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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJune 19 - June 25, 2019

What to Do in a Crash 44907(Image -

By Brian J. Riker

Do you know what to do if you are the one involved in the accident?

According to the American Trucking Association, 71 percent of truck-involved crashes are the fault of the other driver, 10 percent have equal fault and the remaining 16 percent are the fault of the truck driver.
This does not stop the attorneys from coming after the trucking company or truck driver, even when it is most likely not their fault. All the attorney needs to do is cast some doubt on the actions of the trucker and large settlements are all but guaranteed.

Tow bosses and professional drivers must take steps to combat this. With 70 percent of all commercial auto underwriters reporting losses again for 2017, expect to see insurance premiums continue to rise.

How do we protect ourselves?

When involved in a crash, first check yourself and the safety of any passengers, then the welfare of any other people that are involved. You have a duty to render aid at the scene. Failure to do so is criminal and can lead to charges, possibly even jail time for serious events.

Do not render any aid beyond your capabilities. If the injury is not an immediate threat to their life, it is best left to the professional medics to respond.

Once the immediate risk has been controlled, report the crash to law enforcement. Oftentimes the other party will want to settle privately. I do not recommend this.

Generally, they have something to hide that may be a contributing factor or they will try to scam you for more money later.

Just because a crash has been reported to the authorities does not automatically mean it will become an insurance claim. Manage your claim exposure and settle as many minor claims without insurance involvement as possible. This is risk mitigation, a normal business practice designed to manage the cost of insurance premiums.
Private-property events may be different, as not all agencies will respond to crashes without injury on private property. If the local law enforcement agency will not respond, document who you spoke to.

Never admit fault, even if it is obvious! Never say anything like "I'm sorry" or "I don't know what happened." Don't say anything. Respond and cooperate with the investigation officer. Often a simple statement of sorrow will be spun into an admission of guilt if the accident results in litigation.

Document everything: if it isn't documented, it did not happen. Take many pictures from as many different angles as possible. Close-up and wide-angle shots can each tell a different piece of the story. If possible, the first pictures should be taken before anyone has a chance to move anything or the vehicles are cleared to the shoulder. A diagram of the scene is highly recommended.

Make note of any defects or other unusual characteristics of the other vehicles such as dirty windows, visual obstructions or even trash on the floor that could have impaired their ability to press on the brake pedal.

Write down what you can remember as soon as possible, but avoid giving a written statement to investigators without first consulting a lawyer. Never give a written statement to the other party or their insurance company.

Employees shouldn't give a written report to tow owners either; just the images and information on the other parties involved.

Though eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, get names and contact information from any witnesses. A third party with nothing to gain will go a long way in support of your recollection of the events if it goes to trial.

Unless there is no doubt that you are at fault, do not offer any compensation to the other parties. If you are plainly at fault then, after contacting a lawyer first, work quickly to make the situation right. Often prompt and fair handling of a claim reduces the chances of a lawsuit, and in the event of litigation it reduces your exposure.

An employee should never offer any compensation or other settlement; that is the employer's duty. That could bind an employer to an agreement they are not willing or able to make.

In most states employed drivers are equally liable for damages resulting from an accident as an employer is. Drivers negligent in their duties could be liable for most of the damages. Drivers should collect the proper information and preserve evidence to defend both them and their employer.

This column is not intended to be legal advice. The rules vary widely across the U.S., so please check with your attorney and insurance company before implementing any of these suggestions.

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