If you're ever involved in a traffic accident, there are a few very important elements to keep in mind:
- What to do after an accident occurs
- How to protect your motor vehicle record when you're involved in an accident
- How to limit your personal liability from an accident
These are just a few of the important matters to consider when you're involved in a traffic accident. Here are the most frequently asked questions we receive regarding traffic accidents. We hope the information will be helpful.
Question: I had a traffic accident that wasn't my fault. I didn't even get a ticket, but the other driver did. Now, the accident shows on my driving record. Why?
Answer: Whenever you have an accident and the police/troopers arrive on the scene, an accident report is made. Once this report is finished, a copy of the report goes to the state Department of Transportation where the accident occurred and to your home state (the state where you're licensed). Once your home state receives a copy of the accident report, the word accident goes on your driving record.
Remember, the word accident has nothing to do with being at fault or receiving a ticket. The word accident goes on your driving record simply because you were involved in an accident and an accident report was created.
In addition to your driving record, the word accident may be reported to DAC Services. The motor carrier normally reports the accident to DAC Services as part of your employment history. Regardless of fault, there isn't much you can do about the word accident on your driving record or DAC report. However, if you're involved in an accident and it appears on your DAC report, you can write a brief rebuttal statement, send it to DAC Services and request it be placed in your file. Then, whenever a motor carrier orders your DAC report, your statement of explanation goes along with the report.
Regardless of fault, there isn't much you can do about the word accident on your record What if I have an accident?
Here's several things you must do immediately if you're involved in an accident:
- Stop Your Vehicle! Do Not Leave the Accident Scene until you receive the go ahead from law enforcement. If you leave the scene of an accident without law enforcement's permission, your CDL privileges may be suspended for 12 months.
- Report the Accident to Law Enforcement and Your Employer
Whether by cell phone or CB, be sure to notify the nearest law enforcement agency and your employer/motor carrier as soon as possible. The company policy of most motor carriers requires notification of any accident.
- Take Pictures of your tractor-trailer, the accident scene and all other vehicles involved. The old saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words" is certainly true when an accident occurs. If you don't have a camera, buy a disposable camera and keep it in your truck.
- Exchange Information with the other drivers/witnesses at the scene. Get the name, address, insurance information and tag numbers of all drivers/witnesses. This information, along with the pictures, will be vitally important to your defense if you receive a citation and/or place a rebuttal statement with DAC Services.
- Write Your Own Statement of what happened before, during and after the accident. As soon as possible, take a few minutes to write down what happened, in your own words. Don't put this off! Important details may be forgotten if you wait.
- Call an Attorney if you receive a traffic ticket from your accident. Usually, you have 15 to 30 days from the date you received the ticket to contact the court. Call an attorney before you call the court! A good attorney will be happy to give you a free telephone or in-person consultation to discuss your options. Only then can you make a truly informed decision.
Remember, if an accident report was made, you're already going to be penalized by having the word accident appear on your driving record. Also, being convicted of a ticket you receive from an accident may result in further penalty to your driving record and wallet. If you receive a ticket from your accident, do not automatically pay your ticket. Simply paying your ticket is a voluntary admission of guilt. Particularly in an accident case, this admission can, and in most cases will, be used against you to collect money.
We hope you can use the information in this column to help with the every day, real life problems you face on the road. We invite you to send us any questions or comments you may have regarding transportation law to ROAD LAW, 1330 N. Classen Blvd., Suite 215, Oklahoma City, OK, 73106; fax to (405) 272-0558 or contact us through our web site at www.roadlaw.net. We look forward to hearing from you.