Being involved in a trucking accident can be a traumatic and disorienting experience. It's important to know what steps to take to protect yourself, your rights, and your ability to seek compensation for any damages. A step-by-step guide can be a valuable resource in this situation, providing clear and concise instructions on what to do in the immediate aftermath of an accident and in the days and weeks that follow.
This guide will walk you through the process, from gathering crucial evidence at the scene of the accident to filing a claim and seeking legal representation. Use this guide as a roadmap to help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and ensure that you receive the justice and compensation you deserve.
What To Do at the Scene of a Truck Accident
Semi-truck accidents are often severe and may require those involved to act quickly and efficiently during a crisis. However, when emotions are heightened, this is a challenging task. The following list depicts what you should do at the scene of a truck accident to navigate the situation while gathering important information.
1. Call the Police
If you're in a semi-truck accident, you should first call the police. The dispatcher will need to know that you have been involved in an accident and may ask how many people were involved and whether anyone was injured. This information is essential, as it will let the dispatcher know how many police units to send out and if an ambulance is necessary. Once the police arrive, they will create a police report documenting the accident. This paperwork may come in handy later on if a lawsuit is needed.
2. Seek Medical Attention
A semi-truck accident is often severe and may leave those with injuries needing medical attention. Medical attention must be sought if you or someone else has an injury. Those who do not need to be immediately attended to at the scene should still seek medical attention after the accident. Injuries may be worse than initially realized and could cause life-threatening complications if left unattended. A doctor will create documentation of any images and the cost of possible treatment plans. This information can be used for insurance reimbursement.
3. Take Pictures
Photo documentation of any car accident is essential, as it creates valid evidence for insurance companies and personal injury attorneys, if necessary. Here are some examples of pictures you should take:
The accident scene, including the location of the accent and any other vehicle(s) involved
Any injuries sustained from the accident
All vehicle damage, including the positioning of each vehicle
Any contributing weather conditions
4. Exchange Information
After a semi-truck accident, exchanging information with the other motorists is crucial. This will help hold others accountable and may help to avoid a hit-and-run incident. In addition, insurance companies may find this information useful to help identify the other drivers in the accident and to compensate those involved correctly.
You should exchange the following information:
Full name, physical address, phone number, and email address
Driver’s License number
License plate number
Auto insurance provider and policy number
In many cases, exchanging photos of driver's licenses and insurance policy cards may be helpful instead of manually writing down this information. Taking a picture of these documents with your cell phone ensures you have all the correct information about the other drivers involved.
5. Talk to Witnesses
Witness accounts can be helpful in semi-truck accidents, as they are unbiased accounts of what happened. If you can, gather information from bystanders on what they saw. If they saw the crash and are willing to help, be sure to exchange contact information. This information can benefit insurance companies and attorneys if a lawsuit is necessary.
Keep in mind that any responding police officers will gather official witness statements; you only need to get their contact information if you can.
6. Keep a Level Head
Being involved in a semi-truck accident may cause anxiety, anger, and other strong emotions. Still, keeping a level head and maintaining a calm presence is crucial. In particular, emotionally-loaded sentiments that claim responsibility may be used against you in court or an insurance claim. In addition, those involved in the accident should avoid apologizing for the accident and, in the case of an injury, should not downplay or exaggerate any physical injury. Both examples can cause lower insurance payouts and may lead to a dismissed case.
What To Do After Leaving the Scene of a Semi-Truck Accident
After leaving the scene of a semi-truck accident, there are several steps you should take to protect yourself and your interests. The following list will ensure the best possible outcome and may help you receive a higher insurance payout. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these are just general guidelines — the specific steps you should take may vary depending on the circumstances of your accident.
1. Assess Your Medical Needs
After a semi-truck accent, even those who don't appear to have injuries should visit a hospital emergency room or an emergency clinic. A physician can provide an accurate diagnostic assessment and determine if you have any unseen injuries that may need to be taken care of before you can be discharged. This step is critical for everyone leaving the scene of an accident as it ensures that you are not suffering from an internal injury that may cause life-threatening damage if not tended to properly.
2. Notify Your Insurance Company
As soon as possible, notify your insurance company of the accident. Many insurance companies offer the option to complete claims online or by phone. They will likely ask for a detailed account of what happened and any documentation or evidence you have collected. While an online claim will easily allow you to upload photos and additional documentation from the accident, a phone call is often necessary if the insurance company has follow-up questions.
