Roadway incidents involving 18-wheelers are some of the most devastating, often causing serious injuries, property damage, and fatalities. And unfortunately, these incidents are on the rise. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s latest Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts report reveals that 4,889 large commercial vehicles were involved in fatal accidents in 2017, a nine percent increase from 2016 and a 42 percent increase since 2009.
Because of the large size and weight of commercial trucks, incidents involving 18-wheelers are often more serious than similar collisions between two smaller vehicles. Damages in these accidents may be quite high, since severe injuries sustained in an accident may have permanent life-altering impacts.
Any time there are severe damages involved in a case, plaintiffs will fight harder to devalue your case for compensation. This is particularly true when that case involves an 18-wheeler or other commercial vehicle. Commercial carriers — in other words, the driver’s employers — will often deny their involvement in an incident, claiming that the driver (and their insurance policy) are responsible for paying for damages.
This makes the process of pursuing damages even more complicated, often necessitating the professional guidance of an 18-wheeler lawyer. However, there are some steps you can take on your own to protect your rights and your health even before you consult with an attorney. Here are those steps:
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Seek Medical Help
Immediately following an accident, adrenaline and shock can prevent you from knowing whether or not you’re injured. Even if the accident is relatively minor and everyone appears to be unharmed, it is still advisable to visit a medical professional as soon as possible.
It may take days or even weeks for certain injuries to exhibit symptoms. For instance, victims with serious head or spinal injuries often do not realize how badly they were injured until several days or even weeks after the incident. For this reason, it’s strongly recommended that you seek medical care as soon as possible after an accident — both so you can begin medical treatment right away and start documenting your legal case.
Ask for Police Assistance
Police presence can be vital to ensuring public safety and recording key details in an accident. When you call 911, make sure to request police response. The officers will be able to use their vehicles, flares, or other obstructions to safely guide traffic around the scene to prevent further accidents. They may also begin taking statements from witnesses and collecting evidence, which can help prevent confusion and conflict between the involved parties down the road. A police report is not always necessary to corroborate the victim’s story, but it could be a valuable asset in the process of filing your claim.
If you do decide to pursue action against other parties involved in the accident, particularly a commercial vehicle driver and/or their employer, the evidence documented in a police report may play a pivotal role in your case.
Gather the Other Driver’s Information
If your 18-wheeler accident was due to a commercial vehicle driver’s negligence, you may be able to recover compensation from that driver or their employer. However, assigning damages in these cases often depends on the driver’s employment status — and what they were doing at the time of the accident.
Therefore, gathering the driver’s contact details, including those of their employer, is a critical step to take after your accident. At the very least, you’ll want to make sure you obtain the following information:
- The driver’s name
- The driver’s license number
- Their employer’s name
- The employer’s phone number
- Insurance company
- Policy number
- License plate
Thanks to the convenience of smartphones, it’s easy to snap pictures of most of this relevant info to get accurate information without misspellings or mistakes.
Document the Scene
Witness testimony may become crucial in a personal injury case if a plaintiff attempts to deny or shift responsibility for an incident. Speak personally with witnesses to collect their names and phone numbers, or have a friend or family member do it for you if you’re too shaken up.
You’ll also want to take photos of your own vehicle, the other vehicle, the road, the conditions, nearby road signs, obstacles, etc. Document whatever seems even remotely relevant.
Consider Consulting a Lawyer Before You Speak with Your Insurance Company
After an 18-wheeler accident, most victims want to begin the process of physically and emotionally healing and return to life as usual. Some try to tackle daunting insurance calls and paperwork immediately so they can have their car replaced or repaired. But the rush to speak with your insurance provider could mean selling yourself short.
Before you speak to your insurance company, you may want to seek out an 18-wheeler accident lawyer. Texas 18-wheeler accidents are often caused by negligence on the part of the truck driver or even the poor management and negligence of their employer, but the insurance company is going to do their best to avoid compensating you for vehicle damage, medical expenses, or any other costs associated with the accident. Sometimes they will find loopholes to justify their refusal to pay, or offer an unreasonably low settlement amount.
An experienced 18-wheeler accident lawyer anticipates these tactics and fights to help you receive the compensation you deserve. We collect and process all the relevant information and negotiate with insurance on your behalf so that you can receive a fair settlement.
Even if you do not decide to pursue legal action, a lawyer can advise you how to communicate with insurance providers in a way that won’t damage your case for compensation. Reputable personal injury lawyers typically offer a free case consultation so they can offer this kind of advice before you decide how to move forward with your case.
In general, it’s important to act quickly. Not long after an accident, the memories of those involved and the witnesses begin to fade. Additionally, waiting too long to pursue action can be construed as evidence that your injury and damages are not as serious as you say, potentially devaluing your claim.
Get the Support and Guidance You Need
The days after an accident can feel confusing and chaotic, but professional and transparent advice can offer you a clear path forward. At FVF, we are pleased to provide free, no-pressure evaluations to help you understand your rights and the ways that insurance providers may attempt to undermine them. Our 18-wheeler accident lawyers will discuss your options moving forward and determine what course of action will lead to the best outcome for you. Contact us to set up your free consultation.