More than 3,600 people were killed in accidents involving large trucks in 2013, according to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The fact that 67 percent of the fatality victims were occupants of passenger vehicles and 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists, is clear evidence of the danger other drivers and passengers face in a truck accident. In accidents where a large truck and one passenger vehicle were involved, 97 percent of the occupant deaths occurred in the passenger vehicle.
Sustaining an injury in an accident involving a large truck is different than being injured in an accident with a car or other motor vehicle. Not only do victims’ injuries tend to be more severe in truck accidents, but claims often are quite complex. Trucking companies usually have lawyers on retainer to fight claims of negligence, so victims should expect to encounter resistance when filing a claim or lawsuit for financial compensation.
Being able to prove negligence is the only way a truck accident victim will be able to secure just compensation for injuries and losses. Having solid evidence that can be used against the trucking company is a crucial aspect of any truck accident claim. Even a minor misstep along the way could significantly hinder your case, making it difficult for you to obtain the monetary damages needed to aid in your recovery.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, here are seven missteps to be aware of and to avoid:
1. Failing to Get a Full Medical Exam to Document Your Injuries
Following a truck accident, it is not uncommon for a victim to feel disoriented or in shock. Adrenaline can mask the symptoms of injury. In many cases, the extent of injury an accident victim sustains will not become clear until days or weeks later. Even if you decline emergency medical treatment at the scene of the accident, it is important that you get a full medical exam right away.
You may have sustained a concussion or other head injury and not be aware of it. The same is true of internal injuries. Unless you get a complete medical evaluation, you have no way of knowing the extent of your injuries or of receiving the treatment needed. You will not have any medical record of your accident-related injuries, which you will need when filing a lawsuit or claim.
Be sure to tell your doctor you have been involved in a truck accident, so he or she can accurately record your injuries as being associated with the accident. Unless a full medical exam is done shortly after the accident, argument can be made that your injuries were sustained at another time, and this could make proving your case very difficult.
2. Neglecting to Call 911 and Report the Accident
and Report the Accident”One of the first actions you should take after a collision is call 911 to have police and emergency responders dispatched to the scene of the accident. It is vital that you give the police your account of what happened so it will become part of the official police report.
These reports can play a crucial role in a lawsuit or claim. For example, if the police officer found violations of hours-of-service regulations, that fact could be a key piece of evidence to prove negligence. On the other hand, if you neglect to call 911 or leave before the police arrive, that fact could be noted and you could find yourself being accused of hit and run, regardless of whether you were at fault. This would significantly hurt your truck accident claim.
3. Failing to Obtain Complete Information from the Truck Driver
When you exchange license and insurance information with the truck driver, do not make the mistake of discussing the circumstances of the accident, admitting fault or assuring the driver you feel okay and aren’t injured. Any information you volunteer may be used against you later, and could damage your chances of being able to recover damages.
Asking politely for the driver’s name, employer, insurance information, license plate number, and the state where the truck is registered, will assist you in getting data to file your claim. You should note any company logos, license numbers on the driver’s door or other details. The more information you gather, the easier it will be for your attorney to determine which parties may have contributed to your accident, who is at fault and what sources of compensation could be pursued.
4. Expect to Be Able to Rely on Your Memory Rather Than Taking Photos and Fully Documenting the Accident
It’s a mistake to expect that you will be able to rely on your memory rather than taking photos and documenting the accident scene. You cannot depend on your recollection to help you accurately recount the details of the accident.
Take plenty of photos, make detailed notes, obtain eyewitness statements, and gather evidence you can use to help you remember what happened. Photos should be taken from all angles and include the damage to your vehicle, damage to the truck, each of the involved parties, skid marks, and traffic signs or signals. Note down the time of day, weather and traffic conditions. More documentation is better than less. Gather names and phone numbers of eyewitnesses for later contact.
5. Not Following Through with Doctor-Recommended Treatments and Therapies
Even if you received medical attention at the accident scene, you need to follow through with all treatments and therapies. Any delay or failure to seek medical attention for injuries and complete the treatment prescribed by the doctor would likely jeopardize your case.
The trucking company’s insurance provider can easily argue that your injuries must not have been as severe as you initially claimed, since you did not feel the need to follow through with treatment. This could lower the value of your claim or prevent you from being able to pursue compensation in the worst case.
6. Omitting a Copy of the Police Report on the Accident
When the police investigate a vehicle-related accident, they will generally provide each party with an accident report number and let them know how to use that number to obtain a copy of the police report.
In many cases, the police accident report will contain information which could be used to prove fault or at least help substantiate your claim. Without this report to confirm the date and location of your accident, as well as corroborating the details of your claim, your chances of recovering compensation for injuries and loss will be minimal.
7. Signing Documents or Agreeing to the Insurance Company’s First Settlement Offer Without Consulting Legal Counsel
Insurance companies are often quick to make a settlement offer in truck accident cases. If you are presented an offer or asked to sign documents by an insurance company, do not sign anything without first consulting an accident lawyer. Do not sign a document, regardless of whether you are told it is necessary to process your claim and do not accept the initial settlement offer. Either of these actions could prevent you from being able to pursue the full damages that you are entitled to recover.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, hire a skilled Boston truck accident attorney to review the circumstances of your case and advise you of your legal options. Your ability to pursue the maximum compensation for your injuries increases significantly when you have legal representation. You can be sure that the trucking company will have a lawyer or team of lawyers defending their interests, so you need an aggressive advocate on your side. Don’t be a victim twice – get a lawyer.
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: Large Trucks: Large Trucks 2013