Accidents Happen. But Now What?

By: Michael Howe

Nobody wants to be in an accident.  Nobody plans for an accident – after all, that’s why they are called accidents.  Nevertheless, trucking accidents happen every day on US and Canadian highways, even to the most safety conscience of drivers.  The question then becomes, as a driver what do you do if you are in a trucking accident?  There are some immediate actions truck drivers should take to not only make certain the scene is safe and those involved are ok, but also to protect themselves from any or additional liability.  (Note, the author is not an attorney and as such none of this is intended as legal advice).

Here are some very basic first steps to take if you are the truck driver involved in an accident:

  • Call the Police:

It is always important to be an upstanding citizen, and regardless of fault, contacting law enforcement and/or other emergency personnel for assistance is important.  The trucking company, the insurance company, and your attorney (if necessary) will all want copies of the official police report from the scene.  It can be intimidating to contact law enforcement, especially if you fear receiving a citation, but it is simply the right and necessary thing to do.

  • Seek Immediate Medical Attention:

Make certain you and others involved in the accident are safe and healthy.  Have a professional check you and others involved at the scene for injuries.  Doing this not only ensures a healthy outcome, but the documentation can also help if there are questions after the accident.

  • Take Pictures:

While law enforcement will likely take pictures and make documentary notes about the scene, it is best if you can create your own record.  Take pictures from multiple angles of the vehicles or objects involved in the accident, of the road way, of the surroundings, of anything and everything.  Every picture you take may help you down the road with insurance or legal issues.

  • Get Contact Information, but do NOT Discuss Fault:

If other drivers are involved, ask for their contact information and insurance information.  Ask for the names and contact information of the law enforcement and other emergency personnel on scene.  And, if there are witnesses at the scene, ask for their contact information as well.

  • Contact your Trucking Company and Your Insurance Company:

Reports will need to be filed with both the trucking company you work for and your insurance company.  Be certain to follow their advice and requirements on how to proceed.

  • Consider Calling an Attorney:

During the course of research for this article, a simple internet search produced many, many, many (I can’t type the word “many” enough) law firms popped up ready to represent the non-trucker in the accident.  Having your own attorney from the outset, even if there is ultimately no litigation, might be worth it just in case.

Of course, the best thing to do related to trucking accidents is to not have one.  Most accidents, in all reality, are preventable.  Accidents do happen though, but there are things you can do as a driver to help mitigate the chances of being in an accident.

  • Slow and Steady – take your time, obey the speed limits, don’t rush deliveries, park carefully, etc.
  • Mind the Details – pre trip inspections, always watching your surroundings when driving and parking, and don’t take anything for granted are good starting points.
  • Plan Ahead – before you start driving, take a moment to review and know the route and don’t be afraid to call the customer for directions.
  • Deliver Safely – before going into the delivery area, take a moment to walk through it so you know and understand the surroundings.
  • Be Ready – always be well rested and focused on the task at hand. Distractions and fatigue lead to accidents.

Truck drivers are inherently trained to be some of the safest drivers on the road, yet accidents still happen.  Preparing ahead of time can help avoid accidents, but knowing what to do if you are in an accident is still important.  Be safe out there, drivers – everyone wants to get home.

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