This post of Play It Safe will attempt to help you better deal with an accident or incident. It will be the first of a series. The blogs immediately following this issue will help you understand different insurances, liability and negligence. This is very important because you as a driver could be exposed to liabilities. Your actions could also be deemed negligent.
Imagine driving on I-75 SB in the second to right hand lane just past the “Florence Y’all” water tower when the ear piece to your Bluetooth phone device falls to the floor. After surveying the surrounding traffic you decide it is safe to reach down to pick up that ear bud. “Crack” – a noise comes from your right rear wheels. Looking in the right side mirror you see a black four-wheeler veering out of control and onto the right hand shoulder. An upset feeling quickly settles into your stomach. Your eyes were off the road for only 4 seconds. Did this really just happen? Quickly you move to the far most right lane and then off onto the shoulder while engaging your emergency or hazard flashers. After stopping your vehicle you glance back to see the SUV has come to rest in grass to the right of the road.
What to do now?
Whenever you are involved in an accident you should:
- Stop immediately.
- Take all necessary precautions to prevent secondary accident(s) at the scene. This may require setting reflectors and flares.
- Render reasonable assistance to any injured persons. Do not move injured persons unless absolutely necessary.
- Call 911 (or have someone call), and call your Carrier company. (I refer to the company your truck is leased onto as the “Carrier company”). DO NOT LEAVE THE SCENE OF THE ACCIDENT. Report all of the facts of the accident to your dispatch. In a catastrophic accident where there are severe injuries or possibly death, ask dispatch to contact your insurance company to request they send an adjuster from that area to the accident scene to assist you. Very important – you will need help.
- Obtain the names and license plate numbers of any witnesses. Give each witness a Witness Post Card to fill out from the accident packet provided to you from your insurance company or Carrier company.
- Take photos of the accident scene with your camera kit, and gather any evidence to limit the exposure of liability to you and your Carrier company. Be sure to turn the flash “on” if the disposable camera you are using is so equipped – day or night. If you do not have an accident camera then use your phone to photograph the scene. Take photos of all vehicles involved, from as many angles as possible. Take pictures of skid marks; traffic control devices or other landmarks for reference; the pavement condition, environment and weather, or anything else that could have factored into the accident.
- Do not discuss the accident with anyone other than the investigating officer or DOT representatives, and then only after these persons have identified themselves. Do not admit fault. Do not sign anything. Do not make any statements, except to the police.
- Give to any person involved, and demand the same information from them: name, address, phone number, insurance information, the other driver's operator’s license, and the license plate numbers on their vehicle. If the other vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle, obtain the name and address of the company they are employed by.
- Secure your equipment and cargo to protect it from further damage or theft.
- Fully complete the accident report contained in the accident packet from your Carrier Company. Call the underwriting insurance company to give details. Fax the accident report and any supporting documents to the insurance company.
- Proceed to a testing facility if Post-accident drug and alcohol testing if required.
If while under operation you strike an unattended vehicle, you should immediately stop and attempt to locate the owner of the vehicle. If you are unable to locate the owner, you should securely attach to the vehicle a note leaving your name and the name and address of your Carrier company. There may be a pre-printed form in your accident packet for this purpose.
Always call dispatch to report any and all accidents and/or incidents of any type. Follow your Carrier companys policies for accident and incident reporting. The above may be different from those of your Carrier company.
“Incidents” are occurrences, not conforming to the definition of accident, where some type of property is damaged. Examples of incidents are:
- Cargo being damaged during transit.
- A forklift causing damage to your truck.
- A road hazard puncturing your fuel tank.
- Backing your truck into a building or fixed object.
- Unsure of incident or accident – call dispatch immediately.
Incident Reporting Procedures
- 1). Stop immediately.
- 2). Take all necessary precautions to prevent secondary accident(s) at the scene.
- 3). Call, or have someone call, your Carrier company. Report all of the facts of the incident to dispatch.
- 4). Request that a written report be made by a supervisor at the facility where the incident occurred. DO NOT LEAVE THAT FACILITY WITHOUT OBTAINING A COPY OF AN OFFICIAL REPORT. Obtain the names of any witnesses.
- 5). Take photographs of the damage with your accident camera.
- 6). Fully complete the accident report contained in the accident packet provided to you from your Carrier company. You may also hand write the details of the incident on paper. It is very important to the investigative process that timely and accurate "first person" reporting is done.
The accident packet contains the form necessary for detailing the events of the incident.
The Carrier company is usually not responsible for any damage done to leased vehicles of Owner-operators. The person or company who did the damage to the Owner-operator’s vehicle is responsible for that damage. Chances are you will need to deal directly, in a professional manner, with the party responsible for the damage to collect for that damage. It is imperative that you obtain a written report (incident report) at the time of the incident from the facility causing the damage. Without it you may not be able to collect for those damages.
Slow down and think! You only have one opportunity to do the “right” things to protect yourself and your company in the event of an accident or incident.
Disclaimer: This blog is NOT intended to give legal advice, nor be a substitute for any training required by the Regulations.
Till the next blog, Thank you drivers for all you do!. Please be safe!
John Mueller, CDS, COSS