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Chances are auto accidents do not immediately spring to mind when you think of pizza delivery. However, with tens of thousands of pizza vendors across the country deploying tens of thousands of delivery drivers, accidents are bound to happen. These accidents can be just as devastating as any other auto accident and should be taken seriously. At Zinda Law Group, our Roswell pizza delivery accident lawyers are here to help. We are honored to provide excellent legal representation to personal injury victims.
If you or a loved one was injured in a pizza delivery accident in Roswell, New Mexico, do not hesitate to speak with one of our Roswell personal injury lawyers as soon as possible. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free consultation with experienced Roswell pizza delivery accident lawyers today.
Case illustration – on the job or not?
One evening in January 2019, an intoxicated driver crashed into the fence of a Roswell family home around 7:00 p.m. A member of the household explained how happy they were the driver hit the fence instead of the house: “We got kids sleeping in the bedrooms or ourselves, you never know. . . But he could’ve done a lot of damage if he did hit the house.”
A breathalyzer test revealed that the driver’s alcohol level was over 0.19, more than twice the legal limit. Deputies reported finding several bottles of vodka in the driver’s vehicle; one was completely empty. The driver was ultimately arrested for DWI and for not having insurance.
It happens that the driver was employed by a local Domino’s Pizza. Though it was not clear whether the driver was on the job, pictures of the scene revealed that he was wearing his work uniform and displaying a sign bearing a Domino’s logo on top of his vehicle. Domino’s offered no comment except to say that the driver did, in fact, have insurance as required by company policy.
Who is liable? The following section will draw on this case illustration to explore the all-important issue of liability.
Read more: “Pizza delivery driver crashes into New Mexico family’s fence.” KRQE News, 31 Jan. 2019.
Liability: the be-all and end-all in any personal injury case. Who is at fault? To those involved in an accident, this may seem like a straightforward question meriting a straightforward answer. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s not.
In the food delivery context, the question can become particularly complex. For example, in the illustration above, the intoxicated driver was clearly at fault. But can liability be extended to Domino’s?
How You Can Hold a Delivery Driver Liable
In any auto accident, the first potential at-fault parties are the drivers themselves. Were they speeding? Did anybody fail to signal properly? Did someone wait too long to start breaking on a wet road?
Ultimately, the array and combinations of errors, lapses in judgment, miscalculations, etc. that may give rise to accidents and injuries are, quite literally, limitless. How is this range of possibility accounted for in the law? The answer is an intuitive and flexible legal concept known as negligence.
Delivery Driver Negligence
Negligence is by far the most common cause of action brought in personal injury cases. When someone’s unreasonable behavior causes injury to another, the injured party may seek compensation by alleging negligence.
To successfully argue negligence, plaintiffs must prove four elements. If any of these elements are not successfully shown, the plaintiff’s case fails.
- Duty: Defendant owed plaintiff a duty to use reasonable care.
- Breach: Defendant breached their duty.
- Harm: Plaintiff suffered a harm.
- Causation: Defendant’s breach of duty caused plaintiff’s harm.
The first element—duty—is the legal threshold. Without a duty, there can be no breach, harm, or causation.
So, what is the duty to use reasonable care? It is simply the duty all Roswell community members owe to each other to always behave as a “reasonable person” would in order to minimize risk of harm to others. As a quintessential example, all drivers owe a duty to operate their vehicles safely.
Though in most accidents one party bears most fault, most states have adopted a modified form of negligence known as “comparative” negligence. This simply means that, where multiple people are involved in an accident, liability is divided among them based on how much each person contributed to the accident.
For example, imagine an accident between a Roswell pizza delivery driver and a family driving an SUV-type passenger vehicle. On one hand, the delivery driver was speeding to deliver the pizza as hot as possible and in hopes of receiving a higher tip for good customer service; the jury determines that the speeding contributed 70 percent to the accident. On the other, the driver of the family vehicle failed to signal because the father in the car was distracted by the children in the backseat; the failure to signal contributed 30 percent.
