The time to plan how you’re going to respond at the scene of an accident is before you are involved in an accident. How a truck driver responds on the scene has a major impact on the outcome of any claims that may follow.
Here’s a list of five things drivers should never, ever do at the scene of an accident:
1. Do not leave the scene.
Drivers should stay on the scene of an accident until police and emergency responders arrive and tell them they can leave. Sounds like common sense, but it happens.
2. Do not get argumentative or physical.
Picking a fight — verbal or physical — is a surefire way to make a bad situation worse. How the driver conducts himself on the scene can have a major impact on whether the bystanders become a witness for or against a motor carrier. The emotional response of those involved in the situation will have an impact on how they remember the “facts” — it’s just human nature.
3. Do not discuss facts regarding the accident with anyone other than your company and the police.
There will be people who show up on the scene and start asking questions. Some may be innocent bystanders, some may be ambulance chasers sniffing for a big dollar verdict. We’ve run into situations where people working for attorneys have approached a driver saying “I’m from your insurance company, can you explain what happened?” The only people a driver should discuss the situation with is his or her own company and the police.
4. Do not admit to liability at the scene or volunteer to make payments — allow your company to make that decision after full investigation.
It’s human nature to want to say “sorry” when something goes awry — but even saying “I’m sorry this happened” can be twisted by a prosecutor into an admission of guilt. While your driver will certainly feel bad, reinforce that who’s at fault and who has liability will be determined following a full investigation.
5. Do not delay reporting an accident, no matter how minor it may seem.
The quicker a driver reports an accident, the quicker you can be prepared to respond. Days, hours, and minutes matter when it comes to collecting evidence and gathering witness testimony. Even a fender bender that seems minor needs to be reported right away — we have seen several accidents that seemed small blow up when the motorist has time to stew over it.
In some cases, drug testing may be required following an accident, either by the DOT or your insurance company. Controlled Substance Tests must be conducted within 32 hours and alcohol tests must be conducted within two hours. If the test is not performed within these time frames, you must provide documents stating the reason.
Ensuring that your drivers are well trained on how to respond at the scene of an accident is vitally important — but we’ve found that most companies offer little to no training on this. Training typically focuses on preventing accidents (which is clearly important), but stopping there leaves out a critical component.
This article originally appeared on the HNI blog. Used with permission. HNI is a non-traditional insurance and business advisory firm.