangerous counterfeit products, terrible working conditions, and more recently, ghastly road accidents caused by its delivery partners.
Every year, hundreds of families and individuals suffer loss as a result of Amazon delivery accidents. Even more have suffered grievous injuries, and have been exposed to substantial financial loss due to Amazon’s indiscretions. The drive for profit should never come at the cost of broken families, unsafe communities, or deadly roads.
At Fiore Legal, our Amazon delivery accident attorneys have been investigating complaints of personal injury and property loss caused by Amazon delivery partners. If you or your loved one was exposed to loss as a result of reckless, careless, or negligent behavior on the part of Amazon’s drivers or its partner companies, we want to help you fight for justice.
Founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, Amazon is as popular, and economically significant, as its billionaire founder. The company started out as an online marketplace where people could buy paper books, and rose to become a pioneer of the ebook industry. However, Amazon has come a long way from where it started. Today, the company is a significant player in the technology, ecommerce, retail, and artificial intelligence markets.
Amazon is primarily known for its sprawling ecommerce offering, generally regarded as the world’s largest online marketplace. In 2018, the company announced that its premium subscription ecommerce service, Amazon Prime, had surpassed 100 million subscribers worldwide, and this number has increased to 150 million in 2020. Every month, more than 197 million people visit its website, and according to current statistics, the company controls almost half of the entire US ecommerce industry.
This huge ecommerce presence means that Amazon moves billions of goods across the US every year, and these volumes increase exponentially around the holidays. During festive periods, the company sometimes moves millions of packages in as little as a few days.
For the company, customer satisfaction is a huge priority, and as a result, it requires 99% of packages to be delivered accurately and on time. Amazon relies on a sprawling distribution network to accomplish this. The company’s network consists of fulfillment centers, delivery stations, sortation centers, and last-mile delivery partners such as FedEx, UPS, DHL, and the US Postal Service. However, when an unprecedented holiday boom in 2013 saw this delivery network fail spectacularly, the company introduced a new delivery structure to ensure this would never repeat itself – Amazon Flex.
Amazon Flex allows individuals and small companies to partner with Amazon to deliver the company’s products. The companies allocate key routes to these partners, who in turn agree to assume the financial risk of running the business while Amazon exercises extensive oversight as to hiring and performance. However, the company is curiously lacking when it comes to enforcing good safety and work standards on these partners, and this has led to significant complaints and multiple deadly occurrences.
Amazon Flex operates according to a structure that is similar to the company’s delivery contracts with UPS, FedEx, and other large partners. The small companies provide drivers and vehicles, and Amazon assigns them a share of its extremely lucrative ecommerce delivery network. However, the difference is, while operations at places like UPS and FedEx are subject to rigorous standards, Amazon adopts a laissez faire approach to safety and workplace fairness at its small company delivery partners.
A detailed investigation by ProPublica and Buzzfeed in August 2019 found that the company has failed to ensure its delivery partners prioritize safety. While Amazon demands that drivers must pass a background check, pass a road test, and have at least 6 months’ experience, job postings from Amazon partner firms often skip some of these requirements.
Amazon exerts extreme pressure on the companies to meet performance targets, and failure is often punished by either reducing the routes assigned to these companies, or firing them entirely. Amazon pays these companies a flat fee per route ($300 per route in some cases), meaning that when packages increase, the companies must take the extra work on within the flat fee. They must do this even while paying drivers hourly rates of between $15-$18 per hour. This squeezes already thin margins even tighter, leading companies to skimp on critical safety measures.
Drivers of many of these companies complain of poorly maintained vans, with some showing balding tires, malfunctioning doors, broken rearview mirrors, and missing or cracked side view mirrors. Drivers are required to meet their deliveries at all costs, and all drivers are monitored with technology that tells Amazon exactly who is slacking off and where.
This translates to severe pressure on drivers to deliver the goods. And in many cases, they attempt to do this by all means necessary, including running red lights, taking dangerous left turns, carelessly backing out into traffic, and generally breaking all the rules of the road. These drivers also try to maximize their time as much as possible, including by stacking packages on their dashboard. But this effectively limits their view of the road, making it all the more likely that an accident will happen.
There is very little to no training conducted for these drivers, and during really busy periods, Amazon’s delivery partners often forgo all but the most rudimentary checks. The report by ProPublica and Buzzfeed documented one instance of a manager for an Amazon delivery partner promising to hire anybody on the spot. All of this has combined into four-wheeled disasters waiting to happen, leading to predictable results.
Since 2015, when Amazon Flex was launched, drivers carrying Amazon packages have been involved in at least 60 road accidents. Most of these accidents caused significant property damage, severe injury, and in at least 13 cases, entirely avoidable deaths. Yet, these figures are regarded as just the tip of the iceberg, because there are many accidents that involve Amazon packages but are not reported in a way that links to the company. And many states, like California, do not make accident reports of this nature public.
But the 13 people who lost their lives in these Amazon delivery accidents, are already 13 too many. One of the deaths included an 84-year old grandmother who was struck by an Amazon-affiliate delivery van. The impact crushed the woman’s diaphragm, fractured her skull, and shattered several ribs.
