How to document and report accidents fast for lower claims

  (Photo: Shutterstock)

(Photo: Shutterstock)

One of the more consistent areas of needed improvement for truckers, whether large fleet, small fleet, or owner-operators, is in the approach to claims reporting. Reliance Partners has seen it all when it comes to claims reporting, from the aggressively detailed to those who basically ignore the situation as if it will somehow resolve itself.

If there’s a police report available anyway why bother? Regardless of whether the accident was the driver's fault, documentation helps support the ease and efficiency of the process. The point is, document first, ask questions later.

By some estimates as many as 30 percent of all truck accidents are never reported by truck drivers. Most of those "non-reports" are not-at-fault accidents and the drivers assuming the other parties will take care of their own damages. Sometimes too under-reporting is the result of a driver either embarrassed about the incident or hopeful it will just go away. Many too are simply the result of not knowing what to do.

Accident reporting is really straightforward. All the more reason to get it right during the tight window of opportunity you have. First, of course, make sure your insurance company or agent provides an accident report form directly to the carrier or operator. That form is the basis for collecting information about the accident. All drivers should carry that form in their truck at all times. It is the responsibility of fleet safety personnel to make sure the form is in all trucks and that drivers are continuously trained on how to complete it.

At the time of any collision, drivers should take a moment to first clear their mind. It’s always stressful to face the unexpected, but you must be prepared to take a proactive role. The right frame of mind should be a non-emotional, fact-gathering state. There should be no admitting or blaming for wrongdoing with other parties. Grab the accident report form, ask questions, and document information.

After clearing your head and grabbing the form, assess whether anyone is hurt. Assuming the other party has not been hurt and can actively participate in obtaining details, everyone should make sure to get themselves, all parties and vehicles out of harm's way.

Once out of danger, you should note the date, time, and specific location of the occurrence on the report form. Also write down the description of other vehicles involved, the license plate numbers, and note how many people were in other vehicles. Again, document this information on the report form. Before the police arrive, the driver should invite the other parties to assist by exchanging contact information including name, address, phone numbers, email addresses, and insurance information. No discussion of who was at fault should occur as that only leads to people becoming defensive and uncooperative. Take pictures of everything.

Finally, you should clearly write out an honest description of what occurred along with a clear diagram of the incident. Doing so will help everyone visually understand the nature of the verbal and written details. Once this has been completed, the fleet safety manager, or the insurance agent should be contacted.

By the time the police arrive and separate the parties it's usually too late to obtain all the much-needed information. Claims that are reported immediately and with complete information are almost always settled at a lower cost than those that are not reported quickly and with detail.

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