What To Do After a Truck Accident
Legal steps you should take in the immediate aftermath
on December 15, 2016
Updated on May 12, 2022
A collision with a semi-truck can cause catastrophic damages to a passenger vehicle. Unfortunately, victims of truck accidents can be in shock and seriously injured after the crash. In these cases, truck accident victims need to focus on getting emergency medical treatment first and foremost.
If you were in a truck wreck but escaped with only minor injuries, there are certain actions you can take to help you deal with the consequences of the accident. The following seven steps will help you fulfill your legal obligations and collect the information you may need if you file a personal injury claim.
Step One: Stay at the Accident Scene and Call the Authorities
If anyone was injured or died in the accident, you should call 911 right away. The top priority after a traffic accident is to make sure everyone is accounted for and safe. You also need to be sure to stay out of the way of traffic to avoid further injury.
If you and your loved ones were fortunate enough to walk away from the accident without obvious injuries, you could call the local police instead of 911. Most importantly, you should not leave the crash scene before exchanging your contact information with the other parties involved in the wreck. In many states, it’s illegal to leave the scene of a traffic accident without first providing your name and contact information to the other drivers.
Step Two: Collect Evidence
While you wait for the police to arrive, it’s a good idea to collect as much evidence from the scene of the accident as possible, especially photographic evidence. Picture evidence can be instrumental if you decide to sue for your damages. When you take photos, you should make sure to do so safely. Check for traffic or any other hazards that the wreck may have caused. If you feel lightheaded or unsteady at any point, you should stop and rest. You may have sustained injuries without even being aware of them.
To get photos that accurately represent the crash scene, you should make sure not to use any filters. Further, you should:
- Photograph the entire accident scene: If you can safely photograph all the vehicles involved in the accident from a few angles, it will help to illustrate how the crash occurred. A picture of all vehicles together will give an overview of the accident scene, the weather, and any other contributing factors.
- Take photos of automobile damage: If possible, you should take pictures of your car’s damage and the commercial vehicle’s damage. Pictures of dents, scratches, and broken glass can all help to illustrate how the accident happened. If there are markings on the roadways, it would be wise to take photos of these markings too.
- Photograph other property damage: Sometimes, property other than vehicles are damaged in commercial truck accidents. Plantlife, guard rails, or other structures may have sustained damage in your crash. It’s helpful to have images of them for future reference. If you can, you should also photograph any damage to the vehicles’ interiors and the property inside them. Because you will need to replace any children’s car seats in your automobile, you should photograph these too.
- Take pictures of your injuries: If possible, you might consider documenting any visible physical injuries with clear images. If you cannot capture photos of your injuries yourself, consider asking a loved one to do so for you.
When police officers arrive at the scene, they will fill out a report and tell you what to do next. You should ask for a copy of the police report and keep it in a safe place. In this accident report, the officer usually describes what they believe caused the collision. Although this might not be admissible as evidence in court, it can be critical information for building a truck accident case.
Step Three: Exchange Contact Information
You should exchange information with all of the other parties involved in the accident. In addition to names and phone numbers, it’s essential to get driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance information. Your attorneys and insurance companies will need these details to gather evidence and arrange payments. It would also be wise to photograph the other parties’ driver’s licenses, license plates, and insurance details if you can. Pictures will help to verify that you copied the numbers and names correctly.
If there were eyewitnesses to your accident, you should ask for their names and phone numbers too. If you sue for your accident, these witnesses may need to testify about what they saw.
Step Four: Seek Medical Help
Even if you feel fine after a truck accident, it’s essential to seek a medical evaluation. When a large truck collides with a passenger vehicle at high speeds, it can cause serious injuries and property damage. Some injuries are not immediately evident because the damage is internal. You could have sustained internal bleeding or even head trauma without realizing it. With the appropriate medical attention, you can prevent your injuries from progressing.
Further, a medical evaluation soon after the accident provides documentation of your injuries. You can use this documentation to prove that your injuries were caused by the truck accident. If you choose to file a claim against the parties at fault for the accident, you will need this documentation.
Step Five: Limit Communication
Although you must cooperate with the authorities, you should not say any more about the accident than necessary. It’s common for truck wreck victims to accidentally assume responsibility for a truck crash that wasn’t their fault.
After the dust has settled, you will probably receive phone calls from the other parties’ insurance adjusters. When you talk with them, you should be careful about what you say. It can be easy for traumatized truck accident victims to say too much and mistakenly imply they were at fault. The insurance adjusters can then use these statements against you. If possible, it would be best to speak to an attorney for legal advice before you talk to insurance adjusters. Your attorney can give you expert counsel on how to handle this conversation.
Step Six: Contact a Truck Accident Attorney
If you believe that someone else is at fault for your truck accident, you might consider suing for your damages. If you are successful, filing a truck accident claim can help you recover financially for medical expenses, missed earnings, property damage, and more. The first step in the legal process is to contact an experienced truck accident attorney.
If you are concerned about paying for legal help, you’ll be relieved to hear that most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation. At this first meeting, you can ask the attorney whether they provide their services on a contingency fee basis. When lawyers receive payment on a contingency fee basis, you do not need to pay them an hourly rate. Instead, they will take a portion of any settlement or verdict you may receive. A contingency fee arrangement is helpful to many truck accident victims because they do not have to worry about covering legal costs upfront.
You should also use your first meeting with a personal injury attorney to ask about their experience with truck accident cases. Commercial vehicle wrecks are usually more complex than car accidents. Semi-trucks are subject to detailed regulations. Further, truck accident claims often involve multiple parties. The truck driver or the driver’s employer could be responsible for causing the accident. The cargo loaders or truck owners could be partially at fault for the crash too. So, it’s best to have an attorney who specializes in trucking law and understands all of the issues involved.
Once you have an experienced truck accident lawyer on your side, they will start by interviewing you about your accident. Next, they and their law firm staff will gather evidence, track deadlines, and file the necessary paperwork. You can use this time to recover from your injuries and care for injured loved ones.
Step Seven: Decide Whether To Settle Your Case
After building your case, your attorney will send a demand letter. This letter typically goes to the responsible parties’ insurance companies and states a suggested settlement amount. In exchange for this proposed settlement, you agree to drop any further legal action. The other party will probably reject your offer and present a lower payment. Your attorney can give you advice about whether any settlement offers you receive are reasonable. In all likelihood, you will probably have to negotiate back and forth with the other parties to reach a fair settlement. However, you will need to be prepared to go to trial just in case negotiations break down.
For more information on this area of law, see our overview on trucking accidents.