Eighteen-wheeler drivers and the companies they work for all have to operate the fleet as safely as possible. That means getting the proper training for every single driver, inspecting trailers and trucks, and safely loading the trailers for transport. Additionally, drivers must have reasonable schedules for delivery to prevent speeding or sleep deprivation. Companies also must comply with Texas highway regulations.
Despite these obligations and the numerous safety rules at the state and federal level, truck accidents are still unreasonably common. Each year, about 4,000 Americans die from truck-related incidents.
If you find yourself involved in a crash with a commercial truck, it’s important to know how to protect your safety and your rights.
1. Check Yourself and Others for Injuries
Of course, an accident is one of the most frightening things to go through, and that’s especially true when a truck is involved. Before anything else, take a moment to breathe and check over yourself. Are there any obvious injuries you can see or feel? Can you stand and walk?
If you can move, check the passengers in your vehicle. Then check on the passengers of the other car for any injuries.
If anyone has an injury, call 911 right away, or pick someone to make the call if you can’t. Don’t move the injured person unless it’s an emergency, and use extreme caution when doing so.
Inform the dispatcher of any casualties or obvious injuries you can see, and let them know if there are any hazards that police and emergency medical services need to know about before they show up. That includes broken glass, leaking fluids, and disoriented victims.
The dispatcher will need to know your location, so use a nearby address or mile marker if on a highway. Tell them which direction you were traveling in and what side of the road the vehicles are on.
Though you are not required by Texas law to call 911 for minor collisions that don’t lead to injuries, it’s still a good idea to prove you had contact with EMS and police.
2. Remain at the Scene
As you wait for EMT and police to arrive, make sure you don’t go anywhere. Always remain at the scene of an accident; there are severe legal penalties in Texas for leaving an accident, including a potential license suspension.
If you need to move your vehicle, avoid blocking traffic as you do. The last thing anyone wants is to cause a second accident due to difficulties navigating around the vehicles. Do what you can to keep everything safe until the cops come to take over.
If the duty to the law isn’t enough reason to keep you at the accident scene, there are other practical reasons to remind you to stay:
Fleeing puts others’ lives at risk
Even minor accidents with trucks can cause serious injury. If you don’t check on the other driver or pedestrians that were struck, you have no idea how badly they were injured. A delay in calling emergency services could be the difference between life and death.
Injured individuals with internal bleeding or severe head injury require immediate medical intervention. Saving a life requires someone on the scene to help, and you can talk to emergency services until the ambulance arrives. They will tell you if there’s something you can to do assist.
Leaving costs you more than staying
No matter the severity of the truck collision, it’s never worth it to leave instead of staying. If you’re found at-fault for the accident, then staying may get you in trouble with the law. If you were breaking the speed limit or driving while intoxicated, then there are additional penalties and fines you’re responsible for.
However, leaving doesn’t change any of these circumstances. The police will simply track you down and add additional charges that may include jail time. Leaving is a risky gamble that doesn’t pay off.
You might not be at-fault
Some drivers flee an accident scene out of fear that they’ll be blamed for causing the accident. This may not even be the case. It may be true that the other driver was intoxicated or otherwise negligent. Staying at the scene can prove you are innocent, and you may even be eligible for a personal injury claim.
On the other hand, even if you’re not at fault, leaving the scene revokes your status as the victim. If the other driver was to blame, you’ll never know if you don’t stick around. Just wait for the police to show up and figure out who caused the accident. With a personal injury lawyer, you can discuss a potential case.
3. Document Everything Possible
If you don’t have any serious injuries and can walk around, it’s a good idea to photograph the accident. Take as many pictures of your vehicle’s damage and the other truck involved. If there was a traffic sign or stop light that contributed to the incident, photograph that too. Capture any of your visible injuries for proof that they occurred during the collision.
If anyone nearby saw the accident happen, politely ask if you can contact them in the future regarding the incident. Your attorney may need to discuss the details with them if you file a suit later on.
Documenting after the truck accident
Later on, you should continue to document your recovery. If you had visible injuries, take photos of them every few days to document how they’ve worsened or healed. Injuries that can’t be seen should still be documented in a journal where you describe the symptoms every day. This can prove emotional pain as a result of the accident.
Also, be sure to gather receipts and other documents proving losses or expenses you’ve incurred due to injuries caused by the accident. This includes prescription medication, medical treatment, or the cost of transportation to the doctor. Put these documents in a single folder.
