Developing a claims response protocol

by James Menzies

TORONTO, Ont. – To limit your liability exposure in the event of an accident, it’s crucial to have a detailed claims response protocol.

Will Mandau, vice-president of claims with Markel Insurance Company, said carriers must have an action plan in place. It needs to be communicated to drivers, practiced and maintained, he added.

“Minor losses can turn into large losses with a few wrong decisions,” he pointed out. “It’s critical to have everything in place and to react in a timely fashion. A critical component is early reporting, because a lot can go wrong during those first few minutes.”

All trucks should be equipped with a checklist drivers can follow if they’re involved in an accident. Even seemingly simple things like ‘Am I safe?’ or ‘Do I smell fuel?’ should be included, Mandau suggested.

“A driver is not in the best frame of mind (after an accident),” he pointed out. “He’s got all of these stresses and the biggest thing on his mind is probably ‘I’m going to get fired, I better do something.'”

The driver should have an emergency contact at the carrier – and also a back-up contact.

“People go on vacation, they go up north, what is the backup plan?” he asked.

Mandau said somebody from the trucking company should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for drivers to call in the event of an accident. The person assigned to respond to such calls should be selected carefully, advised Mandau.

“If it’s 3 a.m. and they’re the type of person that’s going to snap, that’s the wrong individual because they can harm the outcome of a loss just as much as that driver can,” he said.

If they can’t get a hold of their safety manager, or the designated contact, the driver should call the insurance company to report the accident so the insurer can activate its own response team.

From there, it becomes a team effort between the driver, insurer and trucking company. Together, they will decide whether to involve an accident reconstructionist or an attorney.

Mandau said most good carriers have an accident response protocol in place, but some neglect to maintain it.

He suggested carriers conduct the occasional dry run or “mock loss event” to ensure those involved in the action plan know what their role is and what to do once the plan is activated. He likened the process to a fire drill.

“Most of us haven’t been caught in a fire, yet we have a protocol in place.”

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