My first job out of college was as an auditor for Price Waterhouse. While some in the firm basked in the glamor of counting votes for the Academy Awards, I ground it out one spreadsheet at a time.
One weekend a month usually meant taking an inventory. From hamburger patties in a walk-in freezer (tip-take a pencil; ink freezes) to caskets, I verified the count of a company’s inventory and prepare them for the next fiscal year.
Just as a company needs to take an annual inventory of goods produced, so too should you take an annual inventory of your accident response preparedness. You need to be assured that all is in readiness when you get that call in the middle of the night.
You have an advantage not possessed by any TV advertising attorney—immediacy. No one knows about the accident before you do. You cannot squander this greatest of advantages.
So what do you check? You need to be sure that you, your drivers, your dispatchers, and your accident response professionals are fully prepared and ready to respond.
Are you prepared? Make sure you know what power units your company uses and what that means after an accident. For example, a Detroit diesel ECM will record a last stop, but will be written over (i.e. lost) unless precaution is taken after the accident. Know your power units and how they operate.
Have the VIN numbers at ready access. This information is important for an accident reconstructionist to do a download. The VIN number can tell them what equipment they will need for the ECM.
Have the phone numbers for emergency responders and adjusters at the ready. You should have the cell phones for all with you 24/7. Conversely, make sure that your number is with those who need to reach you, be it drivers, dispatchers, or whomever will “take the call.”
Consider what resources can be valuable after the accident. For example, during the manhunt for the Boston Marathon Bomber, many followed the progress by listening to the Massachusetts State Police broadcasts via a smart phone app that accesses innumerable police broadcasts. With the app ready and specific information as to the location and responding police, you can follow the progress of the investigation as it develops by monitoring that department’s broadcasts.
Similarly, being ready to connect with traffic cams may, in some instances, give you access to live visuals of the scene. While it may be a long shot, it’s a shot.
Have a contact list for reliable towers and hazmat clean up. The cost of these services can vary greatly and can be excessive if left to chance. In fact, in Pennsylvania, a driver has the right to designate the tower of choice if done promptly.
Are your drivers prepared? While you may have trained them on accident response upon their being hired, you need to reinforce both the process and the vital importance. Drive home that it is as much, if not more, for their benefit as it is for the company.
Are they trained and equipped to photograph the scene, record witness information, or get an exoneration card signed? Have they been taught to limit their post-accident comments?
Do they who to call and the vital importance of making that call immediately upon securing the scene and checking on others? They need to be trained that immediate action is the key to effective response. If for no other reason, they need to confer with you immediately as to the tower of your choice.
Are your dispatchers prepared? Dispatchers are the “mission control” of the accident response. Depending on your system, they must know to whom to hand off the call or how to deal with the event. In either event, they should be trained and provided a checklist with what to convey to the driver who is undoubtedly shaken by the accident.
Are your emergency responders prepared? Have you developed a relationship with an attorney, accident reconstructionist, and adjusting company? Doing so permits prior preparation. It reduces, if not totally eliminates, a learning curve when you can least afford it—the crucial moments after the accident.
An on-call attorney can take the driver’s description of the accident with the protection of attorney-client privilege. It also permits immediate counsel to both the driver and the company. This is more effective when the attorney is educated as to the company equipment and resources before the accident.
Similarly, coordinating with an accident reconstructionist pre-accident provides for a prompt and effective immediately response.
Whether you or your insurance company assign the adjuster, there must be a system ready for immediate assignment. The on-scene adjuster is can photograph the scene, statementize witnesses, and follow as to the injuries incurred. They may be valuable in taking the driver for his drug and alcohol test.
It is vital that you provide clear and unquestionable direction for the insurer or the independent adjuster before the accident as to how to handle the claim. For example, they should NEVER take a statement from your driver. NEVER. However, a tradition of doing so has resulted in this being a rote process, devoid of any thought or reason. Make sure that your insurer’s claims instructions and any direction to the independent adjuster include NEVER take a statement from the driver. (Did I say NEVER?).
Nothing will ruin a case quicker than an undirected adjuster “doing what he always does.” Don’t leave it to chance.
Now is the time to take stock of your preparedness. When the accident happens, you need to be prepared to act. Get ready now.
Doug Marcello is a transportation attorney who has earned his CDL. His law practices focuses upon serving the trucking industry. Based in Central Pennsylvania, he has represented trucking companies in cases throughout the US, having been specially admitted in 35 states. He is a frequent speaker at industry events and driver safety meetings. He has also written numerous articles concerning issues confronting the industry and has produced several DVDs relating to accident response and aggressive defense of claims. All posts by Doug Marcello