Any sort of vehicle accident is jarring and can leave you unsure of what to do. But, when the accident involves a 20,000-pound big rig, things can feel even more chaotic. Should you go about things in the same way you would after a typical car accident? Are there special legal considerations you should be aware of? Should you consult with a Dallas truck accident attorney with experience in these cases or will any personal injury attorney yield favorable results?
Each step you take post-crash can have a direct impact on your personal injury claim, so it’s essential to understand what you should do next. Below we’ve listed some steps you can take and some evidence you can gather that will ensure you have the best possible chance of obtaining the compensation you deserve.
Call Officers to The Scene
Calling officers to the scene is necessary if anybody is injured, but it’s also important for building your case. When the police arrive, an officer should assess the scene, interview you and the other driver, and, most importantly, create an accident report. A police report creates an immediate record of the accident and will serve as a key piece of evidence later on when you file a truck accident claim.
Collect the Driver's Information
Similar to the aftermath of a car crash, you’ll need to exchange information with the truck driver. However, in this case, there is a little more information you’ll need to collect. In addition to the truck driver’s contact and insurance information, you should also ask for the following:
- The name and contact information for the truck driver’s employer and trucking company;
- The truck license plate number;
- The truck driver’s license ID number; and
- The vehicle DOT license number for the truck and trailer. This can usually be found on the side of the cab of the truck.
Start Gathering Evidence
Determining the cause of an accident can sometimes become difficult once the scene has been cleared, but taking pictures is a great way to ensure important evidence is preserved. Snap photos of your vehicle damage, any injuries you sustained, the other driver’s truck, road conditions, weather conditions, and any other factors you think might have contributed to the accident.
If it’s safe to walk around the scene, make sure to take pictures from multiple angles. As they say, a picture can say a thousand words, and gathering photographic evidence can bolster your case—especially if the insurance company tries to dispute or deny your truck accident claim.
Collect Witness Contact Information and Statements
Memories can become hazy in the aftermath of an accident and it can be nearly impossible to track down witnesses once the scene has been cleared. Again, if it’s safe to do so, approach a witness and ask for their contact information and a brief statement of what they saw. Doing this can strengthen your claim, especially if there is a question of who was at fault for the accident.
Go See a Doctor
If you’re lucky, you may walk away from a truck accident with little to no injuries. Although you may feel fine and don’t think you need medical attention, it’s important to get evaluated by a doctor anyway. Some injuries may be masked due to adrenaline and may not fully surface until several days or weeks later. There may also be underlying injuries, such as internal bleeding, that are impossible to detect without professional help. In addition to getting the treatment you need, a doctor can document the full extent of your injuries and show how they were directly caused by accident—a crucial component of any personal injury claim. A doctor may ask questions about how the accident occurred in trying to diagnose your injuries, so those records can be helpful down the road when trying to remember what you said about the collision.
If you don’t see a doctor and injuries start to appear later down the road, it can be difficult to prove that they are directly related to the truck accident. Insurance companies may try to use this timelapse against you and argue that your injuries were the result of pre-existing conditions or another incident entirely, and not a result of the trucking crash.
Don't Overshare With The Insurance Company
Following an accident with a commercial vehicle, you should expect their insurance company to call you. While the person you speak to might come off as friendly, remember, they’re ultimately working in the interest of their company, so you need to be careful about what you say. Their job is to find ways to minimize your claim, and if possible, get you to admit to a portion of the fault.
For instance, they might call and ask you how you’re doing, but this isn’t necessarily because they’re concerned about your well-being. Rather, it’s a tried-and-true tactic they use on these recorded phone calls to get you to say that you’re doing “fine” or “good” so that they can use it against you later down the line when you’re filing your personal injury claim.
If they contact you, do not apologize, admit any blame, say you’re okay, accept any money, or agree to give a recorded or written statement. In fact, you’re not obligated to speak to them at all—and you shouldn’t without seeking counsel first. You’re always free to say, “I’m working with a lawyer, and they’ll contact you.” Your Dallas truck accident attorney can handle all of the communications on your behalf so you don’t have to worry about falling for these tactics or doing anything that might jeopardize your claim.
Speak With a Lawyer Who Has Experience With Truck Accident Cases
Truck accidents tend to be more complicated than run-of-the-mill traffic accidents. First, there are often more parties involved other than the truck driver, like the trucker’s employer, the trucking company, and the shipper or the manufacturer. Additionally, there are also state and federal regulations that commercial truck drivers and trucking companies must follow, like Hours-of-Service requirements and vehicle maintenance standards, so it’s about more than proving that the truck driver simply wasn’t following the rules of the road.
Some personal injury attorneys may have experience handling car accident cases but are not experienced in handling the more complex aspects of trucking laws. Others may not have the time to conduct extensive discovery and investigation as is often necessary with these cases.
For these reasons, it’s important to research and meet with a Dallas truck accident attorney before selecting someone to represent you. An attorney who has experience handling trucking accidents will know how to effectively build your case and go toe-to-toe against trucking companies, large insurance companies, and their high-powered team of attorneys.
Involved in an Accident with a Semi-Truck? Contact a Dallas Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has been hit by a big rig driver, perhaps the most important step you can take is to speak with an experienced Dallas truck accident attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Tim O’Hare have extensive experience successfully resolving truck accident claims and will work tirelessly to help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.