Protect your legal rights by avoiding common mistakes if you’ve been in a semi-truck collision
A truck accident can result in serious and catastrophic injuries. Many times, a person involved in a collision with a semi-truck is gravely injured, and the only thing they need to worry about is getting the medical help they require.
But if you’re in a truck crash and are fortunate enough to walk away with minor injuries, there are some important steps to take afterwards that will help you with the aftermath.
If you’re a family member of someone who’s been injured in a truck accident, there are things you can do in order to preserve your loved one’s rights and legal options following a crash.
After a truck accident: 8 steps
First and foremost, assess your own condition, the condition of your passengers, and those in other vehicles involved in the crash if you’re able to do so safely. While each of the following steps can be an important part of your legal case, you never want to jeopardize your own safety (or someone else’s) unnecessarily. If you need to call an ambulance and do nothing but wait for it to arrive, that’s okay.
1. Call the police
In most situations, this is 911. If you’re on a highway, the 911 dispatcher will route your call to the local law enforcement agency and emergency responders. Let the dispatcher know approximately how many people are involved in the accident (it could be multiple vehicles) so that it can send as many ambulances as needed.
Even if the accident seems “minor,” get a police report anyway. A police report is the best way to have immediate documentation of the accident, and the police will maintain accurate records of all of the involved vehicles.
2. Seek medical attention
Even if you don’t think you’re hurt, get a medical evaluation for yourself and your passengers because you might have suffered injuries that don’t show immediate symptoms. If you end up requiring medical attention later for an injury, it might be hard to demonstrate that it was related to the accident. You also might have an injury like internal bleeding, which could be hard for you to know but a doctor will be able to diagnose.
Even if you’ve been examined by an emergency medical technician at the scene, request a full medical evaluation at a hospital or your doctor’s office.
3. Document the evidence at the scene
Again, this is something you should only do if you’re uninjured and if it’s safe to be out of your vehicle and walking around. If you’re on a busy highway and the police aren’t there yet to direct traffic, you don’t want to be wandering around on the road.
Documentation can include photos, contact information for witnesses and everyone involved in the crash, and other notes about road or weather conditions or other factors that might have affected the accident.
It’s especially important to take photos if the weather could’ve played a role in drivers’ visibility or the road was slick. Forensic experts can testify about past weather conditions, but a picture can say a thousand words.
Documentation also includes gathering information from other involved parties. Be sure to get as much of the following as possible:
- The other driver’s name, home address, phone number, and email address
- The other driver’s insurance company and policy number
- The other driver’s license number
- The name and contact information for truck driver’s employer and trucking company
- The truck license plate number and other identifying information
4. Write down contact information for witnesses
A “witness” is anyone who saw or observed the crash in any way. It could be someone in one of the involved vehicles, a bystander, or a person in a nearby vehicle that wasn’t involved.
You don’t have to take witness statements. That’s the police officers’ job. But if it’s a very active scene with a lot of injuries and damage, there could be a lot of emergency situations that require the police’s attention before they get to interviewing witnesses. Well-meaning bystanders who stopped to help will likely leave once it seems like the emergency response team has things under control. Once they leave the scene, it’s very difficult to track them down again and they might have valuable information to share.
If you’re able to, approach a witness and ask for their contact information. A name, phone number, or email address is all you need to stay in touch. You can either pass that information to your lawyer when you have one or provide it to the police if they’re performing an accident investigation.
5. Get your vehicle appraised
Your car might appear to have only minor damage, but like the human body sometimes the damage is internal and not visible to the untrained eye. However, you should NOT go straight to your neighborhood body shop and have your car repaired immediately.
Because the repair estimate needs to be part of your insurance claim. Each insurance company has different requirements for what must be submitted in order to pay for your damages. Some have apps that require you to photograph each external side of the car, others require you to bring it to a body shop that’s on an approved list.
If roadside assistance is included with your insurance or you belong to a travel association that offers towing, have your vehicle transported to a local body shop, but make sure the shop knows not perform any work until you’ve cleared it with the insurance company. Even if you’re sure the car is safe to drive, take it to a mechanic or body shop for an assessment.
6. Words matter: what not to say after an accident
It feels nice to be nice.
You might feel angry that the truck driver caused an accident, but being unpleasant to the other drivers won’t get you anywhere. On the contrary, most of us tend to say things we don’t mean or that we regret once we get agitated.
It’s far more effective to keep a cool head after an accident so that you can measure your words and avoid saying something that might hurt your case down the road.
Don’t admit fault or liability. Even if you know you were at fault, keep it to yourself. Don’t lie, but simply don’t talk about the details. Save that conversation for your lawyer. You might be partially responsible, but there might be other factors that could reduce your liability and it’s your lawyer’s job to find and highlight these factors.
The police are going to try their best to do a thorough job of reconstructing the accident. They’ll ask you (and witnesses) for a statement, but you don’t need to admit fault. Again, don’t lie because that will damage your credibility. It’s better not to say anything at all than to make statements that might later be shown to be untrue.
Remember that your insurance adjuster isn’t your friend or ally. It’s common for an insurance adjuster to call someone who was in a crash to “express concern” or “check in,” but that’s not the whole story. It’s actually a tactic to get you to say that you’re “fine” or “good,” which they can later use against you to offer a smaller settlement. These people are trained to elicit those kinds of responses, so be prepared for that.
Remember, too, that your insurance adjuster isn’t really on your side, either. Their objective is to pay out as little money as possible — that’s how insurance companies make a profit.
So, who is on your side? Your truck accident lawyer. It’s their job to be your advocate and get you as much money as possible to cover your claims.
A truck accident is often more serious than an accident between passenger cars, and if it involved a big cleanup, road closures, or a fatality, it could be newsworthy. You might see photos or articles from your local news stations, but resist the urge to comment.
Likewise, don’t post anything to your own social media networks that might indicate your physical or emotional condition, or how you think the accident happened. You might want to let your family and friends know what happened and how you’re doing, but social media can cause legal issues later.
Even a seemingly innocuous post like, “This wreck happened today — I’m a little banged up, but don’t worry, I’ll be fine!” can hurt your case in court. Instead, only contact your close friends and family directly (offline) if you want to share information or talk about the incident.
Remember that anything you post online can appear in court or depositions. Even if you delete it, screen shots might exist, or someone might be called to testify about what they saw online. It’s always best to be discreet on social media if you’re involved (or potentially will be involved) in any legal proceeding.
8. Call a truck accident lawyer
Whether you were in the truck accident or you’re a family member of someone who was, getting a truck accident lawyer involved as soon as possible could be the key to your legal case.
As a loved one of an injured person, you might not be able to follow each of the steps listed above after an accident if you weren’t at the scene, but you can help your loved one work through the complicated insurance and legal process.
A truck accident lawyer can also help in a variety of ways. One is that they’ll work to get you the settlement amount you need in order to cover all of your medical treatments and lost wages, both current and future.
A truck accident can be complicated because there are often more parties involved such as the driver’s employer, the trucking company, the shipper or manufacturer. There are also a variety of specific federal regulations associated with trucking, so it’s about more than simply following the rules of the road.
Use the free Enjuris Personal Injury Law Firm Directory to find a truck accident lawyer nearby who can help you get on the road to financial recovery.