Bicycle messengers are increasingly common in New York City. They play a unique role in the local economy, providing swift and efficient delivery services. The explosion of apps such as Caviar and UberRUSH has made it possible for bike messengers to earn a decent living.
However, the job isn’t without risks. The nature of the work can be stressful. You have to stay on schedule, navigate constantly shifting traffic conditions, persevere through adverse weather and avoid getting lost. All of these factors can drastically increase your risk of getting into an accident.
If you do get injured during a delivery, you should be aware of the following key points.
1. You probably can‘t get workers‘ comp
The bulk of bike messengers are independent contractors working on a freelance basis. While this arrangement gives you more freedom in picking and choosing jobs, selecting your own hours, and potentially fitting in another type of job, it also has downsides. Unlike employees, independent contractors aren’t entitled to workers’ compensation for job-related injuries. This means you could be stuck with significant medical bills on top of lost income if you’re unable to work.
However, employers sometimes try to get out of their obligations by misclassifying workers as independent contractors when they really should be treated as employees. For this reason, you should always check with an attorney about the details of your situation.
2. You might have a personal injury claim
Careless drivers are often the culprits in bicycle collisions. Even if you can’t get coverage for an accident through workers’ comp, you may still have a legal claim against the driver (or other negligent party) who contributed to your accident. Compensation might be available not only for your medical expenses, lost income and property damage, but also for your pain and suffering.
3. The injuries could linger much longer than you expect
Bicycle accidents can result in a broad range of injuries, from permanent brain damage to road rash. Broken bones, whiplash, soft-tissue injuries, and back and neck pain are among the most common. Even if the prognosis initially looks good, many of these injuries can result in chronic pain and limited mobility. It may take months (or even years) of ongoing rehabilitation before you can get back on your bike.
While these considerations shouldn’t discourage you from working as a bike messenger, they should motivate you to do everything in your power to stay safe on the roads. You can’t always avoid bad drivers or other dangerous conditions. You can, however, take concrete steps to protect yourself while continuing to do the work you love.