One thing is certain, one day your organization will be faced with litigation as a result of an accident that involves your fleet. The severity of the accident, where it occurred and the circumstances surrounding the collision will be analyzed to prove any negligence committed by you, the carrier and/or the operator.
John Cruickshank, an attorney with Alaniz and Schraeder, recently participated on a panel with Preco Electronics and shared his belief that “a lawsuit avoided is better than a lawsuit won.” It is with this belief that we put forth below our Top 5 Tips for avoiding accidents and litigation.
From a broad perspective, there are two sides to every accident – the actual collision, and the repercussions of that accident on the operator and the organization. The tips below represent a combination of best practices that bridge these two sides of a collision. Education and the implementation of safety technology is a first step to avoiding an accident. However, understanding what comes next can play a big part on the longevity and financial outcome of an organization.
Below are 5 tips for safety and proactively controlling the two sides when an accident does occur:
- Understand Legal Exposure: The company needs to be proactive in identifying its legal risks and needs to eliminate them before a potential lawsuit arises. This means understanding the state law and ensuring that insurance is comprehensive.
- Communication: Communication must not only be directed at the operators. It is critical that principal stakeholders, including executives, managers, operators and support staff are educated on safety issues in a standardized and regular process. This ensures everyone is aligned with the company policies and understands what is expected.
- Education: Create, implement and utilize a training program for management and drivers. Just because an operator has transportation experience, doesn’t mean they have safety expertise. It is critical that you indoctrinate everyone so your policies and procedures are clear.
- Collision Plan: Implement a solid post-accident response plan. We all dread a catastrophic crash, but without a plan a company has little ability to manage it. If policies are placed after the accident occurs, the damage has been done and there is no way to take things back. Have guidelines on preserving the scene, communicating with media and post-accident drug and alcohol testing. Clearly outline what the driver, company and management should do following an accidentto ensure that steps are adhered to.
- Safety Technology: Technology is instrumental in mitigating risk and avoiding accidents. One of the first things you will be asked for during the discovery process is the data from the equipment event recorder, such as your telematics system. Lawsuits are being proven (and in some cases disproven) by event data recorders, proper training and enforcement. Detailed records will allow you to provide data that works for you instead of against you.
With the New Year fast approaching, we ask that you take this opportunity to assess current practices and try to identify daily tasks that are exposing your operators to increased chances of accidents. It is a great time to look at safety with your eyes wide open and with an active plan in place to address safety procedures. By being proactive, organizations can reduce accident risk with safety technology, reduce costs and avoid potentially costly litigation in 2016 and beyond.
Wishing you all a safe and prosperous year in 2016!