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I Was Hit by a Commercial Truck. What Should I Do?

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Passenger vehicles don’t weigh anywhere near as much as a commercial truck. Commercial trucks include cement mixers, dump trucks, snowplows, flatbeds, garbage trucks, refrigerated trucks, tankers, and tractor-trailers. All of them can be extremely heavy whether they’re empty or packed with goods. The average weight of a passenger car is around 1.5 tons. A passenger truck is around 3 tons. A dump truck or snowplow can weigh up to 28 tons. Your injuries can be severe.

If you’re hit by a commercial truck, you need to know what to do next. Even if steps to take seem to be common sense items, anxiety can make it very hard to think things through. We can help you understand your rights and responsibilities.

Your Well-Being Matters Most

Before you start worrying about talking to your insurance company, take care of yourself. You likely have noticeable injuries and will be taken to the hospital by ambulance. If you weren’t seriously injured, you may not feel it’s important to get checked out by a medical professional. You still need to do this. Auto insurance pays for your medical bills, so there’s no reason to skip this step.

You could have a concussion. There could be contusions that need medical attention before a brain bleed or brain swelling puts your life at risk. Internal injuries and bleeding can also occur slowly at first. You don’t realize the severity because you’re filled with adrenaline that’s masking the pain. Go to the hospital or, at the very least, go to your doctor or an urgent care office. It’s better to find out you’re not injured than to be at home and have an injury worsen. It also starts a chain of evidence regarding medical expenses if you need to sue the trucking company for your injuries.

When you get home, schedule follow-up appointments if they were recommended. Take medications as recommended. Do what the doctor said to do. If the doctor told you to stay home for a few days, call your boss and explain how long you’ll be out. Keep track of your lost wages until you’re able to return to work. If you need a doctor’s note to prove to your boss that there’s an issue, ask the doctor to provide one. The more paperwork you have to prove your claims that the accident disrupted your life, the easier it is to get a favorable settlement.

Get Photos if You Can

If you’re well enough at the scene, take photos and get witness names and contact information. This can help you in the long run. If you have a dashcam, make sure the footage is recorded and have it sent to your email as a back-up. You may find witnesses also have dashcam footage and can send you a copy.

You may not be able to get photos. It’s okay. The investigating officer will take photos during the investigation. These photos will be part of the accident report. You can always ask for copies when you’re getting a copy of the accident report.

Make Sure an Accident Report is Filed

Police should have been at the scene. If you didn’t get the investigating officer’s name and badge number, call the station to get this information. Your insurance company is going to need it for the accident claim. If the police were not called to the scene, you should go fill out an accident report at the station or see if you can file one online.

To fill out the accident report, you need to have the other driver’s license number, contact information, VIN, and insurance information. Have the names and contact information for other witnesses. Answer the questions on the report and stick to the facts. Don’t accept fault and don’t apologize. Get a copy of the accident report after you’ve filled it out.

Call the Insurance Company

At home, you need to call the insurance company. Depending on your insurance agency, you may be able to start a claim online. This will be easier if you’re injured and don’t want to be stuck on the phone for a while.

You need to share the details of the accident, the police officer’s name and badge number, the accident report number, witnesses’ contact information, and the other driver’s information. If the insurance adjuster asks for a written statement or to record your statement, do not agree to this until you talk to an attorney that specializes in truck accidents.

After you file a claim with your insurance adjuster, that agent usually talks to the other insurance company to get things started. The other driver’s insurance adjuster may call you. Again, don’t feel that you have to allow him/her to record what you say and don’t agree to anything without first talking to an attorney. Insurance adjusters are looking for holes in your story to show that you could shoulder part of the blame. This can help them avoid having to pay for the full extent of the damages. You don’t want to get frustrated and say something they take the wrong way.

Why Do These Accidents Happen?

When you’re in a crash with a commercial truck, it’s important to understand it’s not necessarily your fault. The commercial truck driver’s insurance company may try to pin some or all of the blame on you but don’t let them. You have a lot of unanswered questions. Many truck accidents happen because the driver was not properly trained, was distracted with a phone or GPS, was tired, or was overloaded. Equipment failure and impaired driving are other leading causes.

You do not know the last time the truck was inspected. It could have blown a tire, had a brake issue, or had a problem with the steering. You don’t know how many hours the driver has been driving. If the driver you’re in a crash with has driven for too many hours or not taken enough breaks, the driver and his/her company would be to blame. State laws may alter these rules, but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration limits drivers to these two key rules:

  1. Drivers cannot work more than 14 hours total without a minimum of 10 consecutive hours spent off duty. Of those 14 hours, only 11 of them can be spent driving the commercial truck.
  2. If a driver has reached 60 hours of work in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days, the driver must take at least 34 hours off before starting another 7 or 8-day schedule.

In many of these crashes, both the truck’s driver and the company are at fault. The driver may have been at the wheel, but the trucking firm may have skipped routine inspections to save time and money. If a part on the truck is defective, it could be the fault of the truck or parts manufacturer, too. This is why it’s important to hire an attorney who specializes in truck accidents and understands the liability laws regarding these crashes.

Trial Lawyers for Justice is easy to reach and has the expertise you need at this challenging time. Our attorneys specialize in truck accidents. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation, we’re happy to find a time that’s convenient for you. Call our toll-free number (866-TL4J-LAW), email us, or access live chat. We’re here for you 24/7.

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Trial by Human

Nick Rowley founded Trial by Human, a nationwide legal education course to help trial lawyers improve their skills in the courtroom by "being human".