Traffic accidents

The accident: Arriving at a client’s home, a landscape maintenance crew’s driver pulled the company pickup and trailer to the curb of a shady, tree-lined street. The workers attached ramps to the trailer and unloaded a riding lawn mower. As they tended to the yard, a 74-year-old woman turned her car onto the street. She didn’t notice the dark-colored ramps in the shadows beneath the trees. Her vehicle’s right front tire struck the ramp closest to the roadway and the car flipped, landing upside down. The woman died.

What the expert says: This type of accident has happened more than once, notes Pete Scala, safety consultant for insurance company E.G. Bowman. Elderly drivers have trouble detecting differences in elevation, and trailer ramps, which are usually black, blend in with pavement. Removing ramps or folding them back onto the trailer is best, Scala says. But if you don’t do that, place orange cones around the ramps to alert drivers to their presence.

In the event of an accident, secure the scene by setting out reflective triangles. This can prevent a second accident. Call 911 if someone is hurt, and don’t move a seriously injured person unless he or she is in a life-threatening location.

Notify police and file an accident report, even if the incident is minor. Your employer might have equipped the vehicle with an accident kit available from insurance companies. If so, begin filling in the accident form, which asks about such things as road conditions, vehicles involved, their license plate numbers and positions at the time of the collision. It also has a place to write witnesses’ names and phone numbers. “While the information is fresh in your mind, you should be completing this form,” Scala says. If you don’t have the form, jot down as much information as you can.

Do not discuss the accident with anyone except police. “You shouldn’t make any statements as to fault. That’s critical,” Scala says. Even “‘I’m sorry’ can put the insured at a disadvantage.”

If you have a camera, take as many pictures as possible from various points surrounding the accident scene. Photos can provide your company’s claims representative with valuable evidence. “The No. 1 thing I suggest to all my accounts is keep a disposable camera in their glove compartment at all times,” Scala says.

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