How often have you had operators who have come back to the office to report that they have been involved in what they determined to be a "minor" incident? And then by surprise weeks and even in some cases months later, a summons and complaint shows up from the people who were involved in the so called "minor" incident.
What to do? This article will provide you and your operators with sound and practical information to implement if you or your employees are involved in an accident.
Accident Investigation Procedures
Two main concerns at the scene of an accident are to deal with immediate problems and to gather and report pertinent accident information to your supervisor or main office promptly. These two items can be broken down into a six-step accident procedure for drivers to follow.
Depending on the severity of the accident, drivers should be expected to follow the procedures listed below.
Deal with immediate problems:
- Stop immediately
- Prevent another accident the most practical way possible
- Help any injured people
- Notify law enforcement
Gather/report accident information:
- Document the incident
- Report to the company
Step 1: Stop, stay calm, and pull your vehicle as far off the roadway as safely possible. If the accident involves an unoccupied vehicle, try to locate the owner. If you can't find the owner leave your name, address, and phone number, along with your company's name and contact information. Place the information in a visible location, such as under the windshield wiper blade. You should also make note of the year, make, model, license plate number and description of the other vehicle to provide to your company.
Step 2: Turn on your four-way flashers as an immediate warning signal. Then do a quick evaluation of accident victims, if any. Next, set up emergency warning devices per DOT regulations in the prescribed positions on the roadway. Regulations usually stipulate that emergency warning devices be in position within 10 minutes of stopping.
Step 3: Even if you have not been formally trained to provide first aid, most states have "Good Samaritan" laws to protect untrained people who offer help in emergency situations. Many states also have laws requiring the first person that comes upon an accident scene to stop and render help. At the scene, you might need to provide first aid or make certain that someone else is present who can do so. Arrange for someone to call for medical assistance. At a minimum, do the following:
- Make certain any injured person is breathing. If not, lift the jaw up and tilt the head back to open the airway (artificial respiration may be necessary).
- Check for any bleeding and, if necessary, apply direct pressure to any wound(s).
- Cover any injured persons with blankets or other available materials to maintain body temperature.
- Never move a severely injured person unless he/she is in immediate danger of further injury.
Step 4: Either contact local law enforcement personnel yourself or arrange to have someone do it for you. Be courteous and cooperative when providing information to these authorities. Never admit guilt or liability at the scene of an accident. Never leave the scene of an accident unless you or anyone else on the scene has no way of contacting someone for help.
Step 5: Write down the names, driver's license numbers, and any other important information regarding the accident and those people involved in it. Draw a simple diagram of the accident scene. The more detail you can provide for the company's safety department the better it will be for insurance and/or legal purposes later on. It is strongly suggested to have a disposable camera available for use at accident scenes to document the situation with photographs from various angles - "a picture is worth a thousand words."
Step 6: After the vehicle has been secured, warning devices put in place, assistance rendered to injured person(s) (if any), and law enforcement personnel contacted, you (the driver) should communicate the accident to the company.