Everything Drivers Must Do If Involved in an Accident

Everything Drivers Must Do If Involved in an Accident

Don’t let your emotion put you in trouble, and do not admit fault. Plaintiff employers love talkative drivers.

Eventually, you or one of your drivers will experience a trucking accident and nearly 75% of truck related collisions are caused by the non-professional driver.  

If the trucker is at fault, more than 50% of these crashes are caused by driver fatigue and driver error, according to statements made by the Pennsylvania State Police motor carrier enforcement unit.

With nuclear verdicts, staged accidents, and fraudulent insurance claims on the rise, here is a guide on everything a driver needs to know when involved in an accident, how to record evidence, and when a post-accident drug and alcohol test is required.  

What you need in your truck if an accident happens

The FMCSA requires some emergency devices to be in the vehicle. But here is a full list of items needed if involved in an accident:

  • Emergency warning devices, such as flares or three reflective triangles
  • Company accident report form and witness signature cards
  • Commercial driver’s license
  • Daily driver logs
  • Proof of liability insurance
  • Shipping papers, especially for HAZMAT cargo
  • Camera
  • Flashlight
  • Tape measure

Most importantly, a driver involved in an accident needs to remain calm. Everything you say and do (and even don’t do) can be used against you.

Don’t let your emotion put you in trouble, and do not admit fault. Plaintiff employers love talkative drivers.

More Accident-Related Articles to consider:

  1. Requirements for Post-Accident Drug Testing
  2. How to protect yourself from truck accident litigation with compliant driver files
  3. The Beginning of the End for Reptile Theory in Crash Litigation
  4. How To Protect Yourself from Staged Accidents and Fraudulent Insurance Claims

What do you do if a trucking accident occurs?

If you can, turn your flashers on and ease off the road while closely checking for traffic next to you or behind you with your mirrors.

Within the first 10 minutes, set up your flares or the three triangles behind the truck.

Proper emergency device placement requirements

If possible, it is recommended to wear reflective gear when putting down and collecting emergency triangles or flares.

On a divided highway proper placement is as follows:

  • One device 10-feet behind the truck
  • The second device 100-feet (or 40 paces) behind the truck
  • And the third device 200-feet behind the truck

Set the closest right triangle behind your left tires, the next a little to the right and the furthest one a little more to the right, so they guide the approaching vehicles away from the truck almost like they were merging left.

On a two-lane road (one lane in each direction) the proper placement of triangles is:

  • One device 100-feet (or 40 paces) in front of the truck
  • The second device 10-feet behind the truck
  • And the third device 100-feet behind the truck

By setting the triangles up in this way you can alert traffic coming from both directions of the issue up ahead.

If there is a curve on the road or an obstructed view, move the rear-most triangle between 100-ft and 500-ft behind the truck to provide extra warning to future traffic.

Proper emergency device placement requirements

Notify Police and your Company of the Accident

Drivers must contact the police or highway patrol, especially if there is an injury, fatality, or interference with traffic.

Regardless of the severity of the accident, your company must be notified.

When talking with the enforcement personnel and your company, relate the facts of the accident without making a judgement of responsibility.

Once the company is notified, the driver or company official must contact the insurance company as quickly as possible.

If a media representative shows up at the scene of the accident, kindly refer them to your company’s safety department. The involved driver should never speak to the media.

Identify is this is a DOT “reportable” Accident?

DOT “recordable” crashes need to be entered on the company’s accident register and your insurance carrier needs to be notified as soon as possible in case an adjuster is needed on-site.

A DOT “recordable” accident includes an occurrence involving a commercial motor vehicle that results in (390.5 accident definition (1)):

  • Fatality
  • An injury requiring immediate medical attention away from the scene.
  • 1 or more vehicles incurring disabling damage* as a result of the accident, requiring tow-away from the scene.

A DOT Recordable accident does not include (390.5 accident definition (2)):

  • An occurrence involving only boarding and alighting from a stationary motor vehicle.
  • An occurrence involving only loading and unloading of cargo.

A drug and alcohol test is only required for a reportable crash that involves the driver being issued a citation or if there is a fatality.

Gathering evidence at the scene of the accident

This is one of the most critical elements of an accident as it may take days, weeks, or even months before accident responsibility or fault is determined.

It is important to keep in mind that many accidents will result in bodily injury claims against you and your company.

Many companies have an accident report kit that includes instructions of what information to gather and document.

The rule of thumb here is do not rely on your memory.

What evidence to collect:

  • Save pieces of evidence (broken light lenses or bulbs, trim, wheel covers, etc)
  • Write notes about the accident
  • Document comments made by others involved in the crash
  • Take pictures
  • Measure skid marks (tape measure or pace the length) and try to identify who made the skid marks
  • Document the identity and insurance information of others involved in the accident
  • Count and identify any people in the other involved vehicles
  • Note the physical conditions of any people involved in the accident
  • Gather names, addresses, license plate number, and contact information of any witnesses
  • Document the name and badge number of any law enforcement at the scene
  • Note the weather and road conditions
  • Note any circumstances that may have led to negligence (alcohol bottles, if lights or wipers were on, if seat belt was being used or not, etc.)

The evidence that should be photographed are:

  • Skid marks
  • Position of involved vehicles
  • Location of debris or the roadway or shoulder
  • Photos of the scene from each direction of travel
  • Photos that include vehicle license plates, truck number, etc.
  • DO NOT take pictures of any victim involved in the accident

After everything is collected. Write down any other notes that you remember.

Do I have to have a drug or alcohol test?

Drug and alcohol tests are not required after every accident.

A CDL driver is required to take a post-accident drug test if:

  • the accident results in one or more fatalities
  • injury was incurred that required medical treatment away from the scene and the driver received a citation (Note: no citation = no drug and alcohol test)
  • any vehicle is towed, and the driver received a citation (Note: no citation = no drug and alcohol test)

Also, it is important to note that a driver is still liable to take a drug and alcohol test if a citation issued within 32 hours of the accident.

If a citation is issued after the 8-hour mark, the motor carrier must make a note saying “a citation was not issued until this time, which was after the 8 hours for alcohol testing.”

A driver has 2 hours in which an alcohol test should be completed, however it must be completed within 8 hours. If the driver goes over the 2-hour mark, they must provide an explanation as to why there was a delay and the motor carrier must provide a written explanation and keep in their company files.

A drug test needs to be completed as soon as possible; however, it must be completed within 32 hours. At times there might be a delay in the issuance of a citation, however as long as the citation is issued with 32 hours, a drug and alcohol test is required.

What drivers should never do at the scene of an accident

  • Do not leave the scene of the accident until police and emergency responders tell you that you can leave
  • Do not let your temper flair up or become argumentative as this will affect how police and witnesses remember the “facts” of the accident
  • Do not admit discuss the facts of the accidents with anyone but your company and police
  • Do not admit fault so your company can make that decision after a full investigation
  • Do not delay reporting an accident, even if it is a minor one

Where does a driver get a DOT drug test?

Compliance Navigation Specialists works with Quest Diagnostics and have over 10,000 locations available for testing, whether it is necessary after an accident or for a pre-employment screening.

For post-accident alcohol testing, CNS will coordinate a location for you.

We also offer a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Consortium Administration Services (C/TPA) for companies that are regulated by Federal and State government.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.

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