While proceeding southbound on a coastal road in central California, a USPS postal vehicle collided with a passenger car heading in the opposite direction. The late-morning accident sent the postal driver as well as two occupants of the northbound vehicle to the hospital with major injuries.
The postal driver suffered a serious head wound, and rather than summoning an ambulance, the California Highway Patrol contacted a regional hospital to request a helicopter airlift. This is standard procedure in remote areas where medical facilities are scarce and victims of serious accidents require immediate treatment. Officers at the scene spent about 90 minutes investigating the accident before clearing the carrier’s vehicle, which was blocking the highway in both directions.
With any serious accident, investigating authorities are tasked with determining the party at fault or apportioning a percentage of fault to each driver involved in the crash. When one of the parties is on duty for an employer, the liability scenario grows more complicated. A commercial driver working as an employee, such as a regular USPS driver in a USPS-owned truck, is generally covered by the employer’s liability insurance; independent contractors, such as many commercial semi-trailer drivers, carry their own insurance.
In general, rural carriers working for the USPS are independent contractors with commercial endorsement on their personal auto insurance for their on-the-job driving. Without the endorsement, the insurance company can deny any claim against the driver for liability in the course and scope of his or her employment. Without liability coverage from insurance or the U.S. Postal Service, another party claiming personal injury damages would have to sue the carrier individually for recovery of medical expenses, loss of wages and other costs arising from the accident.
Source: KRON 4, “Update: 3 Hospitalized in HWY 1 Crash Near Half Moon Bay”, Candice Naranjo, December 24, 2014