What to Do After a Truck Accident
Commercial trucks usually transport heavy loads as they maneuver around other vehicles. Drivers are trained to operate an 18-wheeler, But sometimes, their mistakes result in terrible accidents.
The damage can be devastating for a car hit by a semi-truck. Occupants in cars can sustain severe injuries due to the weight and size of a truck. They can suffer from financial and emotional losses.
Being in a car accident is scary itself, but when a large vehicle such as a semi-truck hits you the situation becomes extremely dangerous and overwhelming. The next steps become extremely vital in the process between being in the accident and getting the money you deserve.
When someone experiences a truck collision, they should search a truck accident lawyer in the St. Louis area for the questions they might have. One question is what to do after an incident. Here are some tips on what you should do soon after an accident.
Truck Accident Statistics
Over 5,000 fatal traffic accidents involve trucks each year. More than 160,000 injuries are the result of incidents with semi-trucks. The number of collisions has increased slightly over the years. Around 67 percent of fatalities are occupants of cars and other vehicles. Another 15 percent are pedestrians and bicyclists.
Over half of truck accidents occur in rural areas. A small portion takes place on interstate and highways. However, a majority of collisions occur on non-interstate roads. A truck is more likely to hit a car during the day.
Daytime is when people are out on the road to travel to work, home, or the store. The day of the week can influence the frequency of incidents as well. An estimated 17 percent of truck accidents take place on Saturdays. More motorists have some free time from work or school to visit places.
The most common type of fatal accident involves impact from the front. Rear-end collisions make up over 500 cases.
Semi-Trucks Have to Stay On the Right Lane
You may see semi-trucks stay on the right side of major roads and highways with three or more lanes in the same direction. Most states have laws to restrict truck drivers to the right lanes. Some places allow truckers to travel in the two right lanes, and others limit them to the far right.
The laws are different based on where you live. Multiple states allow semi-trucks to enter the left lane to pass slower-moving vehicles. Another exception is if construction closes the right side.
The need to make a left turn and the presence of emergency vehicles allow trucks to be on the left side. However, a few states prohibit truck drivers from the left lane altogether. The reason for the restrictions has to do with the dangers of a semi-truck in the left lane.
Many large trucks have a speed governor to regulate how fast the vehicle travels. They can lose speed when they go uphill as well. If a semi-truck travels in the left, the vehicle can cause slowdowns. The left lane usually has faster-moving traffic.
Other vehicles might weave through lanes to pass by, and the action increases the risk of an accident. Additionally, a car might not slow down in time to avoid a truck when it enters the left lane. A truck driver can face fines and other penalties for staying in the left lane.
What Should You Do After a Truck Accident?
#1. Check for Injuries and Get to Safety
One of the first steps you should take is to make sure you and others are safe. Truck accidents commonly affect multiple vehicles. Try to head away from oncoming traffic. However, you should not move if you have severe injuries. Even pain in the neck could worsen upon movement.
Other people should stay put if they are unconscious or feel immense pain. If you can, leave your vehicle in the same position it came to a stop after the collision. The position can better preserve the evidence.
#2. Call 911
Call emergency services to report the crash. Everyone involved needs to stay at the crash site until help arrives. You should alert other motorists of the accident and turn on your hazard lights. Some people have flares they can use to alert motorists.
When a police officer arrives, the person will assess the situation. Generally, the responding officer takes statements from the drivers, passengers, and witnesses. The statements go on a written document called a police report.
The report contains a drawn diagram of the scene, the location, weather, and the officer’s conclusions. Not every document has the officer’s thoughts on the cause of the accident.
You can request a copy of a police report from your local law enforcement office or insurance adjuster.
#3. Exchange Information
You should look for other parties involved besides the truck driver. The driver’s employer could be liable as well. The semi-truck could have markings or other identifying features. Even if you discover the name of the company, you should exchange information.
You would not have to waste time when you need to contact the trucking company. Of course, you should collect the contact details of the driver as well. Make sure to document the trucker’s name, phone number, and email address.
The person’s insurance provider and policy are necessary to know as well. Record the license plate for the truck, and you should ask for the name and contact information of the employer.
Afterward, ask for the names and phone numbers of any witnesses. You can reach out to them later if you need more details of the accident for a lawsuit. You can check the police report to see if the officer interviewed anyone you may have missed.
#4. Take Photos of the Accident
Another tip on what to do after a truck accident is to document the scene. If you have a phone or camera, take as many photos as you can. The images can help prove who was at fault and how severe the damages are.
Take pictures of different angles of the vehicles to document the damage. You should capture photos of other necessary pieces of information to help build your case. Examples include broken phones and laptops.
Besides property damage, you can use a camera to document your injuries. You can record yourself through each step of the recovery process. The photos can show how much you deserve in compensation.
