A truck accident is a shocking, frightening experience, one that makes it difficult to think about what to do next. But failing to act after a truck accident may jeopardize your right to recover compensation for the injuries and losses you suffered in the crash.
You should familiarize yourself with what you should do if you were in a truck accident so you do not miss any steps in pursuing financial compensation for your injuries. A truck accident attorney can also walk you through the process of recovery following a devastating crash and advise you on how best to proceed at each stage of your legal claim.
What To Do At the Truck Accident Scene
Here are some important steps you should take at the scene of a truck accident.
1. Check on Everyone’s Safety
Your first concern should be the safety of yourself and everyone else involved in the truck accident. Call 911 if you or someone else in the crash suffered injuries or appears in distress. Move your vehicle out of the path of traffic if your vehicle is drivable. If it is not, walk over to the side of the road and stay there to wait for first responders. Don’t stay in the roadway, as doing so can put you at risk of an oncoming vehicle striking you.
2. Exchange Information With the Truck Driver
Remember to exchange insurance information with the truck driver. You should also ask the truck driver for their employer information and their truck’s registration numbers. However, do not discuss details of the accident with the truck driver or offer an apology, as the trucking company or its insurer could use your statement as an admission of fault for the crash.
3. Speak to Eyewitnesses
Talk to any eyewitnesses or bystanders who may have witnessed the crash. Make sure to get their contact information and, if possible, ask them for a brief statement about what they saw. You may need testimony from eyewitnesses if you later choose to pursue a compensation claim against the truck driver or trucking company.
4. Contact Law Enforcement
Report the crash to law enforcement if you have not already called 911 to report injuries from the accident. You can contact the local police department for an accident on local roads, or the highway patrol for an accident on state highways or the interstate. Stay at the accident scene until a responding officer tells you that you may leave.
If an officer asks you for a statement, stick to the facts of the accident as you remember them. Do not guess or exaggerate any details. You can say, “I don’t remember,” if you cannot recall a detail.
5. Take Photos and Videos
Finally, document the accident scene by using your cell phone to take photos and videos of important details, such as:
- The positions of vehicles following the crash if no one moved them
- Vehicle damage
- Visible injuries you suffered
- Skid marks on the road
- Traffic signs, signals, and road lines
- The visual perspective of each driver involved in the accident, including whether anything obstructed their view
- Weather, lighting, traffic, and road conditions
What To Do Immediately After a Truck Accident
What you do in the hours and days after a truck crash is just as important as what you do in the immediate aftermath. Consider taking the following steps to protect your rights and your options for pursuing compensation.
1. Seek Medical Attention For Your Injuries
Go to the hospital or your primary care physician as soon as possible following the truck accident if paramedics did not come to the accident scene or you refused treatment. Never assume that you avoided injury because you don’t feel any pain or other symptoms of injury.
Many accident-related injuries take hours or days to begin manifesting symptoms, as the adrenaline and endorphins from shock or a fight-or-flight response can mask them until they wear off. Promptly diagnosing and documenting your injuries after the truck crash will help strengthen your claim that your injuries occurred in the accident rather than occurring before or after the crash.
2. Notify Your Insurer About the Truck Accident
You should also contact your insurer after the truck accident to notify them of the crash. Your auto insurance policy likely requires you to notify your insurer of an accident within a certain period following the accident.
While 30 days is common, every policy is different, so check yours for more information. Waiting to notify your insurer of the truck accident may jeopardize your eligibility for coverage under your auto insurance policy, especially if you have purchased personal injury protection, comprehensive/collision, or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
What to do Days and Weeks After a Truck Accident
After you’ve sought treatment and notified your insurer, you can start laying the groundwork for an insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party by taking the following steps.
1. Obtain a Copy of the Police Accident Report
Remember to request a copy of the police accident report if law enforcement responded to the scene of the truck crash. You will need to request a copy from the law enforcement agency that investigated the accident, whether a local police department or the state police.
Law enforcement agencies typically charge a small fee to provide you with a copy of the police accident report. You should secure a copy of the report as it could serve as critical evidence for your truck accident claim. Many insurance companies will deny or strongly contest accident claims without a police accident report.
2. Follow Your Treatment Plan
Follow through on any treatment instructions given to you by your healthcare provider. Putting off treatment not only poses a risk of allowing your injuries to worsen, but it can also jeopardize your truck accident claim. Deferring medical treatment may give the trucking company or their insurer a basis to argue that you have not suffered serious injuries or you failed to mitigate your losses by allowing your injuries to worsen without treatment.
3. Keep Copies of Your Bills and Invoices
Gather copies of any bills, invoices, and receipts for expenses incurred due to the truck accident, such as medical treatment, vehicle repairs, or transportation costs. Also, collect your pay stubs or income statements if you miss time from work due to injuries you suffered in the accident or if you earn less income after going on part-time or light-duty work while you recover. These financial records can help you calculate the expenses and losses for which you will need compensation.
4. Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer
Finally, you should contact a truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Talking to an attorney as soon as possible after a truck accident will allow your lawyer to begin investigating the crash to secure evidence before it becomes lost or destroyed.
Your lawyer can also walk you through each step of the claims process and protect your rights and interests to help you avoid jeopardizing your case. In addition, the sooner you hire a lawyer for your truck accident claim, the sooner you might recover compensation for your truck accident injuries and losses.
Long-Term Steps Following a Truck Accident
The following steps can help you on your road to recovery, both physically and financially.
1. Keep Treating and Rehabilitating Your Injuries
Continue to follow your treatment plan for the injuries you suffered in the truck accident. You should continue treatment until your physician determines that further treatment is unlikely to help or refers you to physical or occupational therapists.
Don’t cut off your treatment early since you may jeopardize your progress in recovering from your injuries or risk causing permanent impairment or loss of function.
2. Keep a Diary or Journal
You can help your truck accident claim by keeping a diary or journal of your recovery from your injuries. A journal can allow you to document the physical pain, emotional distress, and difficulties with daily living that you experience during your recovery period.
Your journal entries can provide persuasive evidence to support your claim for financial recovery for non-economic losses from your injuries, including pain and suffering and reduced enjoyment or quality of life.
3. Avoid Discussing the Accident, Your Injuries, or Your Claim on Social Media
Finally, refrain from posting about the truck accident, your injuries, or your legal claims on social media. Insurance companies and defense lawyers often monitor the social media accounts of accident victims for any posts to contradict their claims. For example, if you post your recollection of the accident on social media but your post contradicts your official statement, the trucking company or its insurer may use your posts to damage your credibility.
In addition, if you post photos or videos of yourself participating in physical activity or traveling while you claim to have debilitating injuries, those posts may undercut your claim. Even posting negative comments about the trucking company, the insurance company, or defense lawyers can call your motives for filing your claim into question.
You should consider deactivating your social media accounts or placing them in the strictest privacy setting to prevent insurers or defense attorneys from viewing your profiles and posts. You should also refuse connection or friend requests from anyone you do not know.
The Process of Filing a Truck Accident Claim
Pursuing compensation in a truck accident claim may involve several different steps, including the following.
First, your truck accident attorney should investigate the accident to secure evidence for your legal claim. Investigation of a truck accident may include taking photos and videos of the scene, obtaining surveillance or traffic camera footage of the accident, speaking to eyewitnesses, and reviewing police crash reports.
Your attorney may also consult accident reconstruction, automotive engineering, or trucking industry experts for reports and opinion testimony to help explain the technical aspects of your case. Expert testimony can clarify issues such as the causes of the accident, whether the truck suffered a defect or mechanical failure, or whether the trucking company failed to follow safety regulations.
2. Filing a Claim or Demand Letter
Your attorney will use the evidence gathered in the investigation to prepare a formal claim or demand letter to send to the trucking companies or their insurers. The demand letter notifies potentially liable parties or their insurers of your compensation claim, sets forth your allegations in support of your claim, and demands compensation for your expenses and losses from the truck accident.
3. Settlement Negotiations
Sending a claim or demand letter is the beginning of the settlement negotiation process. Most truck accident claims resolve through an out-of-court settlement. After receiving your demand letter, the trucking company or its insurer may issue a counteroffer for a lower amount of compensation. You and the other side may trade offers until reaching a mutually acceptable settlement figure.
4. Filing a Lawsuit
You will need to hire a truck accident lawyer, because eventually when you go to file a lawsuit against the party or parties at fault for the truck accident if you cannot settle before the expiration of the statute of limitations on your truck accident claim. The statute of limitations imposes a deadline on filing a lawsuit in your claim. In California, you must file a lawsuit within two years of the truck accident. Other states have their own statutes of limitations. Filing suit after the statute of limitations has expired on your claim will likely result in its permanent dismissal.
The discovery process follows the filing of a complaint and the opposing party’s answer at the beginning of a lawsuit. In discovery, the parties exchange evidence, documents, and information and take depositions from witnesses to narrow down the issues for trial.
6. Motion Practice
Parties in a truck accident lawsuit may file motions during and after discovery to resolve the case before trial. The court may grant judgment in favor of one side if the evidence uncovered during discovery leaves no disputed issues.
A lawsuit will eventually reach trial if not resolved by a motion to dismiss or for judgment. At trial, the parties present evidence, witnesses, and arguments to a jury or a judge sitting as the fact-finder. The jury or judge will issue a verdict to decide the issues at trial, which the court will turn into a judgment in favor of one side or the other.