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5 Steps to Take After a Construction Company Vehicle Accident

Construction business owners can reduce some of the stress associated with auto accidents by defining a set of actions for employees to follow following an incident and making sure everyone understands those actions.

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Car accidents are stressful events. Even minor fender benders can shake seasoned riders. Suddenly you are the center of attention and the onlookers, responding police and others are staring at you, even though you are not at fault. And when you’re involved in an accident in a company vehicle, the pressure can be even more intense.

However, it is important that you react correctly to a crisis, big or small, because how you react can affect the post-incident repercussions. Construction business owners can reduce some of the stress associated with auto accidents by defining a set of actions for employees to follow following an incident and making sure everyone understands those actions.

Vicarious liability: an important concept

Laws regarding company vehicle accidents vary from state to state. But some fundamentals tend to be common to most or all locations. One of the most important is the concept of vicarious liability. This means that the construction company that owns or leases and insures a vehicle is generally responsible for the results of an accident rather than the employee who drives the vehicle.

Companies must explain this concept to any employee they authorize to drive a company vehicle. They should make it very clear that the employee’s actions can create liability, lawsuits, and legal costs for the company.

Certain conditions apply, of course. For example, the driver must not drive the vehicle intentionally in a reckless manner or use it while committing a crime. But generally speaking, construction companies are responsible for the actions of employees who operate company vehicles. Thus, employees need to understand vicarious liability.

Employers place great trust in employees when they allow them to drive a company vehicle. Therefore, it is essential that they operate these vehicles safely and know how to react appropriately in the event of an accident.

Steps to take after a company car accident

If an employee is involved in an accident in a company vehicle, they should follow these five steps:

  1. Ensure their safety. Your employee should take steps to ensure they are not at risk of injury, such as moving a safe distance from the vehicle(s) involved in the accident, if any.
  2. Call the police or 911. If a minor accident occurs, drivers should call a non-emergency police line to report the incident. If the accident results in injury, significant damage to the vehicle, or a location that poses a hazard to those involved or others on the road, the driver should call 911 and seek emergency assistance.
  3. Record the basic facts about the accident. Your employee should record information about the accident, including the date, time, and location. They should not assume that they will remember these facts, as the stress of an accident can impair a person’s ability to recall even basic information. The employee should also note the license plate numbers of all vehicles involved as well as the driver’s license numbers and insurance information of other drivers.
  4. Document the accident scene. The details of an accident are important to authorities, insurance companies and others when determining liability. The police officers who intervene will document the scene. However, if your employee can do so safely and without violating local traffic laws, it may be helpful to take photos of vehicle damage, skid marks on the road, property damage (signs, layout landscaping, etc.), traffic control measures like traffic lights or stop signs and anything else on the scene that might be relevant.
  5. Contact the designated person in your company. In a small construction business, an employee involved in an accident will likely contact the business owner. Larger companies may have someone else designated as a contact, someone from the human resources department, for example. Either way, that person should know what action to take following an accident. These actions may include having someone pick up the employee, making sure the person gets medical attention if needed, arranging for the vehicle to be towed if needed, calling your insurance company to initiate a commercial auto insurance claim , etc.

You should also instruct your employees to cooperate with authorities and provide any information requested. Then they should let the investigation take its course. They need not express an opinion on the cause of the accident or the person at fault.

Educate employees to minimize liability

Construction companies that educate their employees about vehicle accidents minimize the risk of an incident and their associated liability. You must provide mandatory training to employees on the above safe driving practices and accident response measures.

You should also document your safety tips and expectations for employees who drive company vehicles. This way they can refer to this information as needed and you can demonstrate your commitment to safe driving.

Other steps you can take to minimize the risk of vehicle accidents and liability include:

  • Buy vehicles with good safety features, such as lane assist, blind spot monitoring, and automatic braking.
  • Provision of safety equipment such as safety triangles, safety vests and safety hammers to evacuate vehicles submerged in water.
  • Keep abreast of preventative maintenance and repairs.
  • Provide hands-on driver training to employees if necessary, such as if you ask them to drive a type of vehicle they have never driven before.
  • Establish a rule prohibiting texting while driving.

Being proactive pays off

The time and effort you put into training your employees and helping them if they are involved in an accident pays off. This can prevent a minor incident from becoming a major headache.

The same goes for having adequate insurance protection for your owned or leased vehicles. It is generally mandatory to have a commercial automobile policy. If you don’t have coverage, you could be subject to fines or other penalties and high out-of-pocket costs for repairs, legal defense, judgments, etc.

Well-protected construction companies with well-trained employees tend to recover quickly from vehicle accidents and can refocus on the business.