No driver plans to have an accident; crashes are sudden and unexpected events. However, what you and your drivers can plan for is how to manage the people and the scene when an accident occurs.
By having a crisis/accident management plan in place and properly training your drivers in executing the plan, you can help keep them safe and protect your passengers and your company’s reputation. It can also have a tremendous impact on the outcome of the claim.
Keys to managing the scene
The following are the key components your drivers should know to effectively manage the scene of an accident.
How to protect passengers by securing the scene:
- Get help from local authorities.
- Assist others at the scene.
- Gather and exchange information.
More specifically, your driver should be trained to:
- Assess the situation and determine if passengers are OK; determine if the vehicle is stopped where it is blocking traffic and needs to be moved.
- Protect the vehicle from being involved in an additional incident by activating the four-way flashers and setting out warning devices. (Move the vehicle if it creates a hazard.)
- Call the police, the company, and your insurance company, even if all the information is not available; alert emergency responders if there are injuries.
- Assist the injured, but only provide first aid if personally trained and certified.
- Assist passengers and make them comfortable, if possible.
- If there are no injuries, attempt to provide the passengers with another vehicle to complete their trip.
- Exchange information with other parties involved. AVOID confrontation or admitting liability. Stay calm and professional. Follow the company’s policy with respect to making statements to police; drivers are only required to give their name, address, commercial driver’s license information, company name, vehicle data, and insurance information.
- Obtain names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses and nearby motorists and pedestrians. There are an increasing number of recording devices in vehicles these days, meaning someone may have filmed the accident. This increases the importance of asking anyone that has stopped at the scene whether they witnessed the crash.
- Photograph all vehicles (from four angles) and the scene (i.e., road conditions, tire marks, debris, traffic patterns, and traffic control devices). If a cell phone is used to take photos, send the photos immediately to your insurance company; avoid deleting them until the claims adjuster has confirmed it is okay to do so.
Training your drivers
Of course, the best time to train and prepare your drivers for managing an accident scene is before a crash/incident occurs. Drivers who are well trained and experienced in dealing with crisis situations are often more alert and better able to handle driving challenges.
As a result, an important element in your company’s crisis/accident management plan is to conduct a driver’s meeting with live exercises to simulate the aftermath of a crash. Be sure to provide your drivers with detailed information about who to call when an accident occurs, including the phone numbers, as well as what to expect under different accident scenarios. Have your drivers practice gathering information from each other during the training meeting. Make sure they have the opportunity to practice “taking accident pictures” during the meeting as well. Encourage your drivers to remain calm, make sure passengers are safe, and then follow the key steps in managing the scene.
Likewise, consider training your operations, dispatch, and maintenance staff in your company’s crisis/accident management plan to make sure drivers get the calm reassuring support they need at the accident scene. Your employees can also help the driver determine whether federal drug and alcohol testing requirements apply.
Importantly, your staff should be advised to avoid providing statements to the media unless they have been reviewed and approved by your insurance company’s claims adjuster. They should also be instructed to prepare and preserve your driver and maintenance files, and secure related electronic logging device materials, as those items will be critical in the accident investigation process. It is important to remember too, that any messages sent between your employees and the driver, or notes taken regarding the accident, can be used in court.
A few additional thoughts to consider:
- Your company’s crisis/accident management plan should be reviewed and updated annually, at a minimum, and drivers and employees should receive refresher training on a regular basis. Don’t forget to get input from your staff on ways to improve your plan.
- Anything posted on social media can be obtained and used in legal proceedings. Remind all drivers and employees to be responsible and professional, and avoid posting or commenting about anything regarding the accident or the people involved.
- Keep your company’s FMCSA SAFER information up-to-date and accurate… you can expect the media and lawyers to look up scores.
Managing the scene of an accident is a stressful and sometimes challenging situation. The better your drivers and employees are prepared, the more positive the impact on your passengers and, perhaps, on the outcome of the claim.
Bob Crescenzo is VP at Lancer Insurance Company