10 Recommendations: What Drivers Should Do After a Fleet Accident
Drivers must collect as much information as possible when involved in an accident. Failure to do so can lengthen the accident management process and create unnecessary liability exposure. What information should be collected?
Drivers must collect as much information as possible when involved in an accident while driving a company-provided vehicle. Failure to do so can lengthen the accident management process and, in a worst case scenario, create unnecessary liability exposure for the company. In addition to exchanging insurance information, fleet managers should instruct company drivers to collect additional information, such as written notes of any injuries, description of vehicle damage, the time and location of the incident, weather conditions, and complete contact information of all third-party witnesses.
Similarly, drivers should be encouraged to draw an accurate diagram of the accident scene illustrating the street configuration, position of vehicles at the time of the accident, and witness locations. If provided by the company, instruct drivers to take photos of the accident scene with a disposable camera, if safe to do so.
"A picture is worth a thousand words, or in the case of an accident, thousands of dollars. You should have an accident reporting kit in the vehicle that includes a disposable camera, and make sure the kit is properly insulated to protect contents from heat damage. After an accident, used kits should be promptly replaced. This kind of advance planning can make a big difference to your accident costs," said Barbara Ward, director of driver risk & safety for PHH Arval.
If a disposable camera is not available, most cell phones include cameras. If safe to do so, instruct drivers to use their cell phones to take photos of the accident scene and the damaged vehicles. However, poor quality photos and inaccurate diagrams could prove to be counterproductive. "I love to see accident scene diagrams and photos, as long as the info is accurate and reliable. Poor photos are a waste of time and energy and cannot help define actual damages, actual event happenings, and actual facts. A rattled driver may not be able to take stable pictures," said David Vance, CSP, director of safety services for Fleet Response. "I would also be concerned as to the protection of personal photos taken by the participants of a crash relating to the potential legal issues that evolve. Lawyers usually get what they need."
However, the most important advice is for fleet managers to instruct company drivers beforehand what to do when an accident occurs. "If they don't, the accident management company cannot retrieve the factual evidence and information to render timely assistance," added Vance.
Beware of 'Wreck Chasers'
The old adage "the vehicle will never be right again" once it has been repaired is a myth if the shop performing the repairs is a qualified shop, according to Bob Martines, president and CEO of Corporate Claims Management.
"Quality shops usually have a significant financial investment in their shops to support their business. They go through serious ongoing training to stay abreast of design changes and how to repair the newer models. These qualified shops can and do fix vehicles at a high level of quality and integrity. Perhaps their final repair price may be higher in some instances; however, the work is done right the first time and is guaranteed," added Martines. "On the other side, there are too many unlicensed (unpoliced) shops that are 'wreck chasers,' towing vehicles from the scene of an accident, promising the driver his or her car will be taken care of. They bring the vehicles to shops that will pay them the highest fee for the job. The wreck chaser could care less about the shop or the quality of the job, just as long as they get their promised fee. No fleet manager or driver should ever succumb to the demands of a wreck chaser."
Martines also offers advice on when to total a vehicle.
"No vehicle should be fixed or totaled simply by the numbers unless, of course, there is an obvious total as a result of an accident. Too many fleet managers make decisions strictly by the numbers. A vehicle worth $12,000 with an estimate of $6,500 or $7,000 in most cases is totaled out. If you break down the actual repair, perhaps the numbers are not what they seem. In most cases, there may be a tow bill and perhaps a storage bill, as well as sales tax, which have no real value in an estimate. Once you calculate the non-labor/parts costs such as shop supplies and/or materials along with the other items mentioned, the price most likely changes dramatically, and the repair decision is an easier choice. A $6,500 repair adjusted for the non-essentials can easily be reduced to a very manageable $5,000 repair, which would be an acceptable repair if analyzed properly. While you are still facing the financial expense of $6,500, the extent of the damage is not as severe as initially viewed," said Martines.
Best Precaution: Plan in Advance
A good way for a fleet manager to try to ensure a driver collects the right information is to provide tools that the driver can keep in the vehicle (i.e. accident reporting kits, fleet guidelines, etc.) to use at the accident scene," said Vincent Brigidi, director of commercial operations for The CEI Group.
All accident management companies provide clients an accident kit. If you do not employ an accident management company, have a kit developed and place it in the glove compartment of a company vehicle prior to delivery to an employee driver.
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