The family’s injuries amount to $1 million in damages. However, because the father’s negligence contributed 30 percent to the accident, the delivery driver is only liable for $700,000 in damages.
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Statutory Negligence (Negligence Per Se)
Some actions may also amount to “negligence per se.” When someone violates a regulation or statute without adequate justification, the violation may be deemed automatically negligent—that is, negligent per se. The defending party may be liable for any resulting injuries or property damage. In other words, the concept of negligence per se spares injured parties from having to prove each individual element of traditional negligence.
Negligence per se is likely applicable in the case illustration Roswell accident discussed above. It is clearly illegal to drive intoxicated. Therefore, the Domino’s driver may be deemed automatically negligent for violating a clearly established law.
The driver is personally liable for the property damage. If anyone had been injured as a result of the accident, the driver would have been personally liable for that as well.
How to Hold a Pizza Vendor Liable in Roswell
Establishing the negligence of individual drivers is the first step in filing a case for personal injuries stemming from auto accidents. However, even if you secure a judgment acknowledging the full extent of your damages, individual drivers are not always able to pay those judgments. Further, in the food delivery context, delivery drivers’ personal auto insurance policies generally exclude coverage for “commercial use.” This almost certainly includes food delivery.
In these situations, accident victims can alternatively try to hold the food vendor directly liable. This may be accomplished in at least two ways: (1) direct liability and (2) vicarious liability.
Employer Negligence (Direct Liability)
Just like a delivery driver who fails to use reasonable care, a driver’s employer may also be liable for negligence. An employer may be found negligent for any number of reasons, but the general elements of negligence remain the same—duty, breach, harm, and causation.
More specifically, an employer may be found directly liable for “negligent retention” and “negligent training/supervision.” Put simply, if for some reason the employer had reason to know that their employee presented a heightened risk to the public, an employer may be held directly liable for failing to take appropriate precautions.
In determining employer liability for negligently retaining, training, or supervising a risky employee, the doctrines of comparative negligence and negligence per se (discussed above) also apply. Experienced Roswell personal injury attorneys know how to gather the evidence that will prove whether or not the employer was guilty of any of these kinds of negligence.
Respondeat Superior (Indirect Liability)
A food vendor may also be indirectly liable for the actions of their employees. Specifically, plaintiffs may invoke the doctrine of respondeat superior, which allows employers to be held liable for the negligent actions of their employees.
Of course, this first requires proving that an employee’s negligence caused an injury. But it also requires evaluating whether the employee was acting in the “course and scope” of their employment. Secondly, did the employer have a “right of control” over the employee’s conduct at the time of the accident? Courts will generally not hold an employer liable for employee negligence that had nothing to do with—or was not a foreseeable result of—the employee’s work.
In the Roswell illustration, the evidence arguably points in both directions. On one hand, the facts do not suggest that the driver was actively delivering pizza. Therefore, the accident may not have taken place during the “course and scope” of the driver’s employment.
On the other, he was wearing a work uniform and had a Domino’s sign fixed to his car. This may suggest that not only was he operating in the “course and scope” of his employment, but also that Domino’s enjoyed a significant right of control over his actions at the time of the accident.
Further, it is essential for you and your food delivery accident lawyer to prove that the worker was in fact an employee and not an independent contractor. Subject to very few exceptions, companies will not be held liable for the negligence of their independent contractors.
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TWIST: How to Hold a Franchisor Liable
If the at-fault delivery driver in your accident worked for a local pizza joint, chances are this section will not apply to your case. However, many iconic pizza companies like Domino’s operate under a franchise model. In these circumstances, the franchisor (e.g., Domino’s Pizza) establishes a brand and repetitive business model, which is then deployed through franchisees (e.g., licensed operators of individual Domino’s locations).
Just like an employer may be held liable for the negligence of their employees, franchisors may be liable for the negligence of their franchisees. This provides another valuable route toward compensation for injured plaintiffs.
