Semi truck accident? 6 steps to take
Each year, nearly half a million truck accidents occur in the United States, with about 5,000 of those accidents resulting in a fatality. In fact, about one in eight fatal traffic accidents these days involve a semi truck. Just recently, a fatal trucking accident occurred in Chicago; a 23-year-old woman's car collided with a truck that was turning left at an intersection. The passenger of the car was pronounced dead at the scene, while report that "the driver of the car is in critical condition at Stroger Hospital.
Sadly, semi truck accidents will likely never cease to be an issue in the United States. However, for those involved in them, it's extremely important that one knows the proper legal steps to take after the fact; this way, they can have the best chances of being able to recover the full amount they're entitled to from the insurance companies.
6 Steps to Consider After a Semi-Truck Accident
- 1. Report the Accident - The first step to take following a trucking accident is to ensure that it gets reported to the proper authorities; if the accident occurs in on a busy road, there's a good chance that a passerby or other motorist will call 9-1-1 to report the accident. However, it's always better to be safe than sorry. If you're physically capable and have access to your phone following the accident, call 9-1-1 to report the accident so they can send police officers and ambulances to the scene right away.Of course, you'll also need to report the accident to your insurance company. This can be done immediately following the accident (if you're not seriously injured) or after you receive your needed medical treatment.
- 2. Seek Medical Attention - Of course, your physical well being is of utmost importance following a trucking accident. If you're not obviously injured, check to see if others involved have been hurt. However, unless the circumstances are dire, you should not attempt to treat or move any injured people after the accident; leave that to the professional ambulance workers.If you need medical attention, make that your top priority. And be sure to keep track of any medical bills that you incur as a result; you'll need this documentation for your truck accident claim down the road if you want to be properly compensated.Furthermore, even if you don't have any obvious injuries, it's important to at least be checked out by a doctor. This way, if you end up suffering from accident-related injuries after the fact (such as whiplash, which is very common in the days following an accident), you will have documented proof that you did not deny medical attention.
- 3. Work With the Police - Once the police arrive, they're going to start asking you questions to try and get your side of the story. Ultimately, the first officer to arrive on the scene will be the one left with the task of writing a police report, which you will need to submit to your insurance company when you make your claim down the road. The contents of the police report can have a major influence of how your case turns out, so you'll want to be careful about what you say to the police officers.You should never lie to an officer, of course, but you'll also want to make sure that you avoid making any incriminating remarks, such as:
- "I didn't see the truck"
- "I'm sorry; the accident was my fault"
- "I was driving too fast"
Cooperate with the police and answer any questions they may have honestly, but do not go out of your way to provide any potentially incriminating evidence.
- 4. Document as Much as Possible - Another important aspect of pursuing an accident claim is that of documenting what happened to the fullest extent possible. For starters, if you've been involved in a serious trucking accident, you shouldn't make any attempt to move your vehicles out from the road unless a police officer asks you to. Even if this is the case, you'll want to make sure that you get photos of the placement of each vehicle before moving your car.After all, in the event that a judge needs to determine who was at fault for the accident, you'll want to have photos of the scene, as these can be helpful for investigators trying to reconstruct what happened.In addition to documenting the placement of the cars and trucks involved in the accident, there's some other information you should also try to capture (either by writing it down or taking a picture), such as:
- license plate numbers of all vehicles/trucks involved
- vehicle identification numbers of all vehicles/trucks involved
- contact information of any witnesses willing to give a statement
- insurance information of all involved parties
- 5. Know When to Keep Quiet - Sometimes, insurance adjusters will show up at the scene of a trucking accident and will try to get a statement from you, the victim. If this happens, you should be advised to keep quiet and refrain from making any statements without legal counsel present. The only exception to this is a situation where your insurance company shows up at the scene.Otherwise, you should avoid saying anything to the other party's insurance company and, most of all, don't sign anything or write out any statements for them. No matter what they try to tell you, you're under absolutely no obligation to speak with them regarding the details of the accident. Instead, write down their information (contact number, name, and address) and let them know that you'll be in contact once you've spoken with your lawyer.
- 6. Follow Up With a Doctor - Not all injuries sustained in a truck accident are readily apparent immediately following the accident, so you should make sure to see a doctor after the accident and again for a follow-up appointment about a week later.If the insurance company you're working with tries to send you to one of their "authorized" medical clinics, disregard this and speak with a lawyer. You should be able to see your regular doctor or any doctor of your choice; by law, your insurance company can't require you to see one of their preferred medical professionals.
Finally, one of the most important things you can do following a trucking accident is to find and begin working with an experienced, dedicated lawyer as soon as possible. Specifically, you'll benefit from working with a lawyer who has handled a number of trucking accident cases in the past with proven success.
After all, there's a lot involved with filing and going through a trucking accident claim; without the help from a legal professional, you could end up with a settlement offer that's only a fraction of what you're truly owed. However, when you have a formidable legal team on your side, you can rest assured that you'll receive the help you need when it comes to determining what your settlement is worth and working with the insurance companies to ensure that you receive everything you're entitled to.
No two trucking accident claims have the same circumstances, value, or outcome, so you need to work with a lawyer who will be able to adapt to the specific and unique needs of your case. By doing so, you can save yourself a great deal of stress and hassle throughout the process.
Never Accept Your First Settlement Offer
Finally, understand that the other party's insurance company may be quick to make you a settlement offer in the days after the accident. More than likely, they'll make you an offer that's far less than what you're legally entitled to. Many insurance companies do this in the hopes that you'll be so overwhelmed by the accident and everything that happened after it that you'll simply accept the offer with no questions asked. This is what a lot of people who have been in your situation will do, but it's the wrong choice.
You should never accept your first settlement offer from the insurance company because you can always get more—and you should. In some cases, you may be able to get as much as three times the amount of your actual medical bills and related insurance expenses (or more). In some cases, it may be less, but the only way you'll be able to know what you're entitled to for sure is to work with an experienced lawyer who will be able to analyze the details of your case and tell you.
Being in a situation where you're involved in a semi-truck accident can be quite overwhelming and traumatic; there's no denying that fact. However, it's how you handle the aftermath of a trucking accident that can make all the difference in what will happen next. Specifically, if the accident is found to be the other driver's fault, then you should be entitled to compensation not only for your medical expenses and property damage, but for a number of other expenses as well, like:
- pain and suffering
- lost wages (if you were unable to work after the accident)
- any other relevant costs
Ultimately, by following the steps outlined above and by hiring a lawyer who truly knows what he or she is doing when it comes to trucking accident cases, you can have the absolute best chances of a favorable outcome in court. Furthermore, with the right lawyer, you will hardly have to lift a finger along the way; instead, you can focus on what's most important: recovering from any injuries and piecing your life back together after the accident. Only from there can you get back to as "normal" of a way of life as possible.