Many businesses today operate fleets of vehicles for one reason or another. Many also provide their senior employees or those who need to travel often for their jobs, with a company car. While these cars often also double as personal vehicles for the employees in question, they are still ultimately company property.
Many company cars are fitted with GPS tracking as an anti-theft measure, but others record statistics about the driver to ensure that the vehicle is being driven safely and appropriately.
Regardless of where you personally fall on this spectrum, as a thoughtful business owner, it is a good idea to implement a clear and coherent policy for what your employees should do if they do find themselves involved in a car accident.
Codify Your Rules
When an employee is given a company car, they will also be asked to sign an agreement which lays out the terms for their borrowing of the vehicle.
This document should contain provisions for how accidents, where the driver is at fault, are managed. In such cases, you will want to release the company from financial liability to some degree. Insurance will cover costs where your employee is not responsible for the crash, but they are unlikely to do so if the driver is at fault.
Require Every Employee to Keep a Safety Kit in Their Car
Make it a company policy that any employee with a company car must keep a safety kit in the trunk at all times.
This safety kit should include warning markers, road flares, and high visibility jackets.
High visibility jackets are inexpensive. If your employee is involved in a collision at night and needs to cross from the accident scene to safety with other people, having spare jackets will keep everyone involved safer.
Get to Safety
This is the most important thing in the immediate aftermath of a crash. Naturally, the severity and location of the collision will determine what you should do next.
If the vehicles involved are still running, you should move them to the side of the road, well out of the way of other drivers. Make sure that you stop them somewhere where they will be clearly visible from some way away.
If the vehicles aren’t able to move, get yourself and anyone else involved in the crash to the side of the road. If this involves crossing an area where traffic is still flowing, make sure that you are careful about crossing.
If the accident occurred in the dark, retrieve your high visibility jacket from your vehicle. Then, call the police, and a tow-truck. In most states, it is a legal requirement to inform the police of a traffic accident that results on blocked traffic, but even if not, they will often want to be on the scene to ensure it remains safe.
Always Call the Police
This is a very important rule to implement and there are a number of reasons for doing so. First and foremost, photographic and video evidence will go a long way to establishing fault.
If the employee is at fault, this will give you the evidence you need to determine whether they should be allowed company car privileges and whether they should be personally liable for some or all of the damages incurred.
When you speak to the police dispatchers, they will ascertain whether the accident requires an officer in attendance.
There are laws, which vary by state, mandating when an officer must be called. Failing to do so can result in fines, regardless of fault. On the other hand, there is no penalty for reporting an incident that doesn’t require a police presence.
If the police do attend the scene, they will write up a report. This report will be essential when you are filing an insurance claim.
If the police do not attend the scene, you can file an accident report on your own. Your insurance company may even refuse to proceed with any claims in the absence of an accident report. Again, there is no penalty for filing a report that doesn’t get used, and even the most minor of accidents can be reported.
Document the Scene
Any employee with a company car is certain to have a company smartphone as well. A smartphone camera is perfect for documenting the immediate aftermath of any collision. Ensure that employees take as many photos as possible, from every angle they can.
Of course, they should already have ensured that it is safe for them to do so. Obviously, if they have an accident in the middle of the freeway, their first priority should not be to start taking photos. But it is important that you gather as much evidence as possible. As well as the vehicles themselves, make sure that you document the surrounding landscape, weather conditions, and road conditions.
It is also a good idea to have your employees record a short video of them recounting their version of events, while everything is still fresh in their mind. You might even want to install dashboard cameras to ensure that any accident is recorded.
If an employee of yours is injured in an accident that you can prove was not their fault, you should inform them of their rights to seek compensation.
While their company health insurance might have covered their bills, they can still recoup any costs that were incurred, including damages for increased insurance premiums. Look for lawyers who specialize in these kinds of personal injury cases, law firms like The Utah Advocates, for example.
A company car is a big responsibility for any employee, but it is also a privilege. You should encourage your workers to take their obligations in relation to their company vehicles seriously. Also, ensure that you explain your policy regarding what to do in an emergency to them as clearly as possible.
You might want to consider writing into the agreement that if they fail to follow this procedure, they could be penalized for it. You should also make clear that any accidents involving their company vehicles where they were at fault, will result in them becoming personally liable.