Involved in an accident? Make the best of a bad situation
Accidents happen, even to the most safety-conscious professional driver. When they do, keeping your head and knowing what steps to take can help you make the best of a difficult situation.
Chuck Johnston, claims director for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, offered some tips for truckers whoâ€™ve been involved in an accident.
The first step, Johnston said, is to secure the scene in order to avoid any further injuries or damage.
â€œMake sure to put out flares and markers and contact the police and ambulance, if you need one,â€ Johnston said. â€œAnd contact your insurance carrier and your motor carrier as soon as possible so they can help you.â€
When exchanging information with the other drivers involved in an accident, Johnston said itâ€™s important to be thorough.
â€œLook at the documents,â€ he said. â€œDonâ€™t just take their word for it, because people will lie. Make sure that you check the names and get the policy numbers.â€
Itâ€™s also important, Johnston said, to get as much information as possible about witnesses.
â€œGet witnessesâ€™ names if you can, or if you canâ€™t get the names, try to get their plate numbers or ID numbers if theyâ€™re a trucker.â€
If you can, Johnston said, try to get statements from the witnesses or even the other drivers involved in the accident.
â€œItâ€™s easier to get accurate statements right after the accident than six months later when people might not remember it well,â€ he said.
A camera can come in handy at the scene of an accident, too.
â€œYou can take pictures of damage or skid marks,â€ Johnston said. â€œAlso, take pictures of old damage so that someone doesnâ€™t try to make you pay for damage that didnâ€™t happen in the accident.â€
One key area where drivers should be especially vigilant, Johnston said, is dealing with towing companies.
â€œSome of the tow companies are just vultures,â€ he said. â€œAnd truck accidents are big targets, big money.â€
If youâ€™re in an area close to home and know of a reputable tow company, Johnson advises asking the police on scene to contact that company. Otherwise, he said, police have a call list and the companies on that list are often especially expensive.
One common practice among towing companies is to send multiple trucks to the scene of a tractor-trailer accident. Johnson cautions drivers to pay attention, and if there are tow trucks idling on the scene, ask that they be dismissed.
â€œIf there are seven tow trucks, but theyâ€™re only using two, they might be charging you for all seven,â€ he said.
The same advice applies in the event of a rollover accident that may require transferring cargo to another vehicle or trailer.
Johnston said keeping a close watch on the towing service is especially important because many insurance policies limit the amount the insurer will pay for those services. If the towing bill exceeds that limit, the driver may be stuck with a significant expense.
â€œYou want to make sure that the tow trucks get back to the yard,â€ Johnston said. â€œItâ€™s important for drivers to monitor potential costs in order to protect themselves.â€