This post was written by: Kelsea Eckert
By Kelsea Eckert, Attorney at Eckert & Associates
In most states, trucks have just as many rights to collect downtime from at-fault parties as stationary businesses do. Unfortunately, many insurance companies don’t understand this concept and think big trucks are similar to cars that can easily be rented. However, commercial equipment is often highly specialized and in today’s tight market, very difficult to find. Many motor carriers and insurance companies don’t even allow their owner-operators to lease equipment temporarily while repairs are underway.
Whether you have a fleet or only one truck, persuading an adverse adjuster to pay lost income can be difficult. Emotions run hot when equipment is down, and losses are piling up. Claims are a lot of paperwork and take an abundance of patience.
Remember that the adverse adjuster is not on your side. They represent the other party, not you. Relying on their information and advice is not always the best idea. It’s possible to innocently say things that sabotage a claim.
How do you proceed with a claim against the other party?
First, know your strengths and weaknesses. If you aren’t skilled in claims, get someone on your side who is. Consider consulting your insurance agent, accountant and attorney. With the right team behind you, even the most difficult claim can be managed.
No one goes into trucking with the intention they’ll be in an accident. However, some of the safest drivers on the road get hit occasionally, through no fault of their own. Your driver training course or motor carrier orientation probably walked you through step by step what to do immediately after an accident. Additional information is on our website at https://www.downtimeclaims.com/blog/.
Proving liability and damages
Let’s say the unfortunate happens and someone hits you on the highway. Once your equipment is off the road and in the repair shop, you’re not done. You must take steps to protect yourself, your business and your family. The quicker you prove fault and damages, the quicker you get paid.
Liability. First, you must convince the adverse insurance company it was their driver’s fault.
Damages. Second, you have to properly calculate and prove your lost income and all out-of-pocket expenses like the diminished value of equipment, towing, hotel, rentals, etc. Push the other side to pay ASAP. If you don’t stay on top of it, you could be upside down very quickly.
Successfully collect downtime losses from the other party
It’s important to remember a few simple steps when pursuing downtime losses.
1. Keep a timeline. This is a list of everything that happens from the time of the accident until you are back rolling. These dates and details will become very important to justify your downtime.
2. Document all communication, especially with the adverse party and their adjuster. Properly submit your losses. Insurance companies run on paper and supporting documents from independent third parties. They aren’t going to pay a hand-scribbled invoice you wrote.
3. Stay in constant contact with the repair shop. They should document the reasons for any delays. While the adverse adjuster isn’t necessarily going to believe your explanation for time down, they will usually believe the body shop.
4. Keep losses as small as possible. This is called mitigation. Even though you’re the victim, you can’t sit around waiting on the other side to take care of everything. You have to make valid attempts to get back on the road, which could include renting, borrowing, or co-driving other equipment.
5. Prove you tried to rent substitute equipment. Of course, there are many reasons truckers can’t rent equipment, but you’re going to have to prove you tried. Valid reasons often include having specialized equipment or a motor carrier that won’t allow rentals.
In summary, prepare for the unexpected. Stay one step ahead of your insurance claims and keep your wits about you. You have the major burden of getting your equipment fixed and back on the road. Push the repairs along, prove your downtime, your out-of-pocket expenses, and any diminished value of your equipment. None of this is fair, and you probably won’t be paid for your time spent dealing with the insurance claim. So, do yourself a favor and stay organized and level-headed. The quicker you get your documents to the insurance company, the quicker you can get paid and back on the road, with this bad situation in your rearview mirror.