Semi-trucks drive the American economy by transporting food, medical supplies, consumer goods, and other products from place to place. Just about every driver in Texas has shared the road with large, heavy semi-trucks at some point. Most of the time, everything goes fine. The problem is, when accidents do occur, the difference in size between semis and ordinary passenger vehicles means that the consequences can be devastating.
Semi-Truck Accidents Are Complicated
To complicate matters further for drivers, determining fault in 18-wheeler accidents tends to be much more challenging. These accidents often involve multiple vehicles, severe damage, and potentially catastrophic injuries, and the drivers aren’t always to blame. According to Uvalle Law Firm, there are five parties that could share liability for the accident: truckers, trucking companies, truck manufacturers, mechanics, and loading crews.
For those injured in truck accidents, the consequences are unambiguously awful. Accident victims often face exorbitant hospital bills, property damage, and long-lasting disabilities. There are ways to receive compensation for damages. Drivers need to know what to do after the accident if they want to maximize their chances of receiving the compensation needed to pay bills, make up for lost wages, and move on with life.
Step One: Seek Medical Care
Drivers of passenger vehicles are much more likely to die or become seriously injured than truckers when crashes involve multiple types of vehicles. All accident victims, regardless of what kinds of vehicles they own, should seek medical care after the crash. More often than not, it’s not an option. Emergency medical crews show up to provide care and arrange for transportation to the hospital for patients experiencing severe injuries.
Even if accident victims don’t need to be rushed to the ER for life-saving care, drivers and passengers shouldn’t ignore the potential implications on their health. Delaying care could be detrimental to victims’ health and imply that their injuries are not directly related to the accident. When emergency care isn’t required, accident victims should schedule appointments with their primary care physicians immediately and should keep detailed records of the care provided.
Step Two: Gather Evidence
If drivers have not been severely injured, they should take photos or videos of the accident scene and speak with other drivers or witnesses. Get the contact information for everyone involved, including the truck driver. Ask for basic contact information, insurance details, and contact info for the trucker’s employer.
It’s equally important to gather contact information from anyone who saw the accident occur. If possible, drivers can even speak with nearby business owners to ask if they have security cameras that could have captured video footage of the accident. Just remember, taking care of all drivers’ and passengers’ health takes priority.
Step Three: Make a Statement and Request an Accident Report
Accident victims transported to hospitals won’t be able to gather evidence or make a statement to the police on the scene. They should still make a statement when they can, though. Stick to the facts, don’t speculate about blame or minimize the severity of injuries, and make sure to request a copy of the accident report.
Even those who don’t want to pursue legal claims should still file police reports. In Texas, the Transportation Code stipulates that all vehicle accidents that result in injuries or deaths must be reported to the police.
Step Four: File an Insurance Claim
Drivers should file insurance claims as soon as they can. Failing to inform the insurance company in a timely manner may give the company cause to deny the claim, creating all kinds of new headaches for injured drivers. When filing a claim, stick to the facts. Don’t give a recorded statement or sign anything until after speaking with a lawyer.
Step Five: Hire a Lawyer
Accident victims should reach out to a lawyer as early as possible in their recovery processes. Lawyers can help clients negotiate with insurance companies, gather evidence, and establish a case that accident victims are entitled to compensation. Determining who is to blame for an 18-wheeler accident poses unique challenges, and proving liability is even harder. It requires gathering a lot of evidence, much of which is not available to the victims, themselves. Lawyers can request documents that will help clients prove their cases in court or offer leverage in negotiations with insurance companies, such as:
- Driver’s logs
- Black box data
- Maintenance and service logs
- Expert witness testimony
- Reconstructions of the accident
- Surveillance videos from nearby businesses
- And more
Securing some of this evidence requires filing motions with the court or taking other legal measures. Lawyers know exactly how to navigate this complex field and investigate their clients’ accidents thoroughly to prove that one or more parties owed the injured party a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused the accident as a result.
Step Six: Collect Evidence of Damages
The lawyer will also need to prove that his or her client suffered damages due to the accident, which is where client-provided evidence comes in. Experts recommend keeping a journal that details injuries, expenses, levels of pain and disability, and other accurate descriptions of the healing process.
Step Seven: Demand Compensation
Once accident victims have healed from their injuries, they can demand compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance company with the help of their lawyers. Most companies will reject victims’ demands and issue much lower counter-offers. Don’t accept the settlement offer without consulting an attorney to help with negotiations. If a reasonable settlement can’t be reached, the attorney will start preparing for litigation.
Drivers and passengers who have suffered injuries as a result of 18-wheeler crashes deserve to get the help they need to pay for medical care and get their lives back on track. Whether they seek compensation by filing and negotiating a claim with the responsible party’s insurance company or through courtroom litigation, victims should have an accident lawyer on their sides. Hiring a lawyer is the best way to maximize the chances of receiving fair compensation for damages, including medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.