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Accidents happen, and when you’re on the road as often as truck drivers, the odds of one happening increase. In 2017, large trucks travelled a total of 297.6 billion Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). That same year, there were 450,000 crashes involving large trucks.1

If you drive a large truck, there’s a chance this could happen to you. That’s why at Nationwide, we’re here to help. Here’s information about why rapidly reporting a large truck accident claim is so important, tips for capturing the right details, risks of delayed reporting and resources to help you prepare for any hazards you might meet on the road.

Why timing matters

When an accident does occur, reporting it to your insurer as soon as possible can mean the difference between a quick resolution based on physical evidence and a drawn-out court battle based on differing accounts and material proof that have faded over time.

“The sooner we get there, the sooner we can preserve the evidence and put a strategy and action plan in place,” explains Chris Miller, CPCU, Director of E&S Transportation Claims at Nationwide.

According to Phillip Wigginton, Director of Risk Management Services at Nationwide, you should also report a claim to your insurer right away even if the accident seems minor or if you did not cause the accident.

“Even if it’s not your fault, anybody can sue anybody at any time, so we still want you to report your claim,” says Wigginton. “If you have a claim, get us involved. Risk Management Services is here to help you.”

Ideally, truck drivers will report a claim within 24 hours. For multiple vehicle accidents or accidents that result in catastrophic injury or fatalities, that timeline is even shorter.

“This should happen within an hour of the accident so we can get our experts dispatched to the scene,” explains Wigginton.

Best practices for preserving evidence

If you drive a large truck, it’s important to know what to do in the event of an accident so you can achieve the best outcome possible. The first—and most obvious—step is to turn off your engine and turn on your hazard warning signals. If the accident is minor and there are no serious injuries, move your vehicle to a safe place off the roadway. Next, call 911 to alert police and other emergency personnel, and then alert your employer and insurer about the accident.

After your vehicle is secured and help is on the way, set out your reflective triangles or flares. Then focus on your cargo. If hazardous materials are involved, refer to the guidelines in your Emergency Response Guidebook. When the police arrive, provide them with complete and accurate information.

“If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t guess,” advises Miller.

It’s important that you don’t discuss the specifics of the accident with other drivers or anyone else without your company’s approval. Many factors go into an accident, so don’t admit fault or accept offers to settle. Let investigators do their job and learn what happened based on the facts and evidence at hand. However, be sure to collect contact information from any witnesses.

While at the scene, you play an important role in documenting evidence. Taking photos right away can help you substantiate claims you’re making and bolster your case. Be sure to photograph the entire scene and surrounding area, from a distance of 100 feet, 50 feet and close up. Take photos from all directions, and include all sides of involved vehicles, damaged areas, license plates, company names and DOT numbers, and any skid marks or road gouges that may help tell the story of the accident to investigators.

“Don’t forget to download data from your electronic control modules ECM, which may become critically important later,” adds Miller.

The risks of delayed reporting

Accidents are stressful. While it may be tempting to rest after one occurs or get back to work right away if it was only minor, it’s important to prioritize making a claim as quickly as possible. Miller points out that there are many risks that may result from delaying this important step.

“If you look at a case at the time of loss and then when it's ultimately litigated or tried two or three years later, you’ll find that scenes can change. Striping on the road can be different. Signs can be different. Speed limit can be different. Construction zones can go away,” Miller says. “You’ve got to preserve physical evidence at the scene immediately.”

In addition to physical evidence like gouges in the road changing over time, you’re also at risk of losing digital evidence if you wait too long. Newer vehicles and airbag modules capture a lot of data, such as speed and climate, that is critical to preserve immediately. In fact, ECMs that collect this information can lose data if another event occurs after the accident.

“For example, if you leave the scene of an accident and have a hard brake two weeks later, your prior data can be erased,” notes Miller.

It’s also important to identify witnesses and collect their contact information at the scene so they can be interviewed right away with their fresh accounts of the event before time fades their memories.

Support from Nationwide

When you report a large truck accident claim with Nationwide, you’ll reach a team of experts ready to jump in and provide you with the support you need for your unique situation.

“The sooner we are notified of a claim, the sooner we can get the appropriate business partners involved representing our customer, whether that’s an attorney to speak with police, a local law enforcement agency, an accident investigator or a reconstruction expert,” says Miller.

In addition, Risk Management Services at Nationwide is always there to provide industry-leading risk management consulting focused on reducing risk, reducing accident frequency and severity, enhancing safety culture, and improving regulatory compliance. We deliver on our promise by providing best-in-class service that includes continuous education, ongoing communication, and premier safety program development unique to each client’s needs.

Nationwide also offers its insured truck drivers a truck accident report guide to keep in their vehicles. This contains information on how to report a claim and what information to collect in the aftermath of an accident. You can find additional tools and resources on Nationwide’s Commercial Auto website. And, as always, you can report a large truck claim at via phone at 1-800-423-7675, by email or by faxing 480-483-6752.

In the end, reporting an accident in a timely manner and preserving evidence allows Nationwide to defend its customers and more quickly and efficiently for the best possible outcome.

“The majority of truck drivers are good people—the salt of the Earth. They’re the people who move our country from coast to coast, and they want to know that an insurance company is quickly and properly investigating, defending and representing their interests,” says Miller. “We can do that quicker when they promptly report the claim.”