Any automotive accident can result in catastrophic injuries and property damage. When a car wreck involves an 18-wheeler, though, the chances of serious injuries skyrocket. Because these semi-trucks are so much larger and heavier than average passenger vehicles, they tend to do more damage.
To complicate matters further, the contributing factors behind semi-truck accidents vary, and there may be more than one party at fault. Some accidents occur strictly as a result of driver negligence. In other cases, defective parts, insufficient maintenance, or even unsafe company policies also play a role.
No matter what causes an 18-wheeler to crash into passenger vehicles, other drivers on the road are afforded certain rights. Accident victims can typically recover compensation for their losses, but only if they play their cards right.
Read on to find out what to do after a semi-truck accident to maximize the chances of both making a full recovery and receiving compensation for damages.
Step One: Seek Treatment
It’s often the case that other drivers and passengers involved in 18-wheeler accidents require emergency medical care. Emergency medical personnel should arrive on the scene promptly following the crash to either administer emergency care at the scene of the accident or transfer injured parties to the nearest emergency room. Obviously, anyone who has experienced a severe injury should take an ambulance to the hospital immediately.
It’s just as common for accident victims to require non-emergency care. Even drivers who were checked out on the scene by EMTs should still schedule an appointment with a doctor or go to an emergency care clinic immediately. Some types of injuries are less visible than others, and it’s very important to have all of them treated as quickly as possible to maximize the accident victims’ chances of making a successful recovery.
Accident victims who receive medical care should always keep detailed records. The 18-wheeler accident attorneys now at Uvalle Law Firm can use that information to file a claim and prove damages.
Step Two: Talk to the Police
Although accident victims who require emergency care may not be able to make an official report as soon as the police arrive on the scene, they shouldn’t forget to report the accident and file a statement as soon as possible. It’s fine to wait until after receiving essential medical care, but don’t wait too long. The details should still be clear in victims’ minds.
When giving statements to the police, accident victims should be careful about how they word their sides of the story. Just stick to the facts. Don’t speculate about potential causes, fault, or liability, and make sure to request a copy of the report for personal records.
Don’t like talking to the police? Now is not the time to give in to anxiety. The Texas Transportation Code stipulates that it is illegal not to report an accident in the state if it leads to injuries or death.
Step Three: File an Insurance Claim
After seeking emergency medical care and filing a police report, drivers or vehicle owners should begin the claim filing process with their insurance agencies. Policyholders are required to give their insurance companies sufficient time to investigate their claims, so it’s important to take this step as soon as possible. Failure to file a claim in a timely manner can lead to it being denied.
As with filing a police report, the insurance claim should stick strictly to the facts. Never give recorded statements to an insurance adjuster without speaking to a lawyer first. Even more importantly, don’t ever sign anything without first having the document reviewed by a personal injury attorney.
Step Four: Find a Lawyer
If an accident victim has sustained severe injuries or other damages, it’s always best to seek the help of a qualified lawyer as early as possible in the claims process. An 18-wheeler lawyer can help his or her client collect and analyze evidence, file paperwork, negotiate with insurance companies, and maximize the chances of receiving compensation for damages.
In Texas, there are four things an accident victim must prove to receive damages following a semi-truck accident. A lawyer will focus on building a case that:
- The defendant or defendants owed the accident victim a duty of care.
- The liable party or parties breached that duty of care.
- The breach of care was a direct contributing factor to the accident.
- The accident victim suffered material damages as a result.
Semi-truck accident lawyers are intimately familiar with all the relevant laws. They know how to establish liability and what documentation or other evidence will be needed to prove the case. Lawyers can collect evidence such as driver’s logs, electronic control data, witness statements, expert testimony, reconstructive evidence, and even video footage from nearby cameras that would not be available to the victim. A lawyer will also be able to instruct clients on what to avoid after an accident.
Step Five: File a Claim
A good lawyer will help his or her client through every step of the claim filing process. In most cases, it’s best to wait to file the claim until the victim has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). Waiting until the victim has reached MMI will make it easier to estimate the cost of damages like hospital bills and lost wages.
More often than not, the insurance company will deny the first claim and make a counteroffer. This step begins the negotiations process. The lawyer will represent his or her client in negotiations with the insurance adjuster until a settlement is reached that both parties can agree on. In some cases, negotiations are unsuccessful and the claim must be taken to court.
The End Results
In an ideal world, every accident victim would receive the prompt medical care and reasonable compensation package required to maximize healing and make it easier to move on. Unfortunately, insurance companies rarely have anything but their bottom lines in mind when they make offers and counteroffers. Following these steps and, above all, hiring a lawyer can help to maximize injured parties’ chances of receiving compensation for damages.