Sharing the road with powerful semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, big rig trucks, buses, and commercial vehicles comes with a massive responsibility. When drivers of these vehicles act negligently and cause accidents, you need to know your next steps in order to protect the legal claim you are making about the crash and your injuries and to get the very best settlement or award of money damages from a lawsuit.
Some of the essential steps we outline will not be possible until you have first taken care of your medical needs. Your physical safety and wellbeing is your first priority after a truck crash.
Here are some essential guidelines and steps to help you know what to do after a truck accident:
Remain At The Scene Of The Accident
This step is essential. Leaving the scene for any reason before the authorities arrive could jeopardize the evidence for your case, or could even be viewed as a hit-and-run scenario. When safety allows, do not move your vehicle until told to do so, or until it is removed for you.
Call Emergency Services
Dialing 9-1-1 is your strongest move whenever a collision with another vehicle occurs, especially with large trucks and commercial vehicles. You may not yet know the extent of the injuries to you or other passengers, so if it’s in your ability to do so, err on the side of caution and call the paramedics.
Call The Police
If there are injuries and damage, you will need the police to come on the scene to file a report, and they will normally be dispatched with a 9-1-1 call. If emergency services are not required, but there is significant damage, the police should still be called and can file a report and assist with gathering accounts from any witnesses. If possible, get the names and badge numbers of officers on the scene. Often they will be able to hand you a business card with that information.
Take Photos, Videos & Audio Recordings
Record images of the damage to all vehicles, the location, any skid marks or damage on the road. You’ll want to be able to prove that damage on the scene was not already there. Every detail you capture could help prove liability in the case. For instance, did the truck driver properly position his/her mirrors to see traffic in neighboring lanes? Taking a photo of the mirrors could establish proof that the truck driver had not properly positioned his/her mirrors thereby leading to the accident.
If it can be done safely, take photos to establish the specific location of the vehicles after the collision. Nowadays most trucks are equipped with video cameras. The video camera can establish the party at fault. A letter to the trucking company needs to be sent immediately requesting any video footage to be saved. An experienced truck accident attorney can help guide you through the process.
When you have a moment to breathe, record an audio and / or video version describing the facts of what happened. Keep this for your records, you may need to refer to it as you move forward with legal action.
Be sure to gather the important details of the other drivers who have been involved in the crash, along with any witnesses that exist. Record names and contact information along with vehicle registration information, insurance coverage details and a physical description of the vehicles involved.
Avoid Statements of Any Kind Before Seeking Legal Advice
Sometimes after a crash, victims can be disoriented and not fully understand their own injuries or the ramifications of the difficult event that has occurred. For the protection of your case, it’s often important to hold off on giving a formal written or spoken statement until you’ve had time to speak with a truck crash lawyer who can verify the accuracy of your account by asking some additional questions.
Get Your Case Reviewed By a Truck Accident Lawyer
Truck crashes usually involve heavy damage and significant injuries. Have some really solid experience on your side. You don’t want to be guessing on issues that could sway a judge or jury and affect a large settlement and award of money damages. Tell your story, answer important questions, and see where you’re at. All of this can be accomplished in a free case review, standard procedure for starting any important case. A reputable law firm will always provide a thorough review for free so you both can know where you stand.
An attorney who specializes in truck cases can help collect evidence, will put up all the financial costs for legal matters (and will collect nothing until your case is won), will contact your insurance company, file a report with the DMV, file a lawsuit, speak with and negotiate a fair settlement with the opposing insurance companies, and assist you with recovering the compensation you deserve for lost wages, injuries, and other damages.
You might benefit from hearing about the truck accident lawsuit process in the audio podcast below.
Attend All Medical Appointments & Follow Doctor Advice
Insurance companies will check on these details to make sure that if you are indeed injured, you are doing what an injured person should be doing: getting regular and repeated treatment and following the prescribed medical regimen. Not attending these appointments could give the appearance that maybe you are not that badly injured after all.
Report The Accident To The DMV
In the state of California, a crash where someone is injured, killed, or where property damage exceeds $1,000 must be reported to the DMV. This can be done by you or your attorney. The Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (Form SR-1) must be submitted within 10 days after the accident.
File A Lawsuit Without Delay – The Clock Is Ticking
When parties in a case cannot reach a settlement agreement outside of the courts, there is a definite time limit on filing a truck accident lawsuit. Evidence begins to disappear from the very moment the accident is cleared, and in most states, including California, the Statute of Limitations dictates that you have a certain amount of time to take legal action, normally in the range of six months to two years, depending on the entity involved in causing the accident, whether it be a private company or a government entity.
Bottom line: Delaying legal action could have serious consequences for collecting what you deserve.
Protect Your Loved Ones With a Car Accident Checklist
If you’ve already been in a crash and are now seeking legal guidance, help protect your loved ones from future incidents by downloading and printing this car collision checklist to keep in the glove compartment of each vehicle you own or lease.
Be Ready In Any Vehicle With The Car Crash Phone App
This phone app can be downloaded for all smartphones and help you:
- Collect evidence
- Gather info from other drivers and people at the accident scene
- Document traffic and weather conditions when the accident happened