Truck accidents are frighteningly common on American roads. In one recent year alone, approximately 4,889 large trucks and buses across the country were involved in fatal crashes. That’s 9% more than the prior year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Approximately 116,000 crashes nationwide injured someone, a number 4% higher than the previous year.
These climbing numbers can mean serious trouble. Trucks cause some of the most destructive accidents on the road. Smaller vehicles are particularly vulnerable in these accidents for a variety of terrifying reasons: a truck can roll over onto them, they can slide underneath a truck’s carriage, and cargo falling from an unsecured load can destroy them.
If you or a loved one has been in a truck accident, contact an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. It’s important to talk about the specific facts and circumstances of your truck accident with an attorney in order to recover significant compensation. You might not know your rights, but it’s their job to.
Consultations cost you nothing, but forgoing the help of an attorney could cost you everything.
Below is a summary of some important information every motorist should know to protect their safety and themselves after a truck accident.
4 Steps to Take After a Truck Accident
Nobody knows if or when they might find themselves in the terrifying ordeal of a traffic collision involving a heavy truck. But, while you can’t plan for accidents, you can develop a smart protocol about what to do in an emergency. Avoid dangerous or even fatal errors in the immediate aftermath of a crash by following these pieces of general advice. Protecting your safety and your rights after a truck accident is of paramount importance.
1. Stop and Move to a Safe Location
If your car still runs, get it to a safe location nearby and stop. If your car cannot move, get out of it and move a safe distance away. Remember, some trucks carry flammable cargo. If you see warning signs indicating flammability, move even farther away to protect yourself from a potential explosion. If the truck has spilled any other type of cargo, or parts of the truck are on the roadway, keep far enough away so that the debris cannot possibly hurt you or damage your vehicle.
Basically, get yourself and your passengers to safety before you do anything else.
2. Call 911
When you are safely out of the way of traffic, call 911. Treat any accident with a heavy truck as an emergency that needs first responders immediately.
This serves two purposes. First, it helps to keep you, your passengers, and others at the accident scene safe by summoning police to control traffic, and by summoning an ambulance to treat any emergency injuries.
Second, it is your legal obligation to report the accident. In Texas, you must report a crash within 10 days if someone was injured or killed, or if property damage totaled over $1,000—which will be the case in virtually any truck accident. In Louisiana, you must report a crash within 24 hours if someone was injured or killed, or if property damage amounted to more than $500—again, a given in any heavy truck accident.
3. Stay on the Scene if Possible
If you are not seriously injured, stay on the scene. Why? Staying put accomplishes three things:
First, it allows you to speak to law enforcement. Police who come to the accident scene will file a crash report. These police reports provide important facts about a crash, including the names of all drivers, when and where the crash happened, and supporting details such as the time of day and the weather. Be sure to give a full account of what you remember when you speak to law enforcement.
Second, sticking around allows you to get contact information from all drivers involved. You need their names, numbers, e-mail addresses, and most importantly, their insurance information.
Third, you should take pictures of the accident scene with your smartphone (or another camera, if you have one). The pictures should include:
- Pictures of all vehicles from every angle. There is no such thing as too much evidence, so there is no such thing as too many pictures of the accident scene. You want to show both the damage to the vehicles and the angles at which they were hit. Be sure to include both exterior pictures and interior pictures that show damage.
- Pictures of the surrounding scene, from every angle. You want to show the environment to show how the accident happened and its impact. Be sure to include items specific to the accident such as skid marks, or trees, signage, or other items that might have been hit by vehicles.
Remember you may have a legal obligation to stay at the scene until you have been approved to leave by law enforcement.
To recap: get somewhere safe, call 911, snap photos, stay put until they give you the go-ahead to leave.
4. Get Medical Attention
This one should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people skip it.
If emergency responders decide you need emergency medical attention, do not decline. Let them take you to an emergency room. Many people worry about costly medical bills, but your health overrides all other considerations.
If emergency responders decide that emergency treatment is not needed in your case, you are NOT off the hook. Go see a doctor as soon as possible. Do not wait any longer than a day to do so.
Why? Because it is entirely possible to be injured, even seriously injured from blows to the head, and not feel like anything is wrong with you. It is not uncommon, in fact, for an accident to release a surge of adrenaline into your body that may mask many injury symptoms.
