Every car accident is a nerve-racking event, but collisions involving large trucks tend to be especially traumatic. Due to their immense size and weight, 18-wheelers can cause debilitating injuries and devastating property damage when they crash into smaller vehicles.
It’s not easy to think clearly in the aftermath of a truck accident, but you must be careful about what you say and do at the scene and over the weeks that follow. The insurance company will be looking for any possible reason to deny or reduce the value of your claim.
Read on to learn nine steps to take after a large truck crash to protect your legal rights and financial future:
1. Call the Police
You should contact the police after any collision, but it’s especially important to do so after a wreck involving serious property damage or injuries. An officer can divert traffic away from the scene to prevent subsequent accidents. Police can also create an official report that includes details about where and when the crash occurred, the apparent cause, and perhaps statements from eyewitnesses.
Officers can also conduct sobriety tests to find out if any of the drivers involved are intoxicated. If another motorist fails a breathalyzer, this would almost certainly work in your favor. Your attorney will be able to use the test results to prove negligence, and it may also be possible to seek punitive damages after an accident involving a drunk driver.
2. Take Photos
Photographs of the scene can be valuable evidence of both liability and damages. Be sure to take pictures of:
- Property Damage: Take closeup shots of any property damage, and don’t forget to capture photos of the insides of vehicles to show deployed airbags.
- Injuries: Your attorney must be able to tie your injuries to the accident and prove their severity. Taking pictures at the scene may prevent the insurance company from arguing that your injuries were caused by something else, they existed before the crash, or they are not as serious as you are claiming.
- The Positions of Vehicles: If the truck driver or insurance company disputes liability, your attorney may bring in an accident reconstruction expert to investigate the cause. Photos that show the positions of vehicles can provide valuable insight into what happened in the moments leading up to the crash.
- The Road Conditions: If poor road conditions played a role in the collision, it’s important that you document them before they are fixed.
- The Weather Conditions: All motorists have a duty to maintain a safe speed at all times. In some circumstances, such as during or just after a rainstorm, failing to drive under the speed limit might be considered negligent. Fortunately, most commercial trucks are equipped with electronic data recorders (EDRs), or “black boxes.” These devices track information about the vehicle’s top speed, average speed, and brake usage. If it was raining but the truck driver failed to reduce his or her speed, your lawyer may be able to use black box data and photos that show the weather conditions to prove negligence.
- License Plates and Driver’s Licenses: Take pictures of the license plates of all vehicles involved in the crash, as well as the driver’s licenses of all motorists.
Before taking photos, be sure to activate your camera’s timestamp function. Once you leave the scene and your health has stabilized, save the pictures on multiple hard drives or a cloud drive in case they accidentally get deleted.
3. Record All Drivers’ Insurance and Contact Information
If your accident was caused by a negligent truck driver, there’s a good chance that his or her employer can be held liable for your medical bills and other damages. Don’t forget to record the employer’s insurance information as well as the trucker’s personal insurance details. Also, write down his or her full name, physical address, phone number, and email address.
4. Record Eyewitness Contact Details
If there’s a liability dispute, your attorney might use eyewitness statements to support your claim. Write down the contact information of anyone who saw the crash, and if they give you permission, use your cell phone to record their statements about what happened.
5. Look for Surveillance Cameras
If there are any businesses nearby, their surveillance cameras may have recorded the accident. Ask to view the footage, record it with your cell phone, and request a copy.
6. Visit a Doctor
Putting off your doctor’s visit could have major consequences for your personal injury claim. If you wait too long, the claims adjuster might argue that your own negligence caused your injuries to worsen. Delaying treatment could also make it more difficult for your lawyer to tie your injuries to the crash.
7. Call a Truck Accident Attorney
Once your health has stabilized, your first call should be to a personal injury lawyer. Your attorney will want to perform an immediate investigation to gather evidence while it is still available and unaltered. Your lawyer can also handle correspondence with the insurance company and help you avoid critical mistakes such as providing a recorded statement or accepting a low settlement.
8. Track Any Expenses Related to Your Accident or Injury
Under California law, personal injury victims can pursue compensation for any economic and non-economic damages they incur as a result of their accident. Besides medical bills and lost income, you may also be entitled to compensation for child care, transportation to and from doctor’s appointments, vehicle and home modifications, and domestic help. Be sure to keep any receipts, invoices, and documentation related to costs you incur due to your accident or injuries.
9. Keep a Personal Injury Journal
How are your injuries affecting your life and your relationships? What social and familial activities can you no longer enjoy? Keeping a journal about the hardships you are facing may help your attorney prove non-economic damages such as emotional distress and pain and suffering.
What NOT to Do After a Truck Accident
1. Admitting Fault
Admitting fault could influence the police officer’s assessment of what happened, which can affect the accident report. This might harm your case even if it turns out that another driver was negligent. It’s best to avoid admitting fault and instead stick to objective facts about the collision.
2. Using Social Media
Publishing videos, photos, or text posts about your accident, injury, or case could wind up hurting your claim. You should disable your social media accounts while your case is ongoing. At the very least, set your profiles to “private,” don’t accept new connection requests, and tell friends and family not to post anything about you.
3. Signing Paperwork from the Insurance Company
Don’t sign anything until your lawyer has reviewed it. The insurance company will want to settle as soon as possible and for as little compensation as possible. Once you accept a settlement, you will not be able to seek further compensation. Your attorney can help you determine a fair settlement amount that accounts for all damages.
Discuss Your Case with a Truck Accident Lawyer in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Attorney Michael D. Waks has a track record of success in complex, high-stakes claims involving some of the largest motor carriers and insurance companies in California. Michael will evaluate your case for free and help you determine the most strategic way to proceed. Call (562) 206-1939 or use our Contact Form to set up a consultation.
Download Our Car Accident Emergency .PDF
The average driver is involved in a crash about once every 17 years. It’s important that you’re always prepared for the worst-case scenario. Our Car Accident Emergency .PDF can remind you of the most important information to gather at the scene. Click Here to download it for free, and be sure to keep it in your glovebox.
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