Wheels of Justice
After an accident – steps to protect yourself
Immediate action after a major accident is worth its weight in gold. Look around today and you see drivers with cell phones that take pictures and videos, satellite communications and even laptop computers with wireless Internet in their trucks. All of these communication devices are capable of notifying a driver’s company, insurance agent or even police officers of what has happened.
All action following the accident will be critical, both by you and the other driver. In order to protect yourself, you need to be the one taking the immediate action, both to protect yourself and even gain advantage over the other driver. Step one is call the police and report the accident. Step two is to call your safety department to report the accident and follow their instructions. Every company should have specific written steps they want their drivers to follow after an accident.
A picture is worth a 1,000 words. Nothing can replace a picture of the accident scene to show everything as it was at the time. I’m talking about weather, daylight, road conditions and drivers who stopped to help. NOTE: many cell phones are capable of producing videos with sound, so virtually anyone can make a movie of the accident scene and what people do and say. Act accordingly.
Make sure your insurance carrier or company starts their investigation as soon as possible. They can never acquire too much information. What about the information that has a negative impact on your side of the story? They need to know that, also, because the plaintiff’s attorney will sure find that information and use it against you. As an attorney myself, let me tell you that there is nothing worse than learning something negative during trial. Attorneys can work around bad information if they have to, but only if they have time to prepare for it.
Make sure your insurance carrier, company or attorney has control of the evidence from the accident scene. They’ll need to document everything, however. Don’t forget electronic evidence from the “black box” in both vehicles.
Make sure you and your company comply with all the FMCSA regulatory requirements. Talk to your insurance carrier or your company about how to assist the police without saying something that could be taken out of context and used against you later.
To sum up, make sure your insurance company and employer are notified of the accident right away. You could be found guilty and have a judgment of thousands or millions against you with possible jail time. Isn’t that enough incentive for you to take immediate action?
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., an organization that provides legal defense protection to commercial drivers. Jim is a lawyer who focuses on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking, and he holds his Commercial Drivers License.