Reduce the Risk of Losing a Lawsuit by 1/3rd
While attending an advanced insurance seminar recently, I learned that of all of the lawsuits that end in a jury or judicial award, 35% of them come from auto accidents (Bureau of Justice Statistics). When analyzing the incidents from our insured tree services we see the same pattern, where vehicular accidents are the leading cause of all claims. This probably is not that surprising to you. Tree care companies obviously drive large trucks and equipment all day, every day to get to their work done. A small fender bender in a large truck typically produces more damage and more severe injuries than the same accident with a private passenger vehicle. Unfortunately, a lot of companies do not focus on limiting this huge exposure because it is just seen as a fact of doing business. Below are the three most common ways to reduce your risk of losing a lawsuit by one third.
- Hire the Right Drivers – Do you have a process in place to hire the best drivers? Start by developing a guideline for driving records and review the potential employee’s record at the start of the hiring process. It is not a secret why drivers with bad driving records pay more for their personal insurance, they are more likely to have another incident in the future. Once the applicant passes your written guidelines for their record, have them take a driving test with one of your vehicles. Assess their physical ability to operate your equipment safely. This not only can eliminate the risk of hiring a bad driver, it can also give you a starting point for training the individual.
- Maintain Your Fleet – Are your trucks operating as safely as possible? Clearly, a well maintained vehicle is less likely to have a failure and cause an accident. So, create a maintenance schedule for each vehicle based off of the manufacturer’s recommendation. Whether your mechanic is in house or owns a separate business across town, make sure you keep a written record of the maintenance done to each truck and trailer so that you can prove the steps you took to minimize an accident from mechanical or equipment failure.
- DOT Compliance – Do you know what you are required to have in place from a Department of Transportation perspective? If you are operating out of compliance and a serious accident occurs, judges and juries will have an easier time awarding a large settlement. Look for a separate article specifically on DOT compliance in a few weeks.
If one of your team members is involved in a serious accident, the judge and jury will look at what types of measures your company took to prevent the accident in the first place. If you can prove all three of these points above, your company will have a much better chance at winning the lawsuit or minimizing the settlement. And speaking about the settlement, make sure you purchase adequate liability limits on your Business Auto policy that will allow you to remain in business if a terrible accident does occur.