In 2017 alone, there were over 32,000 truck-related accidents on Florida roads. And each year, the numbers have been gradually increasing. In the majority of cases, truck accidents involve a collision with smaller vehicles, like cars, vans, and motorbikes. Due to the larger size of the truck, the collision usually causes serious injuries and severe property damage. What happens when a truck driver has an accident?
If you have been involved in a truck-related accident, there are a few things you should do to protect your legal rights and safety. The reason to undertake the following truck driver accident procedures is that the process of filing a claim following a trucking accident is complex and slightly different from making a claim if you were involved in an automobile accident.
If you are seriously injured and need immediate medical care, there may be no time to do anything at the scene but seek medical attention. If you are not seriously injured or have a passenger who is not injured, you should follow these steps. The first thing you should do is to assess your own physical status, the status of any passengers in the car, and those in other automobiles involved in the collision.
For example, if your car or another car is on fire, and you feel you can safely evacuate other people, do so. You should only do this if you can undertake this safely. If you feel that the situation is too dangerous, the best thing to do is wait for law enforcement and emergency medical personnel to arrive.
Call Law Enforcement:
Most trucking accidents are more than just a fender-bender, and you need to call law enforcement. Tell the dispatcher the number of vehicles involved, how many people are injured, and the location. This is important as the dispatcher will know how many ambulances to notify. Even if you think that the accident is minor, call law enforcement. The police report is usually the best documentation you can have and may even indicate liability. As well, police records are usually not destroyed, and you can access them at any time.
Seek Medical Attention:
It is important to seek medical attention, preferably on the same day, even if you feel that your injuries are not serious. The reason is that many nerve and bone injuries can present later. You need your physical condition documented on the day of the accident. Suppose you don’t see a healthcare professional on the day of the injury. In that case, the other party may claim that delayed injuries resulted from something other than the trucking accident.
Make sure you have all your injuries well documented at the doctor’s office to obtain full compensation. Finally, if you are given follow-up appointments, do not miss them; otherwise, the other party may claim that your injuries were trivial.
Evidence at the Scene:
If you are not injured and can do so, safely document the entire scene of the accident. This should include the following:
- Obtain as many photos as you can of the vehicles involved to represent the extent of damage, the road condition, brake marks, traffic lights, vehicle positions, etc.
- Note the weather conditions and take pictures of water puddles, oil slicks, etc.
- Take pictures of any injuries you or your passengers have suffered. You can never have enough photos, so take as many as you can as they provide more information than just words.
Always exchange and collect the relevant information with the other party. This includes:
- Name of the truck driver and contact information
- Truck registration, owner, insurance policy, and insurer
- License plate number (also take a picture)
- Make and model of truck
- Name of the trucking company and contact information
If there were witnesses, get their names and contact information. You don’t have to take a statement from the witnesses; that job belongs to law enforcement. You only want to make sure you have the contact information. Talk to as many witnesses as you can because only a few may have useful information. Besides the phone number, get an email address and even a workplace phone number if possible; witnesses are notorious for disappearing.
If your vehicle has been damaged, you need to get it appraised before it can be repaired. The thing you should never do is take your vehicle to the nearest garage shop and have it repaired. Without first having the vehicle appraised for damage, the insurer will not pay for the repair bills. Go to a reputable garage and have the entire vehicle appraised inside and out. Tell them to take pictures of all the damages and have it fully documented.
Then ask permission from the insurer if you can get the car fixed. Every insurer has different requirements as part of the insurance claim. Some may require images of all the damages before the claim can be settled. If an independent garage owner towed your car, the onus is on you to tell them not to repair the car until it has been fully assessed for damages.
Watch What You Say:
Getting into an accident is nerve-wracking and can provoke anxiety. While you may feel like you want to speak to someone, watch what you say. Anything you say can later be used against you. The best advice is not to go into details about the accident with the other driver, the insurer, or even law enforcement; just stick to the facts. The insurers may contact you, but remember they also record all conversations.
If you say anything, the insurer can later use your own words to deny your claim or minimize your injuries. If the insurer presses you to talk, you have no obligation to talk to them. Just tell them that you will let your lawyer contact them. Finally, remember the insurer is not your friend; they are running a business, and their job is to minimize payments or refute claims.
Do Not Admit Fault:
Never tell anyone that you were at fault. By admitting liability, you will have no case. Just do not lie, even if it is your fault; otherwise, your credibility will be damaged. The fact is you may only be partially responsible for the accident. You need to consult with a lawyer who can determine the extent of your liability.
Limit Your Online Interactions:
After you have been involved in a trucking accident, it is wise to stay away from social media. Your crash may be reported in the news but refrain from commenting. Even an innocent statement like “I am alive and doing fine” can come back to haunt your case. Remember, the other side is looking for anything that can minimize their liability and maximize your fault. The best recommendation is to stay away from all online platforms until your case is resolved.
Speak to a Lawyer
What happens when a truck driver has an accident? The above lists a few truck driver accident procedures. If you have been involved in an accident involving a truck, then get in touch with a truck accident lawyer ASAP. The lawyer can first determine the merits of your case and can advise you on how to proceed.
Finally, a truck accident lawyer will not only help you get the medical treatment you need but will help you get the maximum compensation you deserve. Truck accidents are more complex than car accidents because they usually involve multiple parties. Extensive investigations are required, and the sooner you see a truck accident lawyer, the earlier your case can be resolved and the more successful you will have.