Your employee has been in a wreck? Now What?

By Cam Bowman

So, your employee has just been in an accident with her work vehicle. What now?

As the employer, you no doubt are aware that employers are legally liable for the negligence of their employees that occurs in the course and scope of the employer’s business. This means that you can be held responsible, in civil damages, for your employee’s violation of a traffic law that causes injury or damage to another person, as long as that fault occurs while your employee is about your business.

If you have employees who drive either one of your vehicles or their own vehicles while they are prosecuting your business, then it behooves you to consider what to do in the event of an accident and to appropriately select and train your employees for that eventuality.

First, your employees need to understand that they must immediately stop at the scene of any automobile accident in which they are involved, no matter how minor. And they must stay at the scene until instructed by authorities or company representatives to proceed.

Second, they should turn on the flashers on the vehicle. If they are obliged to get out of the vehicle for any purpose, they should securely lock it.

Third, they should comfort any persons who have been injured in the accident, and call for emergency medical assistance if they need it. Injured people should never be moved unless they are in a life-threatening situation.

Fourth, the police should be notified immediately. If available, use a cellular phone to notify the police. If necessary, signal a passing motorist to stop and request assistance. When the police arrive at the scene, your employee should answer all questions fully and objectively; however, she should ADMIT NOTHING and DON’T ARGUE. Be courteous and polite.

Fifth, your employee should not move the vehicle until the authorities arrive who can verify the position of vehicles, length and position of skid marks, and condition of the vehicle. Your employees should know never to obliterate the company name on the vehicle or on any documents.

Sixth, contact the office as soon as possible. The driver should not generally call the customer. Instead you or the other office staff should notify the customer about any delays.

Seventh, your employee should collect all the available accident information. And this should be written down, your employee should not be trying to remember all this in a stressful situation. This information includes,

  • Date, time, and exact location.
  • Make, Model, year, license number, owner’s name and address, and telephone numbers.
  • Names, phone numbers, and address of drivers and passengers in each involved vehicle.
  • Name of injured, extent of injury, where hospitalized.
  • Descriptions and estimates of damage to vehicles and property.
  • Names and addresses of witnesses, and license numbers of first vehicle on scene.
  • Names, departments, and jurisdictions, of investigating police officers.
  • Diagram of Accident.
  • Relevant weather or traffic conditions.
  • Location and type of traffic signs and signals.
  • Path of travel of vehicles before impact, point of impact, and after impact. Show your units as Vehicle #1.
  • Type of road (2-lane, 4-lane, divided, etc.).
  • Get important measurements such as road and lane width, skid marks, distances from fixed landmarks, by pacing or measuring (allow 2 ½ feet per pace).
  • Company vehicles should be equipped with a disposable camera in the Emergency Package. And your employee should, after authorization from the office, take pictures of the accident from different angles and distances in order to adequately cover the accident scene.
  • Inspect the Vehicle
  • Before the vehicle is moved from the accident scene, the employee should contact the office to arrange for a tow truck and/or for any temporary repairs.
  • When driver returns to the shop, the driver must complete an Accident Damage Report.

Once the employee has returned to the office and the information about the circumstances has been collected, it’s critical to preserve the information so that it can be used later, if necessary, to defend any claims brought against either you or your employee.

Finally, you should report the accident to your auto insurance carrier as promptly as you can.

By following these procedures you should be able to properly document what happened, assess your exposure to any claims arising from the accident, prevent future accidents and protect your business.