One of the overarching principles of this kind of liability is that, generally, the franchisor must have had had some right of control over the franchisee’s negligent conduct. For example, if the franchising license required the franchisee to promote a “30-Minute Delivery” guarantee that was later found to encourage their delivery drivers to speed on the road, the franchisor could potentially be held liable for resulting accidents.
Read more: Janofsky, Michael. “Domino’s Ends Fast-Pizza Pledge After Big Award to Crash Victim.” The New York Times, 22 Dec. 1993.
Twist: How to Hold a Food Delivery Provider Liable
Of course, pizza is the most iconic delivered food, and the pizza industry in America is largely built on the delivery model. However, since the introduction of smart phones over a decade ago, food delivery services have proliferated. DoorDash, Grubhub, and UberEATS are currently the leaders in this market.
In the event of a delivery accident, are these providers subject to the same rules governing brick-and-mortar locations? The answer is, “Yes and no.” That is, like any other company, Uber may be held directly negligent or even vicariously liable for the negligent actions of its employees.
However, because respondeat superior does not apply to independent contractors, companies like Uber have striven for over a decade to ensure that their drivers are considered independent contractors and not employees. Their degree of success varies widely across jurisdictions, and in many states the law is still in flux.
As the foregoing discussion shows, establishing liability in the event of a food delivery accident can involve a number of legal complications. Cases become even more complex when applying abstract legal concepts to facts.
Further, the greater the monetary stake, the more vigorously defendants will fight to shift blame. At the end of the day, food delivery accident victims are highly advised to seek the advice of an experienced attorney nearby.
If you were injured in one of the many pizza delivery accidents in Roswell, do not hesitate to reach out to a personal injury attorney today. A free consultation with one of our Roswell injury lawyers is only a phone call away.
What is a statute of limitations?
Of course, personal injury victims need the help of attorneys to create sound strategies for securing compensation. However, regardless of your ultimate strategy, every personal injury case is governed by a statute of limitations. Simultaneously, this is perhaps the simplest and most consequential aspect of all personal injury cases.
Each state sets a deadline for filing a case seeking compensation for personal injury accidents. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations. In most states, the deadline is set at two years after the date of the accident; the law is more generous in New Mexico and sets the deadline at three years after the date of the accident.
Because the deadline acts as a virtually absolute bar to your case once it passes, you should bring your case to a personal injury attorney well before it passes, as soon as possible. Not only will this ensure that you do not miss the deadline, but it will also give your attorney maximum time to evaluate your facts, investigate the law, gather evidence, and help you chart your way toward satisfactory compensation.
Read more: N.M. Stat. § 37-1-8, Statute of Limitations
Roswell pizza delivery accident lawyers can help
Over the years, delivered pizza has become a cultural icon. Whether for a child’s birthday or a college fraternity party, an office gathering or a late-night study session, ordering pizza is ubiquitously popular across America. One thing about these deliveries remains true no matter the location or the occasion: the more drivers on the road, the greater the likelihood an accident will occur.
At Zinda Law Group, we believe every personal injury victim deserves excellent legal representation. Our Roswell injury attorneys pride themselves in providing that representation. If you or a loved one was injured in a pizza delivery accident in Roswell, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with one of our Roswell pizza delivery accident lawyers.
Our clients pay nothing unless we win their case. That is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.
AWARDED TO JOHN C. (JACK) ZINDA BY THE NATIONAL TRIAL LAWYERS ASSOCIATION (2016-2020)
AWARDED TO JOHN C. (JACK) ZINDA (2009, 2011-2012, 2014-2021), JOE CAPUTO (2019-2021), BURGESS WILLIAMS (2019-2020), & NEIL SOLOMON (2020-2021)
AWARDED TO JACK ZINDA (2016-2020), JOE CAPUTO (2016 – 2020) & BURGESS WILLIAMS (2016-2017)
LIFETIME MEMBERS JOHN C. (JACK) ZINDA & JOE CAPUTO