3. Get Your Vehicle Appraised
Even if your vehicle looks to have sustained minimal damage after an accident, a professional must appraise the vehicle. While some damage may be cosmetic, cars can often sustain substantial internal damage that can quickly add up. A professional appraisal can give you and your insurance company a realistic cost expectation to fix any damages.
Many insurance companies partner with local body shops for professional appraisals. Check with your insurance company for its recommendation first to know that you're working with a trusted partner.
4. Continue Any Medical Treatment Plans
As with any injury, following your doctor's recommended treatment plan is essential. Attending follow-up appointments will ensure that you heal correctly and can give your insurance company a better idea of the full extent of your injuries. Not only does this provide an optimal recovery, but it also creates credible documentation for your insurance company and your lawyer. In addition, it may lead to higher compensation for your injuries.
How to Start a Semi-Truck Accident Lawsuit
A semi-truck accident can be devastating and life-altering, leaving victims with serious injuries, emotional trauma, and financial losses. Pursuing a lawsuit against the responsible party can be complex and daunting. Still, with the proper guidance and resources, it is possible to hold them accountable and seek the compensation you deserve. Here is a list of steps to help you secure a trustworthy attorney and navigate the legal system to come out on the winning side.
1. Check your state's statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations for semi-truck accidents will vary depending on the state where they occurred. For example, while the statute of limitations in Colorado is three years, it's only two years in New Jersey. If your accident just happened, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to ensure the proper timing and handling of your case.
2. Contact a truck accident attorney.
Once you have verified that your accident occurred within your state's statute of limitations, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to help you stay on track and navigate the legal processes associated with your lawsuits. When looking for an attorney, prioritize those with considerable experience in semi-truck accidents and those with a high success rate. In addition, many law firms offer free phone or virtual consultations to make your decision easier.
3. Write a demand letter.
Your attorney may work with you to write a demand letter. This letter is sent to the insurance company. It demonstrates the short- and long-term effects of your accident, including relevant details about its physical, emotional, and financial implications. A well-written demand letter will give the insurance company a deadline for a response. Once a response is received, your lawyer can begin negotiations.
4. File a lawsuit.
If a reasonable settlement can't be made or negotiations don't progress, your lawyer may file a lawsuit on your behalf. The suit will account for fair compensation for your injuries, as indicated by your demand letter. Although many lawsuits settle without a trial, your lawyer will continue to prepare your case until a settlement is reached.
Legal Resources for Victims of Commercial Truck Accidents
If you or a loved one has been involved in a commercial truck accident, navigating the legal system can be a challenging and overwhelming experience. However, various legal resources are available to help victims understand their rights and options and to assist them in pursuing compensation for their injuries and losses. From government agencies to legal guides and online communities, these resources provide valuable information and support throughout the legal process.
The American Trucking Association (ATA) provides information and research on the trucking industry, including highway and truck driver safety information. Although these resources advocate for truck drivers, it includes safety information that can be helpful for the general public to know, especially if they are victims of a semi-truck accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides extensive information about commercial vehicle safety laws and regulations and their enforcement. The website also provides useful traffic safety statistics by year and roadway fatality estimates.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) provides research and solutions to standardize truck safety protocols throughout North America. Maintained by industry professionals and safety officials from multiple government entities, this resource is beneficial for researching regulatory and legislative updates.
With a focus on creating safer roads, the National Safety Council (NSC) provides basic information about defensive driving, focusing on the road and other safety regulations for motorists. This website also features post-crash resources to help motorists get the care they need after an accident.
The Insurance Information Institute (III) provides valuable statistics on auto insurance rates after crashes, distracted drivers, highway safety, drowsy driving, and alcohol-impaired driving. This information can help motorists navigate an insurance claim or file a lawsuit.
Ryan Zehl is one of the country’s most accomplished trial lawyers, with a winning track record that has gained him national media acclaim and the esteem of the legal field. He is an advocate for the catastrophically injured and those who have met tragic deaths due to the negligence of others. As founder of the firm Zehl & Associates, he leads an undefeated personal injury law firm that has recovered billions of dollars in due compensation for accident victims across Texas and the United States. Ryan Zehl holds the record for securing the largest truck accident settlement in Texas at $23.5 million—a recent achievement in a long case history of record-setting settlements and verdicts.