What to Do – and Not to Do – if You Are In a Truck Accident
“It was like getting hit by a truck” often describes a devastating life event. Keeping your wits about you just after a truck accident is difficult but critical. What you do while at the truck accident scene may determine whether you will compensated for injuries. Trucking companies and their lawyers are well-practiced at responding to truck crashes; most drivers are not. Just as a disaster preparedness plan helps prevent injuries after home accidents, knowing how to respond to a truck crash can prevent legal misfortunes after truck accidents. Here are eight “truck accident tips” to keep in mind.
1. Physical injuries are your first priority in any truck accident
Legal issues following a truck crash are important, but your top priority is caring for your truck crash injuries and those of fellow occupants of your vehicle. First Aid training for injuries, available from the Red Cross, is very helpful. After a truck accident, assess people for injuries. If significant injuries are evident, ask a “911” operator to dispatch an ambulance to the truck crash site along with the police.
2. Do not talk – with few exceptions – to the other driver in a truck accident
Beyond describing any injuries suffered in your car to whomever calls “911,” you should not talk to the truck driver or others involved in the truck crash about your physical condition. You may feel relatively well immediately after a truck accident, but that can be due to shock masking your injuries. Do not claim to be OK. You honestly do not know whether you are. If you can exit your car after a truck accident, that says enough.
When talking other parties after a truck accident, imagine that an opposing truck accident lawyer is writing down your every word. The truck driver knows if you admit responsibility or say that you are not injured, it may save him or her a tremendous amount of money. Say nothing that you would not want to hear repeated in court – many times – during your truck accident hearing.
Avoiding unnecessary admissions after a truck accident is harder than it sounds. Our natural instinct after any accident is to reassure others, if possible. After bumping into someone by accident, we say “excuse me” or “I’m sorry” – often even if we were not at fault. Such polite statements are not taken seriously in everyday interactions. The opposing truck accident lawyer may take them very seriously in court.
If you talk to others after a truck accident, avoid these polite behaviors:
- Do not apologize for the truck accident. You probably have no idea whether you contributed to causing the truck crash. You are probably overexcited and not at your analytical best.
- Do not admit error regarding the truck accident, except as necessary to the police. For all you know, before the truck crash the truck driver had been awake for 36 hours and using drugs to fight drowsiness. If so, he or she may avoid admitting it. If you unnecessarily say “I was changing the station on my radio” to explain the truck crash, you invite investigators to conclude wrongly that the truck accident was largely or equally your fault. You must answer direct questions from the police about the truck accident honestly, but do not sacrifice compensation for yourself and your loved ones who depend on you by embellishing. Do not unnecessarily invite the conclusion that you caused the truck accident. Your California truck accident attorney can counsel you on how to answer questions honestly and appropriately. That comes later, not while you are still in shock from the truck accident.
- Do not pledge to bear the financial costs for yourself or the other party of the truck accident. Do not make this promise on behalf of yourself or your employer, if you were on a work task. Making this gesture after a truck crash is polite, noble, and reassuring. Later developments may show why this was a bad idea. Let your truck accident attorney discover the true facts behind the truck crash before you offer to bear financial burdens.
3. Report the Truck Accident
Call “911” to report the truck accident. In some states, you must do this immediately, especially if anyone is injured. Many states make leaving a truck crash scene before the police arrive a crime.
Be at the truck accident scene when the police arrive. Explain where and when the truck crash occurred and exactly what happened. This information will guide investigation of the truck accident scene. Help identify truck accident witnesses who may add details about the truck crash. Most importantly, correct misstatements made by truck crash witnesses or the other driver. People who might lose their jobs or savings do sometimes lie. Your being present to explain that you did not swerve just before the truck crash, or do anything else that might be falsely alleged about you, is extremely important.
4. Do not volunteer unnecessary information to the police about the cause of the truck accident
You must be entirely truthful in talking to the police about the truck accident. But after a truck crash you may be in shock, excited, disoriented, and unable to think back and review how the truck crash actually happened.
You need not review every possible action that might theoretically put you at fault for the truck crash. You have the right to engage in normal driving behavior, such as briefly looking over your shoulder to check nearby traffic before a lane change. Do not assume that your normal actions caused the truck accident. Your attorney might later discover facts showing that they did not. If you volunteer such information unprompted, and especially if you express remorse over it, you imply that it is important. This invites the officer investigating the truck accident to conclude, easily but wrongly, that it caused the truck crash.
5. Seek medical attention soon after the truck accident
Some people, thinking that they escaped injury in a trucking accident, fail to seek medical attention. This is often a mistake. Adrenaline and shock following a truck crash can mask pain. Not seeking prompt medical attention after a truck crash can worsen your injuries. It invites the court to conclude that your truck accident injuries were not serious. Your delay in seeking medical treatment after a truck crash may be perceived to have unnecessarily allowed those injuries to worsen. This could lower the damage award granted for your truck accident injuries.
6. Especially given any truck accident injuries, ensure that your car is safely secured
The vehicle involved in the truck crash may contain strong evidence of what actual injuries occurred. A truck accident reconstruction expert can examine dents or crushing caused by the truck crash. Dramatic evidence of the force exerted in a truck crash may be visible in seats breaking or instruments popping from the dashboard. Dents or abrasion marks inside the vehicle, the presence of sharp surfaces, and blood stains may allow truck accident reconstruction experts to validate even externally invisible injuries like concussion and whiplash.
7. Contact a California truck accident attorney quickly
A company that owns semi-trucks or 18-wheelers may have lawyers prepared to investigate a truck accident quickly. They want the first chance to talk to truck accident witnesses, to review the truck crash scene for evidence, and to help shape the police report. You need to find a truck accident attorney quickly to preserve evidence – and your rights. Choose a California semi accident lawyer who has experience at opposing trucking companies and other likely trucking accident defendants.
Evidence in a truck accident case falls into many categories:
- computerized records: a semi-truck’s black box documents speed of travel and other factors related to the truck crash
- maintenance records: these document who maintained an 18-wheeler, when, and the truck’s condition prior to the truck crash
- driver behavior records: the truck driver’s log book gives critical information leading up to the truck crash; your truck accident attorney may also investigate the driver’s accident and violation history
- truck company history: how often are their drivers involved in truck accidents, are they negligent in hiring agents or contractors, do they lack policies that might prevent trucking accidents?
- witness statements: what was reported by those involved in the truck accident, first responders such as police, fire, and ambulance medics, and other eyewitnesses?
- physical evidence: the truck crash scene may show skid marks, shattered glass or car parts, dented barriers, or overrun foliage that can help a truck accident expert reconstruct the accident
Expert truck accident witnesses may help to assess much of this evidence. This will help your California truck accident attorney determine how best to convey it to a jury. Some of this truck crash evidence may go missing or otherwise become unavailable fairly quickly, however. You need to contact a truck accident attorney who can visit the accident scene, talk to police, and ensure that truck crash evidence is being preserved as soon as possible.
8. Inform your Insurance Company about the truck accident
Consult your insurance policy promptly to determine how and where to report an accident claim.
A truck accident launches an adversary process in which you try to get negligent parties to compensate you for accident injuries. Your actions shortly after a truck crash can greatly determine whether you will be fairly compensated for your truck accident damages. For your best protection, follow basic truck accident tips:
- Avoid harmful (and often pointless and unnecessary) admissions
- Call first responders to the truck crash scene quickly
- Seek medical attention for injuries promptly
- Contact a truck accident attorney who can obtain and preserve evidence without delay.