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With many of the nation’s restaurants now restricted to takeout and delivery services, it’s no surprise eateries are hiring delivery drivers to meet demand.

Car insurance for pizza delivery drivers

For example, Domino’s franchise owners in the Los Angeles area are expected to hire an additional 2,500 drivers in coming weeks to deliver food during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Los Angeles Times.

While these jobs are good news, getting people their meals can be a prescription for auto accidents:

  • Delivery Drivers tend to be young and inexperienced.
  • Drivers are often distracted, looking for addresses or in a hurry to make a delivery.
  • The vehicle is driven into different areas at various hours of the day and night.
  • The car is frequently driven in bad weather.
  • Drivers put a lot of miles on their vehicle.

That’s why delivering food can be dangerous - and, if you haven't asked the right questions, financially ruinous, as well.

If you're using your own car to deliver food, you're probably not covered under your personal auto insurance policy. In some cases, you need to have a special business use endorsement on your car insurance policy.

In some states, legislators are stepping in with relief measures. For example, Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers and the state insurance commissioner issued an order requiring insurance companies to cover delivery services on drivers’ personal car insurance policies and restaurants’ liability policies at no extra cost to the policyholder. The mandate is retroactive to March 17, when the state ordered restaurants to close their dining areas.

But if you’re on your own, here’s how to make sure you are properly insured if you’re a food delivery driver.

What you need to know about food delivery and car insurance: you need special coverage

If you’re considering taking a job as a food delivery person, there are a few things you should know before accepting the position.

Driving a company vehicle

If you're driving a company-owned vehicle, liability for an accident falls to the restaurant. But all the violations still accrue to your own driver's license. So jump in and start driving … carefully.

Driving your vehicle

Driving your own vehicle requires some questions of both your insurance company and prospective employers. The majority of insurance companies won’t cover delivery drivers under a personal insurance policy because of the dramatically increased risks.

“Many personal auto policies will not cover losses that occur while using your vehicle to deliver for a fee. That means that without this insurance, you could be held personally responsible for an auto accident that occurs while working,” according to Progressive’s website.

However, some policies will cover delivery travel if the job is part time and the policy is coded to include business use.

For instance, Progressive offers “pizza delivery insurance,” which its website says is commercial vehicle insurance designed to protect you and your vehicle while working as a pizza or food delivery driver. Having food delivery insurance may be required by your employer.

Restaurant policies still don’t cover your car’s damage

Restaurants can purchase auto insurance to protect the business from liability if its delivery driver is involved in an accident while driving

a personal vehicle. While covering the business from liability, this type of insurance doesn’t cover the cost of damages to your vehicle or your medical bills.

Who pays? Whoever has the money

Attorneys prefer to sue the employer, of course, rather than the paid-by-the-hour employees.

But some are completely uninsured, or drastically underinsured. Some don't know they need a policy, and others are trying to avoid the cost.

Whatever the reason, an uninsured or underinsured employer can spell real trouble for a delivery driver.

In one suit from several years ago, attorney Thomas Ryan of Cleveland represented a 43-year-old woman who was rear-ended by a delivery driver reaching for his dropped phone. Her injuries were substantial, and the pizzeria had coverage limits of only $25,000. This amount didn’t cover the cost of her injuries. She eventually settled with the pizzeria.

A settlement with the business doesn't necessarily leave the driver in the clear.

"Victims are entitled to recovery from anyone who is negligent," says attorney Bradford H. Bernstein of New York. "In most instances, it is preferable to put the claim in through the employer, but if they are not insured a claim would be put in against the driver."

The driver's policy is then put to the test, which it may fail if the driver has gone for the cheapest state-minimum liability policy. Even a modest fender-bender can result in insurance claims that easily exceed limits as low as $15,000 per injured person and $5,000 in property damage.

Once those limits are hit, the driver's personal assets--or perhaps those of his parents if the driver is a teenager--are vulnerable.

Insurance with all the toppings: car insurance for food delivery

How can you protect yourself?

"If you plan on using a personal or family vehicle to deliver pizza," Ryan advises, "then make sure to check your insurance policy for exclusions, I would also check the employment agreement with the pizza company. There should be a specific provision in the employment agreement regarding whose vehicle will be used and/or who will be liable in the event of an accident."

The only sure way to be covered for both damages to your car and liability insurance is to purchase a commercial driver policy. These policies are more expensive than a personal policy, but they will provide the protection you need.

In reality, you need more liability insurance protection than the state-minimum requirements provide. Senior Consumer Analyst Penny Gusner recommends levels of 100/300/100--that's $100,000 for bodily injuries per person, up to $300,000 per accident, and property damage coverage of $100,000.

Expert tips for teen delivery driver car insurance

"Parents will want to be cautious about allowing a child to use a family vehicle for pizza delivery," Gusner says. Even with a commercial policy in place, the car owner can be looked to for compensation once damages exceed the policy limits.

Gusner says a parent may want to place the car in the child's name on a separate policy.

However, parents should check state liability laws to see if they could still be held responsible for the actions of a child. If the child is living at home and is listed on the parents' tax returns as a dependent, it's possible the parents could be held liable even if the car is in the child's name.