Another death involved a 10-month old baby when an Amazon delivery driver struck her parents’ SUV from behind while making a left turn. The driver was rushing to complete another delivery, but ended up needlessly taking the life of an innocent child.
In another example of the terrible effects of the pressure being put on Amazon-affiliated drivers, one delivery van ran a red light in an effort to beat the light and gain an extra few seconds. However, the driver failed to notice a motorcycle that had accelerated through the crossing and, despite frantic warnings from other drivers and bystanders, plowed right into the bike. The impact smacked the rider off his bike, fracturing six ribs, his pelvis, and his ankle.
There are several more examples of how Amazon’s indiscretions have created an environment where hazards like these are all but inevitable. Yet, when taken to task on the demons it has birthed, the company has disclaimed liability at every turn, falling back on restrictively-worded contracts that were expressly created to protect it from being held accountable.
Ordinarily, when a driver causes damage or injury to another person, their employer can be held liable if the driver was on the job at the time. This principle allows courts to keep employers on their toes, ensuring they enforce compliance with good safety standards in their workplace.
However, Amazon tries to skirt the operation of this principle entirely in the contracts it enters with its delivery partners. Under the contracts, Amazon is not an employer of the drivers that carry out the deliveries. This means they cannot be sued for the wrongful conduct of the drivers or when they cause injury to others.
In addition, the contract entirely absolves Amazon of liability in any of its relations with its delivery partners. In fact, the delivery companies are required to absolutely indemnify Amazon against any liability arising out of the actions of their drivers. The purpose of this is to ensure that Amazon cannot be held responsible when disaster happens, and its delivery partners may even end up being liable to Amazon.
Another way that Amazon tries to avoid liability is with the size and specifications of its delivery vans. The company requires its partners to use a smaller type of van commonly called “Sprinters”. These vans are smaller than normal UPS or FedEx trucks, and fall just beneath the weight limit that would put them within the Department of Transportation oversight. These vans are usually purchased by Amazon, and then sold or leased to their delivery partners who use these vans to deliver packages.
The entire structure of the Amazon Flex program is designed to prioritize fast, efficient deliveries, deflect liability where disaster occurs, and squeeze every drop of profit possible out of Amazon’s delivery network. However, our experienced Amazon delivery accident attorneys explain to our clients, this does not mean that you cannot hold someone, including Amazon, responsible for your accident.
Proving liability in an Amazon delivery accident begins with showing that the driver was on duty when the accident happened, and that the accident happened due to the driver’s fault. While this sounds straightforward, it can be difficult to prove, especially where the driver maintains he or she was not on duty at the time.
There are several ways to show a driver was on duty at the time of the accident. One of the most obvious is the presence of packages in the van. Amazon drivers are usually required to deliver at least 99% of their packages on time and to the right addresses before they leave off work. As such, if the driver still has packages in their vehicle, then it’s likely they were on duty.
Other ways to show a driver was on duty include checking the delivery block assigned to the driver, the driver’s interactions with the company’s dispatcher around the time of the accident, and logs of the driver’s interactions with the Amazon app or GPS at the time.
If there is insufficient evidence to prove that the driver was working at the time, it means neither the company they are working for nor Amazon can be held responsible for the accident. Any recovery that can be obtained in this case would be limited to the driver’s personal injury liability protection and any additional insurance coverage they have.
Once it is clear that the driver was on duty at the time, and they caused the accident, you can move to consider where to collect compensation for your injury. Your Amazon delivery accident attorney will explain how the law works in this regard and your options for recovering compensation.
The aftermath of an Amazon delivery accident will be confusing, especially due to Amazon’s track record of denying responsibility for accidents its affiliate’s drivers cause. However, it is important to remain calm and focus on meeting with an Amazon delivery accident attorney who will explain how you can go about recovering compensation.
One of the primary options for filing a compensation claim after an Amazon accident is to sue the at-fault driver or their direct employer. Amazon requires its delivery partners to carry commercial insurance coverage, which means this can be a good avenue to recover compensation for your loss.
If the accident was caused by a driver working for FedEx, UPS, the US Postal Service or any other delivery partner of Amazon, your first option for compensation would usually be these companies or the at-fault driver. However, there are certain circumstances where Amazon can be held responsible.
One of these is where the driver was delivering packages for Amazon Fresh, Amazon’s delivery service for Whole Foods. In this case, the driver will count as an employee, since Amazon handles deliveries by itself here. Amazon offers a liability policy with coverage up to $1 million in these cases.
Amazon’s insistence that its contracts with its delivery partners protects it from liability is also increasingly coming under attack. A Department of Labor investigation into unlawful work conditions at one of Amazon’s delivery partners concluded that Amazon was a joint employer in the circumstances. Experienced Amazon delivery accident attorneys can explore one or more of these options on your behalf.
Large corporations such as Amazon owe a duty to exercise due care in how they pursue profit and structure their business operations. When they allow the drive for profit to eclipse their duty to refrain from acts that threaten the safety of our communities, you can rely on the attorneys at Fiore Legal to hold them accountable. If you have suffered loss in any way due to an Amazon delivery accident, contact our attorneys for a free consultation at once.