Trucks are a critical component in the transport industry. A significant amount of freight travels by road to its final destination. The same applies even if you use other means of moving cargo like trains or ships. The last leg of the journey will still be via trucks.
Trucks can handle tons of goods, making them very efficient. Suffice it to say that many economies would fail without the trucking industry.
But, there is also the less pleasant side of the trucking industry. The sector is a significant contributor to road accidents. In the US alone, over 4,000 people die every year due to truck accidents. 130,000 suffer from injuries due to the same. 14% of light truck fatalities occur due to speeding.
Other significant contributors are distractions and impairment. Since 2009, there has been a 50% increase in truck accidents. If you put these statistics into context, the ramifications are staggering. Yet the reality is that we cannot do without those giant monsters on wheels on our roads.
Now, what happens if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in a truck accident? We will share some constructive tips below.
Assess the Situation
Any type of road accident will be traumatizing. So it is understandable that you may not be in your right mind in the first few minutes. Once you’ve had the opportunity to settle down a little, assess the situation.
The first thing to do is to check if everyone is alright. If there are injuries, please resist the temptation to move anyone. Unless, of course, there is a danger of explosion or further injuries. If the accident occurred on a highway, move to a safe location. Turn on the hazard lights as a warning to other road users.
Call for medical attention to take care of any injured parties. Your quick action could save lives.
Call the Police
The next step is to call the police. They will need to come in and file a report of the accident. Stick to facts when talking to the authorities. The documentation will prove useful if you, for example, decide to file a personal injury lawsuit.
You will also need to notify your insurance underwriters about the accident.
Understand Your Rights
Please note that you have some rights at the scene of the accident. You have the right to refuse to append your signature on any documents. You also have the right to request legal representation if you feel the need. A truck accident lawyer has the expertise to deal with such cases.
Also, do not accept liability for anything. The reason is that common causes of large truck accidents are attributable to the driver or trucking company. These include:-
- Driving under the influence
- Distracted driving
- Fatigue or lack of sleep due to long working hours
- Road rage
- Texting while driving
- Improper maintenance of the vehicles and more.
You can be sure that their insurance underwriters would do anything to get out of paying for the damages. That is why you should not say anything they can use to turn the case against you.
Your truck accident attorney would also advise against apologizing. The other party can interpret your good manners as an admission of guilt.
Also, do not accept any settlements at the scene of the accident. It may be tempting to get over the inconvenience as fast as possible. But, what you agree to may not be sufficient to cover the cost. You can’t, for example, know how much you will spend on medical bills without knowing the extent or type of injuries.
Document the Scene and Gather Evidence
In the best-case scenario, you can walk around if you don’t have any severe injuries. Use this time to gather evidence.
Nowadays, we have the advantage of smartphones that come with cameras. Take pictures and video footage as evidence of the damages. The damages apply to you and the vehicles.
Taking photographs of bruises, for instance, can be valuable evidence in a personal injury lawsuit. The other team’s lawyer may argue that you sustained the injuries later. But, the on-the-scene pictures will prove otherwise.
It also doesn’t hurt to speak to witnesses. Please remember to get contact information from everyone involved in the accident, including the reporting officer and the truck driver. Also, remember to take insurance information from the truck drivers.
Seek Medical Attention
As soon as you can leave the accident site, seek medical attention. This is important even if you have no visible injuries and feel fine. A thorough examination may unveil injuries you may not experience right away on first inspection. Remember, you may still be in shock or have an adrenaline high at this stage.
Another reason for seeking medical treatment is for the documentation. Remember, insurance companies don’t make money or huge profits by paying out claims. If they can find any way to discredit your claims, they will do it. Lack of a medical report would be a perfect way out for them.
Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer
We have touched on legal representation as one of your rights at the accident scene. Now, if you sustained injuries due to negligence on the truck driver’s part, you can file a personal injury lawsuit. This allows you to seek monetary compensation for any losses arising from the accident. If you sustained injuries, you can be sure of substantial medical bills. You may also have to take time off work, meaning lost wages.
Hiring a lawyer is crucial because you can be sure the trucking company will not want to accept liability. They also have more money to release a barrage of lawyers on you, so they don’t have to pay.
Also, please remember the point we made earlier about insurance companies. The truth is they will look for a way not to pay a lot of money in compensation. Whatever they offer may not be enough for the pain, injuries, and loss of income post-accident.
There is another factor you must keep in mind as well. And it falls under the strict liability tort. You see, the accident could have nothing to do with the truck driver at all. It could be due to a product defect which traces the problem back to the truck manufacturers.
The trucking company may also be at fault. Lack of sufficient truck driver training would be a breach of duty of care. As a layman, you may not understand the nuances of personal injury lawsuits after a truck accident.
A truck lawyer has the investigative knowledge and resources to uncover such issues. They will go after the right defendant, thus increasing your chances of getting a settlement.
There are specific factors to pay attention to when looking for a truck accident lawyer.
Take time to check the reputation of the truck accident lawyers. The internet has made it easy to check for information. A few hours in front of your computer and the correct search query will yield tons of information.
See what other clients have to say by reading reviews and testimonials. Check what industry bodies the attorneys or firms belong to. That is a good indication that they are authentic and worthy of consideration.
Experience in truck accidents is a must. A commercial lawyer may have a general understanding, but that is not their area of specialty. Also, the truck accident attorney should have a good grasp of state-specific laws, as each has its own interpretation.
The same knowledge is necessary for truck regulation laws and industry guidelines. An example would be the FMCSA or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Any company contravening the rules as per the policy is liable to penalties and more. The information will be critical for the accident lawyer to develop a strong case for you.
Not every lawyer has litigation experience. Some will have a sterling record with out-of-court settlements. But they may not do so well If your case ends up in court. Jury and trial experience must be some of the factors you consider when hiring an attorney. Do ask for the trial record and see how many cases they have brought to a successful conclusion.
Litigating truck accidents is a resource-intensive process. Does the lawyer have the necessary team to handle your case? Reputable ones have in-house investigators, medical experts, and more. They will also avail a representative who you can talk to anytime you need to. Someone who will keep you updated on the case proceedings, so you are always in the know.
We have looked at critical steps that you can take after a truck accident to ensure your post-accident claims and to aid you in the process of personal injury litigation. The first step is to ensure that you are alright. Getting medical attention should be a priority if there are any serious injuries. Call the police, gather evidence, and seek medical treatment. No one should force you into signing any documents or accepting any settlement.
We have also touched on hiring a personal injury or truck accident attorney. They will come in handy if you decide to pursue any compensation from the trucking company. Proper due diligence is critical to ensure that you are hiring the right team.
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