If you do not have a camera or cannot take photos, have someone else record the information. You can draw a diagram or write a summary as well. Some people record audio of what they remember soon after the accident. A fresh account can be vital in a truck accident lawsuit.
#5. See a Healthcare Provider
Several people believe they are in a better condition than they are due to adrenaline. You might not feel much pain while you wait for the police. Additionally, some injuries do not manifest until days after the collision.
You need to let the paramedics provide initial treatment for you. Afterward, you should go to the hospital to examine the full extent of the bodily harm. An immediate visit to the doctor means the wounds are less likely to become worse.
Time is of the essence for injuries like damage to the spinal cord. Doctor visits allow you to obtain copies of your condition to use for your claim. You can collect medical expenses to calculate how much you should get in a settlement.
#6. Watch What You Say
Usually, you need to call your insurance company to notify an agent of the truck accident. Some insurers have a deadline on when you have to report an incident. Otherwise, they can deny the claim. However, you might come into contact with the other party’s insurance company.
You should be mindful of what you say to the adjuster. Even if they come across as friendly, the adjuster looks for ways to minimize how much the company has to pay you. The insurer can use what you say against you.
A tip is to not speak with the other side’s insurance company until you contact a lawyer. Your attorney can advise you on what and what not to say. You do not need to provide a recorded statement, and you should not accept any initial offers.
#7. Find a Truck Accident Lawyer
Once you are ready, you should contact a truck accident lawyer near you. Many firms offer free consultations to discuss the details of your case. Talk to an attorney even if you do not believe you have a valid claim.
Consultations can help you determine who is the right lawyer to take on your case as well. You can get an idea of the number of resources a firm might have. Simple communication with the office and follow-up emails can indicate if you should hire an attorney.
Do not hesitate to talk to a lawyer. You have a specific amount of time to file a lawsuit before the court automatically denies your case.
Hours of Service
One way to prove liability is to look if the truck driver violated the hours of service. Hours of service are the maximum amount of time a trucker can remain on duty. After a shift, the driver has to have periods of off-duty time before they can drive a commercial truck again.
The regulations allow a trucker an 11-hour driving limit after 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time. A person cannot go above 60 hours over seven days. For eight days, the maximum number of hours is 70.
Once a driver reaches the weekly limit, the person cannot take on another shift for at least 34 hours. While on duty, a trucker should take a 30-minute break after 8 hours. The hours of service regulation helps keep truck drivers awake and alert on the road. Other vehicles can remain safe as a result.
A trucker could go over the maximum hours due to pressure from deliveries. The person and their employer can face the consequences for violations. Your attorney can collect documents to see if a violation occurred during the accident.
You could use the evidence to prove how the driver or truck company breached their duty of care.
After a truck accident, you can claim compensation for property damage. You can get reimbursement for the money you spent on repairs or a replacement for your vehicle. Property damage can include ruined phones, sunglasses, and laptops as well.
Other notable damages are healthcare expenses. Hospitalization and rehabilitation can cost someone a lot of money, and some victims have to buy medical devices or medications. The bills can lead to stress, but a settlement can help you pay for them.
The court generally awards compensatory damages for lost income. You can claim further damages if your injuries impact your ability to earn wages in the future.
A truck accident can affect a person’s mental and emotional well-being. A settlement can include money for emotional anguish and PTSD. You may have the right to reimbursement for loss of consortium.
In very few cases, the judge awards the victim punitive damages. Punitive damages act more as a punishment to the defendant than compensation. A court might decide on them if the truck driver company acted recklessly or egregiously.
Drunk driving and violations of the hours of service can lead to punitive damages as well. You can ask your attorney if punitive damages are possible for your case.
How Long Can a Truck Accident Lawsuit Take?
After you talk to a lawyer, the length of a truck accident lawsuit can depend on multiple factors. Liability investigations can take time since they are complex. Since lawyers tend to be thorough, you can expect the timeline for the lawsuit to last longer.
Serious truck accidents raise the stakes, and insurance companies conduct their own investigations. The other side could try to dismiss the case as well.
Severe injuries can make the process take longer to complete. Usually, a lawsuit waits for the victim to mostly or fully recover. Extensive treatment can mean you have to wait some more for a settlement.
A full lawsuit can take you anywhere from half a year to a couple of years. A successful mediation means you can receive compensation sooner. If the case goes to trial, you can expect the claim to take more time to complete.
Your attorney may provide you with an estimate of your claim’s timeline.
I represent individuals in Missouri and Illinois in all types of personal injury cases. In my short time here I have obtained a judgment for $2.5 million and settled a large class action lawsuit for a confidential amount.
I love the city of St. Louis and support it and give back whenever I can. Recently I was appointed by Mayor Francis Slay to serve on the Advisory Board for the Gateway Mall.
I am married to my lovely wife Lauren and we have two beautiful daughters, Mia and Bridget.