Accidentology and a legal void: regulation in need of review

As the years go by, we are increasingly using meal delivery platforms. And there are many of them. These companies are now omnipresent on our TV, phone or tablet screens. On the front lines of delivering our food? Delivery workers.

Whether they arrive on bikes or scooters, these self-employed couriers are particularly vulnerable. There are many accidents. In this particularly accident-prone environment, an initial legal problem appears. The employer’s social responsibility obligation as enacted by the “El-Khomri” law in 2016 comes up against the independent status of couriers. And with the emergence of new electric vehicles, it is once again time to apply new decrees.

Another challenge for the insurance and damage survey fields. Here is an overview of the situation. 

 

A legal void?

This subject is very vague. In the wake of the 2016 “El-Khomri” law, several legal decisions intended to reclassify the status of delivery workers as employees rather than as self-employed. In March 2017, agreements in professional public liability and health insurance were affected. A few months later, on 1 January 2018, the creation of obligatory insurance for work accidents became part of the labor code. This was a first step towards recognizing an employer-employee relationship between delivery platforms and their delivery workers. However, things are not so simple.

As a self-employed worker, couriers choose their own coverage through a personal insurance contract. Conversely, an employee has coverage chosen by their employer. Although set in stone since 1 January, taking out an insurance policy is not required. For “partner” couriers on the main platforms, this is a free opportunity to be covered in case they cause damage to a third party and to benefit from coverage in case of an accident. To attest to this, here are a few examples of contracts offered by one of the market leaders.

Renewable each year, the policy offered by this insurer covers the delivery worker’s legal obligations if he or she causes tangible damage, but only in an insured area, defined in an arbitrary manner by the clauses of the contracts. In addition, the coverage provided if the courier experiences personal injury or material damage during a delivery appears minimal, regardless of the weather conditions, be they extreme or not.

And yet, delivery platforms do sometimes offer their couriers bonuses on stormy nights. A factor is taken into account by the accidentology loss adjuster when necessary; a paradox.

 

Examining the environment with a loss adjuster’s eye

Like all two-wheel vehicle users, delivery workers are especially vulnerable. The insecurity of the job pushes them to continue working. This insecurity does not justify exceeding speed limits and failing to follow the highway code. However, there are plenty of examples of this vulnerability. In Gironde, a 19-year-old delivery worker died after being hit by an HGV. In Alsace, a 24-year-old man is currently in hospital after a brutal collision. These sad accidents require the intervention of an accidentology loss adjuster for the insurer and the families.

The loss adjuster’s arrival on-site means there will be a comprehensive study of the accident’s environment, from the point of impact to the traffic conditions. From a purely methodical point of view, analyzing the delivery worker’s means of transport is self-evident. Bald tires, defective brakes, a rusty chain or even a derestricted vehicle are all elements that can put the delivery worker in a position of non-compliance. For scooters, a visit to a two-wheel vehicle professional will bring to light any mechanical defects. Besides a lack of maintenance, the situation’s configuration plays a principal role when recreating the loss.

Was it a rainy day? Was it after dark? The responses to these questions are essential for properly understanding the collision. At night, a wet road certainly impacts a two-wheeled vehicle’s performance. Add to this the physiological and physical dimensions and the chances of an accident increase dramatically. A tired delivery person who is late and driving too fast is a treacherous mix with sometimes terrible consequences. Despite the risks taken, encouraged or not by the delivery platforms, a delivery worker who gets hit becomes a victim. This alarming accident trend continues to grow with the emergence of new motorized vehicles, only recently regulated by the government.

 

New regulations for new vehicles

They’ve been unmissable for some time. For the past two years, electric personal transport vehicles (EPTV) have been flooding public roadways to the detriment of the most basic personal safety rules. On pavements, zebra crossings and bus lanes, these scooters, hoverboards, and electric unicycles had been taking advantage of vague legal requirements. However, with the growing number of serious accidents, it was time for the current Transport Minister, Elisabeth Borne, to act.

On 23 October 2019, decree 2019-1082 came into effect. With it, EPTVs entered into the highway code with a definition of their technical characteristics and the appropriate circulation conditions. So, what is the legal definition of an EPTV? It is a vehicle without a seat, designed and built to transport a single person, without any fittings for carrying merchandise. Simple and clear. But how are these vehicles viewed for insurance purposes?

These EPTVs are considered motorized land vehicles and must be covered by public liability insurance. In case of an accident, the driver can still be held liable. Theoretically limited to 25km/hour, the vehicle is required to have reflective equipment, a license plate, and indicators. The driver must wear a high-visibility vest and, of course, a helmet. These are essential prerequisites, especially since we’re often talking about children. Young teens, as it happens. They are allowed to use an EPTV from the age of 12, compared to 14 years in the past with motorized two-wheeled vehicles like mopeds.

 

Whether it is delivery workers who are or are not connected with delivery platforms or new motorized vehicles, accidentology remains an industry that is constantly evolving. From a simple fall involving a third party to a dramatic accident, the loss adjuster tries very hard to discern the ins and outs of what happened using the tools available to them.

 

Antoine JARRY, Loss adjuster

Sandrine MARCET, Technical referee Civil Liability, in charge of the training loss adjuster

GM Consultant | Stelliant group

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