Bill would require food delivery drivers to beef up liability insurance

By: - March 15, 2022 11:27 am

(New Jersey Monitor)

New Jersey lawmakers advanced a bill Monday that would set high insurance liability limits for food delivery drivers, with industry representatives and even the lawmakers themselves saying the limits might be too high.

The bill, sponsored by Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), would require drivers for companies like DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats to carry up to $1.5 million in both uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and death, bodily injury, and property damage coverage. It is modeled on a 2017 state law that raised the required liability insurance minimums for ride-share drivers to the same amounts, Scutari said.

“The drivers for food delivery apps should have commercial coverage if they are engaged in commercial services,” Scutari said in a statement. “Insurance companies can deny claims if a driver does not have this coverage. That would leave the driver, the customer, and any other victim without fair compensation.”

Current law generally requires New Jersey drivers to carry $15,000 per person, or $30,000 per accident, in bodily liability insurance; $5,000 in property liability insurance; and those same amounts to protect against uninsured and underinsured drivers.

The bill prompted lively debate in the Senate Commerce Committee, not only about the jump in mandated insurance coverage proposed, but also about who should be required to get it. Committee members and industry representatives wondered why food delivery drivers would be subjected to higher insurance costs than other commercial drivers and have to shoulder the same insurance costs as ride-share drivers.

“The DoorDash driver who is bringing you your Shamrock Shake this week should not have to carry the burden of someone who is transporting people,” said Tracy Schoenberg, executive vice president of government affairs for the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.

Sen. Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) agreed: “There’s less risk when you’re transporting a sandwich versus transporting people.”

Sen. Robert Singer (R-Ocean) said if lawmakers are concerned that the current minimum liability amounts aren’t high enough, “we should take a look then at the minimum insurances in the state for every driver,” not only those “trying to make a few dollars” by delivering food.

Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Union) wondered how many accidents and injuries food delivery drivers cause, but no one had answers.

Legislators also debated how much liability drivers’ employers should bear — and whether it is fair for the drivers themselves to shoulder the responsibility for accidents.

Despite the concerns, the legislators agreed to advance the bill, with Singer the sole no vote.

The same committee advanced another bill that would set minimum liability insurance requirements for owners of rental housing to at least $500,000 for incidents or accidents that result in property damage, injury, or death.

Singer also voted no on that bill, saying renters should bear some of the responsibility for anyone who gets injured or property damage that occurs in their apartments. But the rest of the committee agreed to advance the bill.

That bill also was sponsored by Scutari, who has worked as a personal injury attorney.

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.

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