Safety is key when it comes to driving, running a fleet, or managing a team of people who drive for a living. But accidents do happen. And you may find a time when either yourself, or one of your employees is involved in a fatal accident. If this did sadly happen, would you know what to do? Would your drivers know what to do or who to contact?
What are the consequences of being involved in a serious or fatal road traffic accident?
Unfortunately, if you do employ people who drive for a living, the scenario of one of your drivers being involved in a serious or fatal road traffic accident is one that you will need to consider.
Being involved in a serious or fatal road traffic collision can be devastating, but it can also carry significant penalties and strict sentencing guidelines if drivers are convicted of:
- causing death by dangerous driving – a maximum prison sentence of 14 years (soon to be increased to life)
- causing death by careless driving – a maximum prison sentence of 5 years
It can also have serious consequences for your business if your culture has encouraged driving behaviours which put others at risk. The most serious offences can result in responsible directors facing imprisonment, unlimited fines or prosecution for gross negligence manslaughter or corporate manslaughter.
Other consequences can include damage to your brand reputation, potential business closure, and an impact on your ability to obtain insurance.
What to do if you are involved in a fatal accident
If you or one of your drivers are involved in a fatal accident, then it is important that they know what is likely to happen with regards to the investigation in to how the accident happened. It is also vital that they know what is likely to happen to them as the involved driver and how to respond.
The police arrive on the scene
If you are involved in a serious or fatal road traffic accident, the police will most likely arrive on the scene in a matter of minutes. DAC Beachcroft note that this is the only criminal investigation whereby the police can ask the suspect ‘what happened’ in the immediate aftermath. And the advice that DAC Beachcroft give would always be to say nothing. Given the severity of the accident and the likely state of mind that the driver will be in, talking about what happened at this point could be incriminating.
Aim to reconstruct what happened
The police will then look to reconstruct the collision. This will be done using a variety of things from:
- dashcam footage
- telematics systems
- the vehicles involved
- technology the driver is wearing e.g., Fitbit
The police will also talk to witnesses, markings at the scene will be taken (brake marks, positioning of debris, damage to vehicles etc) to understand the mechanics of the collision. And to ultimately understand what happened and how the accident occurred.
Driver taken to the police station
The involved driver will then most likely be taken to the police station where they will be interviewed.
If this happens to one of your drivers then you need to think about the following
- would they know who to call at your business?
- would the person who takes the call know what to do?
Remember that if one of your drivers goes into a police interview in this situation without a lawyer then they will have no entitlement to:
- see the evidence
- see the witness statements
- see dashcam footage
- see physical evidence
Any driver who goes into this situation will need a lawyer to be able to access the evidence which is held and then to be advised how best to put forward their account of the accident.
Having a lawyer can make the difference between whether the drive will face prosecution, and whether they go to prison or not.
- Unrepresented and without seeing the evidence many drivers will give answers which make matters worse
- Having a lawyer will help the driver avoid putting forward a defence which further incriminates them – e.g. ‘I was tired’ or ‘I was distracted by the kids’
Do watch our video which we have created in conjunction with our legal partners DAC Beachcroft for more information on what to do if you are involved in a fatal accident.
Why your business needs to take this seriously
If the accident occurs during the course of employment, the police investigation will not only look at the driver, but also your company driving policy, including:
- the induction processes
- the culture within your business.
This could lead you open to prosecution for Health and Safety offences or Corporate Manslaughter if the practices within your business are found to have encouraged dangerous or careless driving behaviour.
- Is mobile phone use behind the wheel tolerated or encouraged?
- Are your drivers under significant pressure to deliver by certain times?
How can your business best protect your drivers in the event of involvement in a fatal accident?
To protect your driver and your business, you must
- educate drivers about the consequences of fatal road traffic collisions
- educate them about the need for legal representation during a police interview
- have processes in place which trigger this legal representation in the immediate aftermath of a serious or fatal road traffic accident.
You’ll also want to think about your insurance. If you work with an insurance broker, then your choice of broker is important – they must be able to understand your attitude to risk and be capable of explaining this to insurers. How your insurance broker responds when something serious happens is what matters. You must ensure that you have legal representation in place, which is available immediately after a road traffic accident to enable you to protect your drivers – ensure that this is something that you discuss with your insurance broker. If it is not something they are able to provide clarity on, then it may be time to consider working with a new insurance broker.
Risk management advice is a key part of the service provided by Anthony Jones. Together with DAC Beachcroft, we work closely with all our clients to identify health and safety issues to ensure the safety of all their employees while at work. If you have any concerns about risk management within your own business, please get in touch with our team today.