I was just involved in an accident. What do I do?
Vehicle accidents happen every day. They are one of the most common causes of injury and property damage in the country. Clients that drive big trucks have many of the same problems as other motorists on the road. People cut them off, they switch lanes in front of them, they pull out in front of them because they don’t want to be behind them, and etc. It is hard enough to avoid accidents in a private passenger vehicle. It becomes exponentially harder to avoid accidents when you are driving an 80,000 pound tractor trailer. Most truck drivers are going to be involved in a collision at some point in their career. They may be lucky and only have one. Others may be less fortunate and have a few. There will be a couple of drivers that never have an accident but they are few and far between. The bottom line is that it is most likely going to happen at some point. The focus of this blog is to provide you with information and tips on what to do at the scene of the accident. An accident scene can be stressful and chaotic. You will not always have time to contact your agent or your insurance carrier from the scene. Below is a list of 5 things you should do immediately at the accident scene. All of this should take place AFTER someone has called the police and/or ambulance.
- Find out if anyone is injured – This is rather straight forward but it is the most important item on this list. If you are injured you should go to the hospital. The rest of the items on this list are helpful when it comes time to file your claim but none of them are more important that your well being and/or the well being of anyone else involved in the accident. You should do whatever you can to get help for yourself and other motorists. You should get to a safe area where you can wait on an ambulance/police officer to arrive. Everything else can be sorted out later.
- Take Pictures Prior to moving any vehicles if possible – Once all the injured parties are tended to you should take a moment to assess your damage. If you can safely do so you should take pictures of your vehicle as well as the claimant vehicle before they are moved. The location of damage and the position of the vehicles after a collision are very important because they can help corroborate what happened. Again, this step should only be completed if it is safe to do so.
- Report to the officer at the scene – The next step is to inform the police officer at the scene exactly what happened. You should try to remember as many details as possible about the claim. Hopefully the pictures you took earlier can help you explain to the officer exactly what happened. If you do not think you are at fault for the accident you should explain that to the officer. It does not hurt to give your opinion here but you always want to do it in a respectful manor. If the officer at the scene determines that the claimant is at fault he/she will sometimes ask the not at fault party if they want him/her to write the other driver a ticket. Most truck drivers will give you the shirt off their back. However, in this situation you should ALWAYS ask the officer to write the ticket. If a person is ticketed for an accident it can only strengthen the claim that they were at fault. It is also a lot harder to change their story or defend their actions to an adjuster. ALWAYS write the ticket.
- Gather all appropriate information – This is the most tedious task and it is no easy feat at the scene of an accident. However, it is VERY important. I have listed below the information you should gather from the involved parties. You should make sure that either yourself or the police officer writing the report has taken all this information.
1. The year, make, model, and VIN of each involved vehicle.
2. The name, address, and phone number of the owner of each vehicle.
3. The name, address, date of birth, driver license number, and cell number of each driver.
4. The name, address, and phone number of any injured party.
5. The name, address, and phone number of any bystander that has property damage (Example: You collided with another vehicle and you were knocked into a fence. You should gather the information of the owner of the fence).
6. The insurance company, policy number, and phone number for each involved vehicle.
7. The name, location, and phone number for the wrecker service that has towed away your vehicle (If it needs to be towed).
8. The exact address where the accident took place.
9. The exact day and time of the accident.
10. The name of the police department that is handling the crash (Trooper, City PD, Etc.)
11. The name and badge number of the officer.
12. The crash report number. (Note that a crash report is different than a police report. You should be able to obtain a copy of the crash report from the officer at the scene. The full police report will not be available until the officer is back at headquarters and he is able to type up the report. This usually only takes a couple of days max.)
13. A copy of the crash report itself. If the officer has taken most of the information above it will be listed on the crash report. You should receive a yellow carbon copy of this report with all the information that the officer has gathered.
14. At this point you should have almost all of the information needed to file the claim.
- File the claim – Once you have taken care of everything you could take care of at the accident scene and you have made it to a safe location you should call in the claim immediately to your insurance company. A 24 hour representative should answer and take all of the information from step 4. At the end of the call you should be provided with the name, address, and phone number of the claims office that is handling your claim. An adjuster will usually contact you back within 24 hours.
Each accident is different and presents its own set of challenges. There will inevitably be situations that are not discussed in this blog. The best advice I can give you is to document, document, document everything. If you enjoyed this article or found it helpful come visit us at www.barbeejackson.com. We post new blogs every week.