A doctor can examine you, identify any injuries (hidden or otherwise), and prescribe treatment. Follow the doctor’s recommendations! If the doctor prescribes medication, then fill the prescription and take it. If the doctor recommends surgery, see the surgeon at once. If the doctor recommends physical therapy, set an appointment with a physical therapist. Not only does following medical advice protect your health, it also creates important medical records that your lawyer may find useful in getting you the compensation you need and deserve for any injuries. If you postpone or decline treatment, you will lose out on settlement money and face other lifelong complications. It’s just not worth the risk.
Why Those Steps Are Important to Receiving Compensation for Your Injuries
The steps above make sense, keep you safe, ensure you comply with the law, and protect your health and wellbeing. But those aren’t the only reasons you should take them to heart.
Another important reason to follow these steps is that they are CRUCIAL for getting you fair compensation for your injuries.
If another party was at fault for the truck accident that hurt you, you may have the right to seek compensation for damages, including:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future wages lost from work to deal with the injuries
- Pain and suffering
However, you can only receive compensation if you have PROOF that a truck accident caused your injuries.
All of the steps above help generate or protect evidence that an experienced truck accident attorney can use to help you recover the compensation you deserve. Emergency responders provide evidence of the nature and extent of your injuries. Law enforcement accident reports provide evidence about who or what caused the accident. Pictures of the vehicles and the accident scene illustrate the nature, force, and causes of the accident. Emergency room visits and doctor appointments create medical records that serve as evidence and proof of your injuries and what caused them.
We could go on and on, but you get the idea. Not only does the evidence above prove who caused an accident and the nature of your injuries, it also helps a lawyer calculate the amount of money you should receive from the parties at fault.
Now, if you have already sustained injuries in a truck accident and you did not take all of the steps above, don’t worry! That does not mean that you cannot still recover compensation for your injuries and losses. Speak with an experienced truck accident injury attorney right away to jumpstart evidence collection and protect your legal rights.
Establishing Legal Liability in a Truck Accident
One of the main reasons lawyers need evidence of how a truck accident happened and what injuries you sustained in it is to establish who has a legal liability to you. The law says that a person whose wrongful actions hurt someone else owes money to the person injured.
Lawyers representing clients injured in truck accidents, however, often face a HUGE challenge in figuring out legal liability for truck accidents. Why? Because truck crashes inflict massive damage and affect the legal rights of many parties.
Picture a truck accident on a busy highway. In your mind’s eye, does it look like a minor fender bender? No way.
Truck accidents cause catastrophic damage. In a collision, a big truck can toss smaller vehicles around the highway like toys. Cars – and the people inside them – end up horrifically damaged. Additionally, hazardous cargo can spill out everywhere, blocking lanes of traffic and causing massive property damage. This cargo may even be toxic or flammable, putting bystanders at risk of an explosion.
Nobody wants to be found legally liable for an accident like that. Monetary damages could run into the MILLIONS. But a truck accident lawyer will discover who is liable, whether that’s an individual, a company, or both.
Trucks carry commercial goods. Because a trailer detaches from the tractor, the two commonly have different owners. Sometimes the driver owns the tractor. Sometimes a trucking business does. The cargo will often belong to someone else entirely. Yet another business might have loaded that cargo into the trailer.
When it’s time to figure out who owes money to truck accident victims, any of these parties could face significant financial liability if their actions contributed to the truck crash. What do they do? They point fingers at each other. So do their insurance companies. Everyone claims someone else should pay the victims first, but no one steps up to write a check.
Not until experienced truck accident lawyers get involved, that is. A truck accident lawyer has experience in untangling the legal mess caused by a truck accident to piece together whose actions contributed to it, who has the ability to pay, and how to convince that party to pay now.
You Do Need a Truck Accident Attorney
Not every lawyer has the skill, experience, and resources to represent victims of a truck accident. When a truck accident leaves you devastated, the right legal counsel can make all the difference.
Your choice of a truck accident attorney can make or break your case.
Don’t just go with the first attorney you find on Google. Choose one who has represented victims of truck accidents and who has the knowledge to get you the money you need and deserve for your injuries.
Contact an experienced truck accident lawyer today for a 100% free case evaluation.
Stewart J. Guss
12777 Jones Rd Suite 297