There are few experiences on the road that can be more terrifying, damaging, and deadly than a trucking accident. In October 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that truck accidents killed just over 5,000 people per year during both 2018 and 2019.
This is because trucks, tractor-trailers, semis, and 18-wheelers – whatever you prefer to call them – are massive machines that are often hauling heavy loads. Due to their size and weight, these vehicles are very difficult to maneuver and impossible to stop at a moment’s notice. Truck drivers need to exercise an extreme amount of care when changing lanes and slowing down. Unfortunately, though, those who don’t may cause an accident.
If you are involved in a trucking accident, chances are you will need to file a claim to seek compensation for medical bills and the destruction of your property. Read more about how you can protect your claim by reviewing the steps below.
1. Stop & Report the Accident
The first thing you should do after getting involved in a truck accident is to stop and remain at the scene. but move your car to the side of the road when it’s safe to do so (and if possible). Trucking accidents can cause significant amounts of damage, so don’t worry about moving your vehicle if it’s disabled. Turn on your hazard lights and deploy and hazard signs or flares around the accident scene – chances are the truck driver will have some if you don’t.
When someone is severely injured or killed, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1. Not only is it self-evident why serious injuries or a death should be immediately dealt with, but it’s the law to contact the authorities when either occurs. You can also call the local police, sheriff, or state patrol directly to get an officer out to assess the situation and complete an accident report.
2. Seek Immediate Medical Attention
If your injuries are severe, you will need to seek immediate medical attention. You might not feel like you’re injured, but in many cases, this is only because of the adrenaline in one’s system. Once the adrenaline subsides, you may start to notice severe pain or discomfort.
Remember that failing to seek immediate medical attention can be misinterpreted as a sign that you were not seriously injured. To protect your claim, get yourself checked out by a medical professional – and be sure to keep a thorough record of all of your medical bills and expenses.
3. Identify All Involved Parties & Witnesses
After contacting the authorities, make sure you identify everyone who was involved in the accident. This includes drivers and passengers, but you’ll also want to find out which company the truck driver works for. While the driver may be at fault for the accident, the company they were driving for may be held liable for your injuries and destruction of property.
Look for any witnesses to the accident. They may have been other drivers or pedestrians, but find out who saw any part of the accident occurring and identify them as a witness. Making sure you get everyone’s name and their role in the accident (as a driver, passenger, or witness) is crucial for identifying who to name in any future legal action and for building your claim.
4. Exchange Information with Other Parties & Witnesses
Make sure exchange to information with all other drivers at the accident. Without it, it can be hard to track down those involved in the accident after they leave the scene.
Here’s what you’ll need to gather:
- Driver’s name, address, phone number, and email address
- Driver’s insurance company and policy information
- Driver’s license number
- License plate number of the truck
- Name and contact information of the driver’s employer
When it comes to witnesses, all you’ll need at the time of the accident is their name and the best way to contact them. You can collect a witness statement from them, but chances are you will have more immediate matters to address. Don’t worry, though – a personal injury attorney can help you deal with witnesses in the near future.
5. Document the Accident
Make sure you record as much detail about the accident as you can. The information will more than likely play a role as evidence in your claim and/or lawsuit and help your attorney demonstrate how the truck driver was at fault.
Here’s a list of details that will be helpful to gather:
- Date and time of the accident
- Location of the accident
- Weather conditions
- Photos of the accident scene (damage to vehicles, property, skid marks in the road, etc.)
- Photos of any visible injuries
- Presence of any traffic cameras
If you have the presence of mind, it may also be helpful to jot down a brief description of what you saw or heard leading up to the accident. A contemporaneous record such as this can help establish the facts of your case in the weeks and months to follow.
6. Be Careful about What You Say
Whether you are speaking to the other driver, witnesses, or an insurance adjuster, be very careful about what you say. Anything you say can be used against you to hurt your claim.
At the scene of the accident, refrain from discussing what happened or your injuries. All you need to say is that you won’t discuss anything until you’ve spoken with your attorney. You can say the same if an insurance adjuster calls you before you’ve hired an attorney or have received guidance from one about how to deal with the insurance companies.
7. Contact an Attorney
If you are involved in a trucking accident, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. You only have two years from the date of the accident to file your claim, but it’s not ideal to wait. Evidence at the accident scene can deteriorate and witnesses’ memories of the incident can fade. One of the ways you can increase your odds of recovering damages is to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible.
A legal advocate can also help you deal with insurance adjusters, whose whole goal is to invalidate your claim. An attorney can guide you through dealing with adjusters and protect you from admitting fault for an incident where you had none.
We at The Orr Law Firm provide this type of guidance for our clients involved in trucking accidents. We offer each potential client a free initial consultation to become more familiar with our services, and we invite you to take advantage of this opportunity.