According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the number of people injured in commercial truck accidents every year in the United States has nearly doubled since 2009, from 74,000 people to 145,000 people.
This disturbing trend is happening in Florida as well, which accounted for 5% of all fatal accidents involving commercial trucks in 2018.
If you’ve been injured or a loved one has been killed in a truck accident in Florida, you may be able to receive compensation through an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. In either case, there are certain steps you’ll need to take immediately after a truck accident to ensure you receive the damages you deserve.
Step 1: Stop your vehicle and exchange information
Florida law states that any driver involved in a crash that results in property damage or injury must stop their vehicle at the crash or as close to the crash as possible and exchange information. The information that needs to be exchanged includes:
- The driver’s name
- The driver’s address
- The registration number of the vehicle
- The driver’s license or permit (upon request)
A person who fails to stop and exchange the required information faces fines and potential jail time.
Step 2: Provide reasonable assistance to anyone who’s injured
Common decency dictates that you should help anyone who’s injured after a truck accident.
But did you know Florida law actually requires you to provide assistance?
The Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law requires you to render “reasonable assistance” to anyone who appears injured at the scene of the accident or who requests assistance.
In most cases, all you need to do is call an ambulance and wait for it to arrive. If this isn’t an option, you’ll need to make some other arrangement to get the injured person to a doctor or hospital for medical treatment.
The penalties for failing to provide reasonable assistance can be severe and can include jail time.
Step 3: Report the accident
In Florida, police are required to prepare crash reports for any accident that involves a commercial motor vehicle, or that results in injury, death, or an inoperable vehicle. For all other crashes involving property damage, the law requires drivers to submit a crash report to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
As a consequence, it’s important to call the police after an accident.
Of course, calling the police to the scene of an accident is wise for other reasons as well. Police can help render aid before the ambulance arrives, gather witnesses, investigate the cause of the accident, and control any contentious confrontations.
Step 4: Collect witness information
Witnesses are notoriously difficult to identify after an accident. Your best chance is to identify witnesses and collect their contact information while you’re still at the scene of the accident (assuming it’s safe to do so).
Be sure to take down a witness's name, address, telephone number (preferably more than 1 in case it changes), email address, and a statement (written and signed or on video) if they’re willing.
Step 5: Take pictures and gather any additional evidence
Most of us carry around smartphones, which makes it easy to snap some pictures after a truck accident. If you’re able, take pictures of the scene (the road, the position of the vehicles, skid marks, etc.). You should also take pictures of any damage (both property damage and physical injuries).
Step 6: Notify your insurer
If the truck accident was your fault, you’ll want to file a claim with your insurance provider. If the accident was the truck driver or another driver’s fault, you can either file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance provider or with your own insurance provider. In the latter case, your insurance provider will seek reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurance provider.
After you report the accident, there will be an investigation and your claim will be rejected or the insurance provider will make you an offer.
Before accepting an offer (even if the offer sounds great), you should strongly consider talking to an attorney.
Once you accept an offer (and sign a release), you can’t sue the driver for more money at a later date. This can be a huge problem if you later discover that your injuries are worse than you thought. An attorney can help you deal with the insurance company and make certain you get everything you deserve.
Step 7: Document everything
One of the easiest ways to help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve is to keep track of all your damages. This includes recording your medical expenses and keeping track of how your injuries impact your day-to-day life.