What Victims of Crashes Involving LaserShip Vehicles Should Know
While no two crashes are exactly the same, most commercial vehicle accident claims still follow a somewhat similar pattern: filing suit against the driver and their employer, which is considered responsible for the negligent behavior of its employee. However, in cases where a company's drivers work as contractors rather than employees, the situation becomes a bit more complicated, since, as their name might apply, independent contractors' liability doesn't transfer to the company they work for.
Because package delivery company LaserShip hires all of its drivers as contractors, who normally don't expose their clients to responsibility for harms, holding the company accountable for crashes caused by one of their drivers requires the help of an attorney with knowledge of how workers are properly classified, as well as potential negligent hiring, either of which could provide an avenue for holding the company liable. Dallas truck accident attorney Michael Grossman explains how these issues figure into litigation against the company.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What is LaserShip, Inc.?
- How do issues of potential improper classification affect the company's liability?
- How does potential negligent hiring of its drivers enter into claims against LaserShip?
What is LaserShip, Inc.?
Founded in 1986, Vienna, VA-based LaserShip is the 77th largest commercial transportation company in the U.S., with 2017 revenues of $400 million. It relies on contract drivers who use their own vehicles to deliver packages for a host of online retailers, including Amazon and pet food merchant Chewy.com.
Because the vehicles performing work for LaserShip are personal vehicles being used for commercial purposes, the government agency that monitors commercial transportation companies does not collect data on the number of crashes in which they have been involved. However, it would be incredibly surprising if a company generating revenues as large as this one was able to operate for more than three decades without some number of crashes, particularly given some of the evidence available regarding the carelessness of its contractors.
While we may not have access to definitive information about the number of crashes LaserShip's drivers have caused, there's enough evidence available in the public record to suggest that it may be engaging in two legally dubious behaviors: misclassification of drivers as contractors and negligent hiring of unqualified drivers. If either of these behaviors can be proven to have occurred in the case of a driver who caused a crash, the company could bear responsibility for that driver's actions.
How Driver Misclassification Affects Litigation Against LaserShip After A Crash
There's no shortage of on-demand delivery services today, bringing you everything from groceries to clothes, and many of them rely heavily on contract drivers. Whatever ethical issues some may have with how this works in practice, there's nothing in the law that prohibits it, provided those contractors are actually treated as such by the company paying for their services.
While companies like LaserShip may believe that simply having their workers sign an agreement acknowledging their status as independent contractors is sufficient to shield the company from liability for drivers' negligent acts, that isn't how the law determines classification. This means that if a worker's day-to-day behavior is consistent with that of an employee, a court can determine that to be their employment status, and LaserShip could then be found liable for their negligence.
One crucial aspect that sets genuine contractors apart from employees is their autonomy and lack of specific direction from their client. Someone driving for Favor, Uber, or another contractor-based company is able to make their own decisions about when to work, how long to work, which route to take, and so on. As long as the delivery gets made or passengers transported within an agreed-upon time frame, exactly how it gets done is up to the worker.
By contrast, workers considered employees are under a significant degree of control by their employer. They have to perform their work during set hours, do it using company-owned equipment, and in many cases, wear clothing identifying their affiliation with the employer. This increased level of control increases the employer's liability accordingly: while working for you, the actions of someone under your control are considered your legal responsibility.
Looking at the evidence of the relationship between its drivers and the company, there's a strong case to be made that LaserShip's delivery drivers should be considered employees. Plaintiffs in a Massachusetts lawsuit alleging misclassification stated in sworn affadavits that they "reported to a LaserShip facility daily, were required to wear LaserShip-embossed clothing, and were not free to deviate from their assigned routes, [under penalty of] LaserShip withholding future assignments."
While this lawsuit hasn't yet been resolved, if the courts side with the plaintiffs, they'll be employees in the eyes of the law, which means that LaserShip would be liable for any damages caused by them or other drivers in a similar position. This includes injuries and deaths on our roadways.
The Potential Role of Negligent Hiring in Litigation Against LaserShip
While there may not be much specific information about the number of crashes LaserShip's drivers have been involved in, a simple Google search turns up reports of undelivered packages reported delivered, attempted package theft, and fragile packages being thrown out the window of delivery vehicles.
Are these problems the kind of isolated incidents that are bound to occur when a company handles as many packages as LaserShip does, or do they represent a larger issue in the last mile delivery industry of hiring and keeping qualified drivers? And is it that far outside the realm of possibility to infer that the same drivers who are throwing packages out the windows of moving care might not be the most careful drivers?
To be sure, none of the reports that I've seen are in reference to LaserShip couriers being involved in collisions, but they do suggest the company may not be especially selective with who it chooses to take on. Drivers of their vehicles aren't required to obtain a commercial driver's license, and no information is available on what might disqualify someone. In light of this, it's a distinct possibility some drivers are being taken on that a more responsible company would turn away, and that their careless operation is resulting in crashes.
As previously mentioned, the law shields companies from the harm their contractors cause. However, one exception to this rule is when a company engages in negligent hiring practices. For businesses like daycares, this means ensuring that the potential employee or contractor doesn't have a history of harming children. A package delivery company like LaserShip owes a similar duty to the public not to hire bad drivers. This means that, when the business takes on a contractor with a history of drunk driving, speeding, or other signs of danger behind the wheel, it might not matter whether LaserShip categorizes them as an employee, because using bad drivers to deliver packages presents an obvious hazard to the public.
This being said, the only way to prove that a driver was negligently hired is to retain an attorney who can conduct a full investigation of their background, as well as the process by which they were taken on. Documents related to any contractor's onboarding are the property of LaserShip, and only a properly drafted subpoena can compel the company to hand them over to you.
Grossman Law Offices Can Cut Through the Complexity To Hold LaserShip Accountable
The complications of employing independent contractor drivers are just a few of the many challenges that can arise in the course of litigating a crash involving a commercial transportation company. That means it can be incredibly risky to try to handle your claim without legal help that's prepared for whatever difficulties you might face.
There are a lot of attorneys out there who take cases involving commercial vehicles, and it's easy for an attorney or firm to put up a website or billboard advertising that fact. What most of them can't claim is Grossman Law Offices' almost 30 years of successfully litigating commercial vehicle accident cases just like yours. Our thorough investigation and diligent advocacy has won judgments for our clients that compensated them fairly for their losses, while also holding the responsible parties to account for their careless behavior.
If you've been injured or lost a loved one in a collision involving a LaserShip delivery vehicle, please call 855-326-0000 to find out how our attorneys can help you. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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