Damage Happens, So What Comes Next? Steps to Claim Resolution

DESPITE BEST EFFORTS, accidents happen. It is inevitable that underground utility assets will sustain damage at some point. An immediate response to these accidents is critical in terms of public safety, as well as protecting assets, and determining who is at fault. As with any investigation, the information gathered on the scene is key to resolving any claims that ensue.

There are four key points to remember:

Secure the Site

When excavation accidents occur, it is important to make the site as safe as possible. Securing the site is paramount as leaks or other exposure may endanger property owners, onsite contractors, or utility personnel. This also will ensure any evidence regarding the cause of the accident – and the responsible party – remains intact. After securing the site, it is imperative to notify the owner of the damaged facility and call 811. In the event an excavator causes damage resulting in the release of flammable, toxic, or corrosive gas or liquid, the excavator must immediately call 911.

Collect Onsite Information

Critical to the claims resolution process is proper collection of information from the site in a thorough, timely manner. While regulations may vary regarding notification and safety, there are key principles governing information gathering that can ensure those responsible for the accident are held financially accountable – so you don’t foot the bill.

• Take photographs using the “clock method” best practice.

• Measure distances and dimensions.

• Obtain names and contact information of witnesses on the scene.

• Record other evidence like police report numbers, incident numbers, and tag numbers.

Information gathered during this crucial time is used by investigators and insurance representatives to determine liability and resolve claims. Failure to follow these principles can prove costly for your organization and affect your bottom line.

Determine Liability

With a properly secured site and information collected at the scene in hand, a case can be made to determine liability for the accident. Working with insurance companies and, if necessary, law enforcement agencies, the party financially responsible for the accident can be identified and held accountable.

Outside Assistance

Determining liability is one thing, but recovering money can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. Many utilities find it advantageous to seek outside assistance in recouping their accident-related expenses. Outside firms with expertise in recovering utility claims quickly and efficiently have proven to be well worth the investment.

Accidents happen and remembering these points and following these guidelines can ensure resolution can be achieved, assets can be restored, and budgets protected.

Jonathan Musgrove is Vice President, Operations of Claims Management Resources, Inc. (CMR), a property damage claims recovery company for governmental agencies and self-insured organizations in the utility industry. More information is available at CMRclaims.com.

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