If you lose time from work because of your injuries, request from your company a formal letter that documents the dates of work missed. Then, get a letter from your doctor explaining the reason for taking off work.
Why is it important to document evidence?
The at-fault driver’s insurance company won’t want to just hand over a pile of money for your injuries. They’re going to put up a fight and argue that your injuries are minor or that you’re trying to scam them with false reports and expenses.
In the end, it’s very difficult to make that claim when you have been keeping extensive photographic proof with official documentation from your employer and doctor. The more evidence you have, the less of a chance the insurance company has to get away without paying you.
4. Seek Medical Attention
As personal injury attorneys, we’ve heard all kinds of stories of clients who felt no pain after an accident, but the next morning they felt worse than they ever had before.
These are completely credible stories, too; they’re not just healthy people who realized they could make a quick dollar from a lawsuit. It can take several days or more for serious discomfort or injuries to reveal themselves after an accident with a truck.
That means whenever you notice symptoms of injury following a collision, seek medical care right away. Don’t assume that the pain will just go away without any treatment. Go to the doctor, get checked out, and be safe before it gets worse. Symptoms of injury include, but are not limited to:
- Feeling unlike yourself
Follow treatment instructions strictly
If your doctor determines that you’ve suffered an injury following your accident, follow the course of treatment and do not stop it early. Continue until your doctor says you no longer need to.
5. Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Finally, it’s always a good idea to contact an experienced attorney in Texas. You never want to go up against someone in a lawsuit by yourself, and that’s especially true for going against a big trucking company. Filing a claim after getting into an accident with a truck is a complicated legal minefield. There are special regulations meant to govern these incidents.
There is no legal obligation to get a lawyer following an accident if you aren’t at fault, but it can help you with receiving your entitled compensation while avoiding unnecessary liability.
Getting compensation requires filing a claim with the insurance company — either the at-fault driver’s insurance or your insurance company, or both will also work. At Haney Paschal & Romoser, we will help ensure that you make the correct claims to the right parties.
In Texas, a driver who causes an accident must pay for your injuries and property damage, but your bodily injuries are also covered by your insurance policy. In either case, it is unwise to talk to, much less negotiate with, the insurance company without first speaking to a lawyer. The goal of any insurance policy is to pay out as little as possible to its policyholders.
An insurer might take any opportunity to twist your statements and use your own words against you in court as a way to deny your claim or otherwise justify a smaller payment. Our lawyers will stop you from falling into the traps that insurers like to lay out for drivers making claims against them.
Our lawyers will help determine the damages you are owed
Are you aware of the amount of compensation you could receive after getting into an accident with a truck? You may have received an estimate for your treatment at the hospital or to fix your car, and these are two examples of bills that could be paid out by the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.
Other damages that you may be eligible to file a claim for:
- Lost wages: If you had to miss work to spend time healing from injury, you could be entitled to compensation
- Future medical expenses: These include bills you can reasonably anticipate you will have to pay due to treatment
- Pain and suffering: Thousands of dollars have been paid out time after time for traumatic compensation
- Reduced earning capacity: If you sustained an injury that will prevent you from doing your job the same way, you might be eligible for compensation
- Punitive damages: This applies in the cases where the at-fault driver was acting with negligence or malice
We will comb through the details of your accident to see which damages we can successfully pursue for your claim.
In any case, the driver responsible for the accident should also be responsible for the damages you suffer, but an insurance policy can only pay to the limits that the driver’s policy defines. Beyond that, a lawsuit will involve pursuing the driver for further compensation.
If this is something that interests you, we strongly recommend contacting one of our attorneys first. We can evaluate the worth of your claim, determine the correct party to pursue out of court, and file the lawsuit if we are unable to negotiate outside of court.
Contact Us Today
Even when everyone’s intentions are best, dangerous accidents can still happen. When a truck is involved, it almost always causes some form of injury. That’s when calling a truck accident lawyer becomes the most important.
If you’ve been hit by a commercial truck, initiating a lawsuit could be the best thing to protect yourself. There’s good chance negligence played a part in the accident; the most common type of lawsuit our accident lawyers handle involve truck driver negligence. It’s even common to find negligence at play with the trucking company.
Our lawyers can’t undo the truck accident, but we can fight for the victims and get you closer to whole again. Give our experienced lawyers a call today to schedule a consultation for your claim!