Due to the increased use of mobile apps like DoorDash and rising ecommerce sales, more delivery drivers are on the roadways. Whether dropping off a package or food, these individuals often have to get out of their vehicle and enter a customer’s property for a signature or payment.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, this arrangement has offered convenience and provided many individuals with a source of income, yet delivery drivers have to contend with one serious risk: Loose, dogs who may attack or bite.
Commonly, these attacks happen when a dog roams free on a large property or the owner fails to restrain the dog when a delivery driver arrives at the door. In this last scenario, a dog may jump through an open door or window at the delivery driver, who’s caught off guard.
A delivery driver has an implied invitation onto the property, so the owner is expected to provide a duty of care, particularly if their dog has a history of aggressive behavior. As such, should the dog bite a delivery driver, the owner can be held directly responsible.
If you’re a delivery driver or have a loved one in this line of work, here’s what you should know.
Who’s Vulnerable to a Dog Attack?
Anyone delivering mail, food, flowers or other packages is exposed to this risk, including:
- Delivery drivers working for UPS, FedEx, Amazon and DHL
- USPS letter carriers
- Drivers delivering groceries
- Meter readers
- Cable and internet installers
- Food delivery drivers working independently or for a restaurant
- Furniture and supply delivery workers
Individuals who have to wait on a porch or front step for the owner to sign for a package or provide payment tend to have the greatest risk for dog bites. While delivery drivers working directly for a company can file a workers’ compensation claim for their injuries, those looking for work without a long-term commitment are treated as independent contractors.
Attesting to the seriousness of this issue, the U.S. Postal Service reported their letter carriers experienced 6,755 dog attacks on the job in 2016, resulting in $25 million in workers’ compensation claims and medical expenses. The average claim totals $33,230.
During a typical year, UPS has reported that its fleet of about 66,000 drivers experiences 900 dog bite incidents.
How Dog Bite Injuries Happen to Delivery Drivers
Dogs tend to have a pack mentality with other dogs and family members. When they perceive an outsider in their pack, they may attack unprovoked:
- Dogs may go into prey mode, hunting and attacking perceived prey from behind. In this instance, the dog may attack without barking.
- Although not intending harm, a dog may decide to play and knock someone down.
- A dog may go into fight or flight mode to defend their pack if a threat is perceived.
To anticipate this type of behavior, it’s recommended that dog owners put their pets in a separate, secure room when a delivery driver arrives. This room should have no open doors, windows or loose screens that a dog could get through. Additionally, a child should never answer the door when a dog is loose, as the animal could easily get out of the house and go after a delivery driver.
If you’re a delivery person in this scenario:
- Look for indications a dog may be present, such as a “Beware of dog” sign or a water dish on the porch.
- Remain alert when you enter a property and examine your surroundings.
- Never walk up to a porch while wearing headphones.
- If a dog lunges at you, don’t run. Instead, put something between you to create a barrier and slowly back away, while facing the dog.
- Never make direct eye contact with a dog, as this move can be perceived as aggressive.
- Once in a safe location, stand sideways while keeping the dog in your peripheral view.
- Consider carrying treats for dogs to provide a distraction.
If you’ve been bit by a dog:
- Call emergency medical assistance
- Cover your wounds to reduce any bleeding
- Take photos of your injuries
- File a police report and request a copy
- Notify the dog’s owner that you have been bit
- Keep copies of all medical records
- Note if you’ve had to take time off work
After the incident, also be sure to communicate to your company that a particular address has an aggressive dog, so other drivers can take precautions. In the case of USPS letter carriers, drivers have the option of entering information about the incident into a handheld device.
Should the dog’s behavior turn into a safety risk, letter carriers may stop delivering mail to that area altogether, as was the case for a Manchester neighborhood in 2017. When this occurs, residents need to pick up their mail at the closest post office.
Filing a Dog Bite Claim as a Delivery Driver
The law does not consider these workers to be trespassers. Making deliveries is part of their job description, so permission to be on a dog owner’s property is implied. Yet, the type of lawsuit a delivery driver files after a dog bite incident can vary.
Those employed by a larger company, such as FedEx, UPS and the postal service will file a workers’ compensation claim. However, independent contractors who are not covered by workers’ compensation will file a claim against the dog owner directly, whose homeowner’s insurance policy should anticipate and provide compensation for these risks.
Individual states treat dog bite claims differently. Many, including Connecticut, have strict liability laws holding the dog’s owner responsible for any related injuries. Also, the driver may pursue a claim against the dog’s “keeper” if someone else should have been watching the animal, like a dog sitter or walker.
A handful of states have “one bite” laws. In these cases, the owner is liable for all injuries after the dog’s first incident. Many states also have a statute of limitations concerning dog bite claims. In Connecticut, the statute of limitations is three years if filing a claim against the dog’s owner and two years for all other involved parties. Based on this deadline, a delivery driver should immediately pursue a claim after a dog bite incident.
Were you recently bitten or attacked by a dog while making a delivery? Such hardworking individuals should be able to safely perform their job duties without fearing a life-changing dog attack. To pursue your claim, contact Trantolo & Trantolo today.