According to the latest available government figures, a motor vehicle crash occurs on U.S. roadways once every five seconds. And National Safety Council statistics report that some 20 million drivers — nearly 10 percent of all U.S. drivers — were involved in an auto accident in 2006.
In the face of such numbers, even the most careful driver can suddenly encounter bad luck on the road. What should drivers do when involved in a crash? How should you handle the incident when the call comes in?
The following checklists will help you and your drivers get through the immediate aftermath of a crash while helping to expedite the claims adjusting process.
Establish and enforce a crash reporting and investigation process. Company policy should clearly guide drivers through their responsibility after a crash. All crashes should be reviewed to determine the cause, their preventability and what can be done to avoid similar crashes in the future.
Make sure your fleet drivers have the tools to properly deal with an accident. Place in the vehicle glove compartment copies of such important documents as:
- Insurance company ID card.
- Valid vehicle registration.
- Medical alerts detailing personal allergy or health conditions that may require special attention if you are seriously injured. Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. This kit should include:
- Road flares or warning triangles.
- Brightly colored cloth to tie to the driver-side door.
- Disposable camera.
- Flashlight with fully charged batteries.
- First aid kit.
- Basic tool kit.
- Duct tape.
- Pad of paper and pen.
- Accident report form
Tip: Use accident report forms.
An accident report form takes the guesswork out of what can be an emotional and confusing situation.
“It’s all the more important that customers get this information in minor accidents that tend not to be reported,” says Bill White, vice president of the transportation division at Cambridge Integrated Services, a management firm headquartered in Connecticut. “This may be the only chance to get information about facts of loss or parties involved, especially if they didn’t call the police.”
To view a standard accident report form, view this article online at www.businessfleet.com in the magazine’s “features” section. It includes a list of what to do (and what not to do) when an accident happens.
Manage the Crash Scene
After experiencing a crash, your drivers should follow these procedures:
1. STOP! When involved in a crash, however slight, do not leave the scene until speaking with the other driver, the police, or both.
2. Stay Calm. Remain as calm as possible, avoid any inclination to react in anger, particularly when encountering another driver behaving irrationally.
3. Keep Safety First. When involved in a minor accident with no serious injuries, move the vehicles and occupants safely to the side of the road, out of the way of traffic. If a vehicle cannot be moved and no injuries have occurred, drivers and passengers should remain in the vehicle with seat belts fastened until help arrives. Turn on hazard lights and if safe to do so, place cones, flares, or warning triangles.
4. Call for Medical Assistance. Call for emergency medical help if anyone involved in the crash is bleeding, feels lightheaded, or is suffering any physical injury. Always err on the side of caution and call for help. Unless someone at the scene is specifically trained in emergency medical procedures, wait until help arrives before attempting to move a person or perform emergency aid.
5. Contact the Police. Calling the police from the crash site is the best action. If the driver cannot contact the local law enforcement, he or she should instruct someone else to do so. Police officers can address traffic infractions and take notes for the incident record.
6. Do Not Admit Fault. Do not discuss specific details of the accident with anyone except the police. Be polite, but don’t admit fault to the other driver or the police, even if the driver’s actions led to the crash.
7. Contact Your Employer. Call the company fleet manager, or, if applicable, the insurance company as soon as possible. If your company’s fleet policy mandates, file a state vehicle accident report. A police report often helps insurance companies speed up the claims process.
Document the Accident
Carry a disposable camera in the car to photograph the damage to all vehicles involved. Include photos that reveal the overall context of the crash—road conditions, intersection site, traffic signs or lights, etc.
Record in writing all pertinent information concerning the incident, including:
- When and where - Date, time and exact location of the accident.
- Ohers involved - Contact information for all third-party drivers (including insurance policy numbers) and pedestrians; description of vehicle(s) involved, how the accident occurred and description of damages to vehicles
- Conditions - Weather and street conditions, conditions as vehicles were in motion
- Injuries - List of persons injured, contact information and hospital details
- Police investigation - If the police were notified, the police department, contact information and any arrests or citations
- Witnesses - Contact info of all witnesses
- Diagram of scene - To make a sketch of accident scene
This information is generally found on an accident report form.
Tip: Be a data collector, not an investigator.
While your fleet drivers have a critical role in handling accidents, they should also know the limits of their role.
“We don’t want them being investigators,” White says. “It’s not their job to assess liability or to determine the amount of damages. It’s just their job to identify the issues, collect the contact information and get it to their company as quickly as they can.”
Process the Claim
Quickly submitting the accident form and any police reports or information over to your insurance provider or adjuster should be a top priority. This way, the adjuster can start investigating what happened while facts are fresh in the minds of everyone involved.
The adjusters will be the ones to reassure the parties that the claim will be handled swiftly and fairly, so it’s best that they get in touch with the parties as quickly as possible.
Depending on the severity of the accident, the damaged vehicle may be a part of an investigation, which will affect when the vehicle can be repaired and get back on the road.
Tip: Use a pre-approved body shop to expedite the claims process.
Many insurance companies have preapproved body shops with preapproved repair rates, says Kelly Silva of GNW-Evergreen Insurance Services. This saves scheduling an appointment with an adjuster to examine the vehicle.
“If you the policyholder are okay with using their shop, you can drop it off there, and whatever that shop says it will cost is what the insurance company will agree to pay,” says Kelly Silva of GNW-Evergreen Insurance Services. “The rates are preapproved.”
When turning in a claim, you’ll need to provide a copy of the accident report form, a police report if applicable and proof of loss of damages. Keep track of reimbursable costs such as tow bills and storage fees.
Following these procedures will help get your fleet vehicle back on the road quicker. “Even with a bad accident, if everything is filled out correctly, you’d be surprised at how smoothly, fairly and quickly the adjusting process can go,” says White.
For a complete glove box accident report guide, click here.