By Sandi Soendker,
While what happens at the accident site is largely circumstantial, and one thing the trucking industry knows for sure: No matter who is to blame, the fickle finger of fault most often points at the truck.
And it’s likely you’ll be the goat until proven innocent.
If you call the police and they can’t come or won’t come for various reasons, they may tell you to simply exchange information —especially if there are no injuries and the accident is on private property.
We know truckers are usually on a tight schedule, and this may sound like the easier route, but you need to file an accident report if possible. And that means getting to the nearest police station.
If you can’t get to one, and other involved parties refuse to cooperate, then it’s even more critical that you document the incident to the best of your ability.
Commercial Truck Claims Management is the only company that handles claims exclusively for owner-operators. Land Line interviewed claims adjusters from CTCM for the straight scoop on accident readiness. As expected, it wasn’t the standard directive you’ll get from police and medical response teams, which is “stay in your vehicle.”
Here are CTCM’s recommendations for the wisest course of action for a truck driver involved in an accident.
1. Call the police. Think “safety.” Turn on your hazard lights and set out cones, flares or warning triangles if possible. Start taking photos immediately. Always carry a camera, film and batteries.
2. If there are injuries, should you call for help? If there are injuries or special circumstances, tell the police in your initial call. If you are able to move around, get out there with your camera. The objective is clearly to get photos before the vehicles are moved.
3. Do not move the vehicles until the police arrive. Allowing the police to use their discretion in summoning a tow or recovery service is normal. However, ask if the outfit belongs to a professional towing association, as most of these will be committed to standardized rates — which are, of course, going to be more reasonable.
4. Take pictures of the damages to both vehicles, especially any old damage that may exist to the other vehicle.
5. Write down exact location of the incident. Get the exact location. Interstate and mile marker, street name, block number, city and state.
6. Get all police information. Get:
- Department name, i.e. city, county or state police
- Mailing address, city and state
- Telephone numbers, accident report number
- Officer name and badge number
- Information as to who, if anyone, was ticketed
7. Get all information on the other party. Try to get a written statement from the other party stating they have no injuries; if there are injuries, have them state them in writing.
Be sure to get the following from the other party:
- Address and telephone
- Policy number
- Driver’s license number and state
- Year, make, license plate and VIN number on other vehicle
- Description of any (old and new) damage and photos
8. Substantiate all information on the other party. See their insurance card, license, etc. Don’t take their word for it.
9. Get information on the other vehicle. If the other vehicle is a tractor-trailer, be sure to get their DOT and MC numbers; the name, address and phone number of the motor carrier; and insurance information on their motor carrier.
10. Get the name, addresses and phone numbers of any and all witnesses. Have the witness do a short written statement if they will. If the witness will not give you any information, get their license number.
11. Don’t make a statement admitting liability. Even seemingly innocent statements could be misconstrued as an admission of liability. Later, it could be used against you in a court of law. While we are in no way advocating that you misrepresent the truth, it is crucial that you do not make a statement to anyone wherein you admit or suggest liability. What you characterize as liability may not meet the standard for legal liability. The end result of such a situation is that you would be admitting liability to something for which you were not “legally” liable.
12. If the other party admits liability, have them put it in writing. Be sure they sign and date it; stories change when the two parties aren’t face to face. Be sure they add if there are no injuries.
13. Contact your insurance company immediately whether you are at fault or not. Know what your insurance covers. The whole insurance process will be easier following your accident if you know the details of your coverage.
Sandi Soendker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next issue, we’ll dig deeper into preparing for an accident.