Commercial vehicle accident cases are more complicated than a typical automotive accident case. Consulting a truck accident lawyer after your accident is highly recommended.
There are steps you should take after any automotive vehicle accident. However, accidents involving large commercial vehicles are rarely average. These massive machines often leave a path of devastation and catastrophic injuries in their wake. If you are involved in a crash with a commercial truck, there are some critical steps you should take to protect your health and your legal rights.
Seek Medical Attention
Your first priority after any accident, including an accident involving a commercial vehicle, is to ensure that you and any passengers in your vehicle receive medical attention if necessary. When an accident involves a large commercial truck, there will likely be severe injuries. It is crucial to call 911 so rescue and medical personnel will be dispatched to the accident scene.
Accident victims sometimes experience a rush of adrenaline and an elevated heart rate in the aftermath of a crash. These conditions could make it difficult to fully appreciate the extent of your injuries. Additionally, many injuries take time to develop symptoms. If you suffered soft tissue damage or internal injuries, you might not experience symptoms for days. Therefore, even if you believe your feel fine, you should seek medical treatment. Having a documented medical record will also be important if you need to negotiate with an insurance company or file a civil lawsuit.
Call Local Law Enforcement
When you call 911, the operator will typically send the police along with medical assistance. If this does not occur, you should call local law enforcement. You want the police there to secure the accident site. Furthermore, an official police or accident report will be an important piece of evidence during an insurance negotiation or a civil trial. The responding officers should speak with those individuals involved in the accident plus any witnesses. The report will include all relevant information and the officer’s preliminary findings. If the commercial driver was cited for illegal conduct (such as drunk or reckless driving), it should be listed on the report.
Additionally, unless you need to move it away from oncoming traffic, you should wait until the police arrive to move your vehicle.
Document the Accident Scene
The following advice is only applicable if you are uninjured and physically capable of managing the tasks without hurting yourself. Documenting the accident scene could provide valuable evidence whether you are planning to pursue an insurance settlement or personal injury lawsuit. Photographs are worth a thousand words, so you should take pictures of the crash from as many angles as possible. You can never have too many photos of the accident. Be sure to include the surrounding area, including the road conditions, signage, and lighting fixtures.
Your memory of any event is freshest immediately following the incident. Therefore, you should record your recollections of what occurred. If you do not have a pen and paper, you could use a voice recorder on your phone. No matter what method is available, you should record a record of the event. Be sure to include as many details as possible.
Should your injuries restrict any actions on your part, you should request help from someone else at the scene. You only have one opportunity to document the accident scene.
Gather Witness Statements and Contact Information
During an accident investigation, your testimony and the statement of the commercial vehicle driver will help the authorities and other parties understand what occurred. However, uninterested third parties provide more compelling evidence. If there were any eyewitnesses, you should talk with them and collect their contact information. Some witnesses might agree to provide a recorded statement. Witness testimony could be critical if discrepancies exist between the statements, you and the commercial vehicle driver provide. Corroborating testimony will strengthen your legal case.
In some situations, this is the only opportunity you will have to gather a witness’ personal information. While it might appear in the accident report, it is not guaranteed. Some witnesses are reluctant to speak with the police, the scene is often chaotic, and the police might fail to speak with everyone who saw the crash. Furthermore, important witnesses might leave the scene before the police arrive.
Finally, you want to get information from the driver of the commercial vehicle. You should ask for their name, commercial driver’s license number, registration, license plate number, employer information, and insurance information.
Do Not Admit Fault or Liability
After an accident, you could find yourself speaking with witnesses, medical personnel, the police, and even the commercial vehicle driver. It is important not to admit any liability or apologize. In some states, such as Maryland, if you contributed to an accident, you could be prohibited from collecting any compensation – even if you were just 1% at fault. You should be polite but only respond to questions with the facts of what occurred. Even an innocent statement such as “I feel fine” could be used to reduce or deny an injury claim.
Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer
Commercial vehicle accident cases are more complicated than a typical automotive accident case. Consulting a truck accident lawyer after your accident is highly recommended due the many federal and state laws and regulations that govern the trucking industry. Additionally, because of the weight and size of most commercial trucks, these accidents often result in severe injuries that require weeks, months, or years of medical treatment and physical therapy. Many people who are involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle are adversely impacted for life. It is critical to contact an experienced automobile accident attorney who has handled complex litigation involving large commercial vehicles and trucking companies.