Getting into an accident with a tractor-trailer can result in some of the most serious and catastrophic injuries. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are more than 400,000 commercial vehicle crashes each year, resulting in around 4,000 fatalities and tens of thousands of severe injuries.
If you have been involved in a collision with a big rig truck, it can be a very traumatic experience. Your first reaction is probably shock. Your heart rate accelerates, and your mind starts racing in all directions trying to figure out what all this means and what to do next. You may be looking at widespread damage to your vehicle, and you might not even be sure if you can get out of your car.
Perhaps you are reading this article at the scene of a commercial vehicle accident looking for answers. Or maybe you are doing research in order to be prepared in the event that something like this happens in the future. Whichever is the case, we are going to lay out the most important steps you need to take if you are in an accident with a commercial vehicle:
- Call 911
As mentioned earlier, a collision with a large commercial vehicle is likely to result in some injuries, and the first priority is to make sure everyone is okay. You might be hurt, some passengers in your vehicle might be hurt, and the truck driver might be hurt. Call 911 right away and bring an ambulance to the scene, so anyone who has injuries can receive immediate medical attention. It is important to note that not all auto accident injuries are immediately apparent, so it is always best to get checked out just to be on the safe side.
- Bring the Police
Whenever there are injuries from a vehicle accident, the police should be called to the scene. The police will help secure the scene and get the vehicles involved out of the way of traffic, and they will interview those who experienced and saw what happened and document this information in an official report. The police report will be an important piece of evidence for any legal claim that is filed later on.
- Document what Happened
Although there will be an official police report, you should also create your own report of everything that happened while it is fresh in your mind. Create a detailed written report of the accident if you have something to write with. If not, you can create an audio report by using the voice recorder in your cell phone. Also be sure to take multiple photographs of the accident scene from as many angles as possible, so you have visual documentation of the event. And once the police report is on file, ask to review it so you can correct any inaccuracies that may be in the report.
- Get Statements from Witnesses
If there are any individuals nearby that saw the accident, speak with them and get their names and contact information. You should also ask if they are willing to provide statements about what happened. In many cases, a witness may allow you to record a video or audio statement while you are at the scene of the accident. If they are willing, this is the best time to get them on the record. Memories fade, and witnesses can be difficult to get a hold of later on, so get as much information from them as you can at the scene.
- Do Not Admit Fault for the Accident
At some point, you will need to exchange information with the truck driver and anyone else who may have been involved in the accident. When you speak with other involved parties, the police, or witnesses, be polite and courteous, but never apologize or admit fault for the accident. Leave it to the experts who investigate the crash to sort out who was at fault.
- Follow Doctor’s Orders
If you sustained injuries from the accident, get them treated right away, and do everything your doctor tells you to do. For example, if you are told not to go into work for a few weeks while you are healing, do not try to be brave and come back to work before you are ready. Doing something against doctor’s orders could aggravate your injury. This, in turn, could put you in a difficult legal position if you are filing a claim for your losses, because the other side might argue that you did not do everything possible to mitigate the effects of your injury.
- Be Careful What You Say about the Accident
We mentioned that you should never admit fault for a vehicle accident, and along these same lines, you should also limit what you say about the accident in general. In this day and age of social media, it is tempting to post a picture of the accident scene on Facebook, Instagram, or wherever with some comments about it. This could be a big mistake, because anything you say electronically is discoverable in a personal injury claim, and it could be used against you. This means don’t post anything about the accident, and really, you should not post anything at all for a while. Even a picture of you smiling and having a good time on vacation could be used by the other side to claim that your injuries are not as severe as you say they are.
- Contact a Reputable Truck Accident Lawyer
Commercial truck accidents are far more complex than standard auto accidents. There are numerous governing laws and regulations that apply to the trucking industry, and there are several parties that could potentially be held responsible for the accident. To help ensure that your legal rights are protected and you are in a position to obtain maximum compensation, it is best to get an experienced personal injury lawyer involved as soon as possible.
If the commercial vehicle accident occurred in San Diego, El Cajon, or anywhere in Southern California, Garmo and Garmo, LLP is here to help! Our lawyers have extensive experience with trucking accident cases, and we work closely with our clients, fighting hard to recover the full and fair compensation they need and deserve. Call our office today at 619-441-2500 or message us online to schedule a free, no obligation consultation.