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Commercial Truck Accident Claims Reporting and Handling
It seems that 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. We have seen the gambit in claims reporting from well documented detail to virtually no information provided at all.
So what's the big deal? Why collect any information at all, especially if there will be a police report available anyway? The answer to these questions is not always obvious to the truck driver who is feeling threatened by the consequences, regardless of whether the accident was the driver's fault.
Approximately 30% of truck accidents are never reported by truck drivers. Most of those "non-reports" are not-at-fault accidents and the drivers just "presume" the other party will take care of their own damages. Many, however, are the result of a driver either embarrassed about the incident or hopeful it will just disappear. Finally, quite a number of these non reported accidents are the result of the driver just not knowing what to do.
Accident reporting is simple. Just about every insurance company and/or agent provides an accident report form directly to the motor carrier or driver. That form is the basis for collecting information about the accident and all drivers should carry that form in their truck. 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, fire, theft, or other loss, the driver should take a deep breath and go into, what I call, "the data collection mode". This should be a non-emotional, fact gathering, state of mind. There should be no admitting or blaming for wrong doing with other parties. The driver should immediately grab the accident report form and begin asking questions and documenting information.
The first, and most obvious, is to assess whether anyone is hurt including the other driver and anyone else involved. Assuming the other driver has not been hurt and can actively participate in obtaining details, he/she should get themselves, all other parties, and the vehicles out of harm's way if at all possible.
Once safely out of danger, the driver should note the date, time, and specific location of the occurrence on the report form. Also write down the description of the other vehicles involved, 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 courteously approach the other parties and invite them 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 everyone becoming defensive and uncooperative. If the driver has a camera, or phone equipped with one, it is advisable to take pictures of everything.
After exchanging information, the driver should clearly write out an honest description of what occurred along with a graphic 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 (if applicable), a representative from the insurance company, and/or the insurance agent should be contacted.
Generally, the biggest stumbling block we run into is with the driver not moving quickly to obtain the above information, and then when police arrive and separate the parties, it's too late for the driver to obtain 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.
All drivers should make sure they carry the claim report form in their vehicles at all times.
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