Experiencing any accident with a large truck or semi can be extremely scary and overwhelming. There are some basic legal tips that are helpful when a typical auto accident occurs, but truck accidents are different than a typical car accident.
Large trucking companies now employ rapid-response teams of lawyers, investigators and accident reconstructionists. These rapid response teams start planning for the defense of a case immediately after a significant truck accident that has caused a serious injury or fatality. These teams of lawyers and experts may sometimes arrive at the scene of a terrible truck crash before the police do. The stakes in a catastrophic truck injury or death case are very high, and experienced truck accident lawyers will tell you that these rapid response teams will be very aggressive in pushing the bounds to avoid liability for crashes they have caused.
Serious truck accident cases are different, and it is very important to discuss the case with an experienced truck accident lawyer. Critical evidence that could have proved violation of important safety regulations can be destroyed. For example, log books that can prove speeding or driving over hours in a dangerously fatigued state can legally be destroyed by the trucking company shortly after a crash if they do not receive notice to preserve the evidence. Black boxes, or electronic data recorders, that can also prove critical facts can also be swiped and erased if the trucking company is not put on notice to preserve it.
Here are some additional tips to be better prepared:
1. Stay calm and assist injured passengers
If anyone is hurt or injured, call an ambulance for anyone who is injured. Do not move injured passengers unless it’s necessary to avoid further injury.
2. Call the police
Even if the truck driver says he will pay for the damage or if the injuries appear to be minor, call the police immediately in order to file a report.
3. Document ALL injuries
Make a detailed list of all injuries and pain you’re experiencing, even if it seems to be minor at the time. This is important because many serious personal injuries that don’t seem severe can worsen over time, or they be totally masked by more apparent injuries, such as bleeding. Auto insurance companies need notice of all injuries, otherwise, they may not cover benefits.
4. Write down as much information as you can
Document as much information as possible at the truck accident scene, because it’s common for the driver who caused the crash to change his story later on when the attorneys for the trucking company meet with him. Errors may also appear in the police report, so documentation by the accident victim can be instrumental in correcting mistakes. If you can, take note of the following information:
- All injuries that you have from the truck accident.
- The location of the accident.
- The names and phone numbers of any eyewitnesses.
- The time, weather conditions and direction other vehicles were traveling at the time of the accident.
- A description of how the truck crash happened.
- License plate numbers of all vehicles involved.
- Any damage to vehicles that occurred as a result of the accident.
- Statements by other drivers admitting responsibility, and/or saying they were not injured
- Name of all police officers who arrive at the scene.
- Name, address, phone number, driver’s license number and insurance information of all other drivers involved.
- Whether you think any drugs or alcohol contributed to the accident (and insist on a breath test if you suspect alcohol is involved).
5. Photograph the scene
Take pictures of the accident scene, if you can do so safely. Remember, most good law firms also have private investigators that can be sent to the accident scene as well. Be sure to photograph:
- Vehicle damage.
- Injured truck accident victims.
- Skid marks on the roadway next to a measuring stick, shoe or other object so that the size of the marks can be estimated.
6. Cooperate with police, but speak with an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible
Avoid speaking with anyone, other than police, about your truck accident. Do not talk with investigators from the insurance company or accident lawyers that represent the trucking company that caused the crash. Do not accept “cash” in exchange for the suggestion you blame others if a representative of the insurance company tries to meet with you in the hospital or at home shortly after the crash.
7. Do not leave the scene of the accident
Unless you are being transported to the emergency room by ambulance, please remain at the truck accident scene until all other drivers and police have left.
For additional resources on how to protect your legal rights, visit the Michigan Truck Accident Lawyer Resource Center. You can also check out a guide What to do at the scene for more information and tips on what to do at the crash scene.