Mar 22, 2021

Preparing For and Responding To an Accident Involving a Company Vehicle

Marianne Wise Fletchinger

With insurance premiums and personal injury claims on the rise, trucking companies need to know how to prepare for and respond to accidents involving one of their commercial motor vehicles. What happens in the minutes and hours following an accident can determine whether you win a lawsuit or lose one. 

1. Have a post-accident policy in place. 

Successfully responding to an accident requires two things: (1) preparation and (2) training. 

Prepare a written post-accident procedure or “checklist.” The procedure should use plain language and be stored with the registration and insurance information in each vehicle. At a minimum, the policy should include the following instructions:

  1. Remain calm and do not admit fault. Do not speak to the other drivers about what happened in the accident.
  2. Secure the scene and put reflectors out as soon as possible, if applicable. 
  3. Report the incident to the company immediately. (Provide the telephone number for reporting accidents).
  4. Take photographs of the roadway, the vehicles, and any property damage. 
  5. Get witness information. 
  6. Call the police, especially if insurance information is exchanged.  

Train each driver on the company’s post-accident procedure and what they should do following an accident. Make sure each driver knows who from the company they should contact if an accident occurs. Make sure that the post-accident contact is trained on the policy as well. 

2. Send the employee for a controlled substance and/or alcohol test, if required

In too many cases, a company’s failure to appropriately obtain post-accident drug and/or alcohol testing becomes an issue, even though drugs and alcohol were not a factor in the crash. To prevent this, your designated post-accident contact should immediately determine if a post-accident controlled substance and/or alcohol test is required under the DOT regulations. The text of the applicable statute is here and a table outlining when a test is required is included below.

Type of Accident Involved Citation Issued to the CMV Driver  Test Must Be Performed by Employer
Human Fatality Yes  Yes 
Human Fatality No Yes 
Bodily Injury with Immediate Medical Treatment Away From the Scene Yes  Yes 
Bodily Injury with Immediate Medical Treatment Away From the Scene No  No 
Disabling Damage to Any Motor Vehicle Requiring Tow Away Yes  Yes 
Disabling Damage to Any Motor Vehicle Requiring Tow Away No Yes 

 

If required, a drug and/or alcohol test should be conducted as soon as possible following an accident. However, if an alcohol test is not administered within 8 hours following the accident, or if a controlled substance test is not administered within 32 hours following the accident, stop efforts to have the test completed and prepare and maintain a record stating the reason(s) the test(s) were not promptly administered (i.e. driver refused, driver cannot be located, etc.).

3. Preserve critical evidence regarding fault. 

Make sure that the company preserves all evidence that could potentially speak to fault. Determine if drive-camera video or vehicle tracking information (speed, GPS, etc.) is available. In addition, preserve the pre-trip inspection report from the day of the accident and the post-trip accident report from the day prior to the accident. 

If you have any questions regarding how your company can best respond to an accident, please reach out trucking defense attorney Marianne Wise Fletchinger at (504) 593-0661.