You Just Had a Crash. Now What?

I know that your safety department may have told you things like, “Don’t talk to the media” or perhaps they also said, “Protect the scene”, and likely, “Take pictures, lots of pictures”.

These previous statements are all true. But what do they really mean?

Protect the scene means to make the area safe so that you or the vehicles involved in the crash are not struck by another vehicle. Right after you have turned off your truck, this is the very next step after an incident. Now that you have placed your triangles correctly and protected the scene, before you call 911 or your company, survey the scene. You are about to be asked many questions. Some of which are: number of injuries or fatalities, number of vehicles involved and your location. Gather this information and then follow your company policy. It may be different than what I outline here.

Call 911 and report the crash. Call your company and report the crash and if necessary, call your insurance company. Who you call first is likely company policy. But Call! Everyone that you call will be asking you if you are okay, then they are going to ask about others, the people, and any other vehicles.

Next “don’t talk to the media”. Now, if you can’t talk to the media, can you talk to anyone? And what can you say? First, you should know your company’s policy on this. Many companies have a policy that you speak only to the investigating officer, and you give them the information needed to complete their documentation. This includes your name, company name and company insurance information.

Please notice, I did not say to make a statement as to what happened. Drivers at the scene of the crash are most often very upset. This is an event that either has never happened to you or happens so infrequently to you that you forget the last collision. Therefore, this is a reminder that you don’t have to give a statement, and for many companies, it is against policy to give a statement.

The company knows that you are upset. They also know that you want to tell your side of the story, especially if you believe the crash was not your fault. But many companies tell you not to say a word. They believe that it is better to let the officer investigate the crash and have the evidence speak for itself. Whatever you say may be used in the courts by the prosecuting attorney and perhaps used against you. It is very necessary to know your company policy and what you should do after a crash. You may speak to your insurance company’s investigator. They are on your side working for you and your company.

Lastly, take pictures. Yes, do take pictures, but pictures of what?

Pictures of the location. For example, if the accident occurs at an intersection, take pictures from the direction that you were travelling. Take several from different distances. Then do the same from the opposite direction.

Then take pictures from the direction that the other vehicle(s) were travelling. Again, from several distances. And then again from the opposite direction.

Make sure that you include in your photos, if possible, items that will likely still be at the accident scene years from now, such as a building, or tree. Also, include any obstructions to your vision or to the other vehicle operator’s vision. There may be a large bush blocking someone’s vision.

So yes, take pictures and lots of them. Include the damage to the vehicles and take a picture of all four sides of a vehicle. Take pictures of the licence plates of the vehicles involved and even undamaged units. And speaking of undamaged units, you may consider taking pictures of them as well on all four sides. This shows that they truly did not have any damage.

There you have it… what to do at the scene of the crash. Protect the scene, don’t speak to the media, and take pictures.

As soon as you are released from the scene, you should legally park your truck and start making your notes if you have not already done so. Every truck should have an accident package in it. Use this to jog your memory and make good notes. You don’t know what may happen in two years. You may be sued, and you will be glad that you made great notes.

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.