A DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO MAXIMIZING YOUR 18-WHEELER ACCIDENT CLAIM
The period immediately after your 18-wheeler accident and the days that follow will be vital in your accident claim. Why? Because big rig accidents are a big deal.
That you got injured in one is a fact that the trucking company will try to minimize fast, in order to mitigate their liability. As a result, you also have to act quickly if you’ll maximize your claim and secure the financial compensation that lets you move on with your life.
If you’re not sure what you should do for the best chance at a positive recovery, this article will set you straight. Right here, we’ll explain the exact steps you need to take at three crucial points:
- In the first few hours after your 18-wheeler accident
- In the few days afterwards; and
- On an ongoing basis as your claim is processed
A bit of a heads up though. Since this article might get a bit long, you can choose to read it all at once or feel free to skip right to the period that applies to you. As it’s a guide to help you stay on track during your claims process, we’re sure you’ll find everything you need here. Let’s get in.
The first few hours after your 18-wheeler accident
As any competent truck accident lawyer will tell you, these moments are when a truck accident case is either won or lost. Depending on what you do at this period, your claim may be strengthened or seriously weakened.
What happens if you’re seriously injured in the accident? Sadly, the chances that this will be the case are all too probable. Out of the 450,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in 2017, 23% resulted in injuries to victims.
If you are unable to carry out these actions after your injury, you have two options:
- Your best bet will be to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as you can. They will quickly understand the position you’re in and what needs to happen.
- In the alternative (and if you’re able), you can ask anyone around you to carry out these actions on your behalf.
That said, here’s what you need to do in the first few hours after your 18-wheeler accident.
#1: Assess the situation
Truck accidents scenes are rarely pretty. Due to the fact that big rigs are several thousand pounds heavier than smaller vehicles, they can cause severe damage in an accident.
Immediately after the accident, your first action should be to assess the scene of the accident. If you can, move your vehicle off the road and onto the shoulder. This helps avoid further crashes and also clears the road to let traffic pass.
If you are unable to move your vehicle, you can put up caution signs instead. This warns other drivers of the crash and allows you preserve the scene before the authorities arrive.
You should also check to see if anyone is injured. Most states require those involved in an accident to either provide first aid to anyone injured in the accident or see that they get immediate aid.
If anyone is injured, try to assess the extent of the injury. If it’s not so serious, you can also move them off the road and onto the shoulder, or have them sit in one of the working vehicles. If they are seriously injured though, do not move them.
#2: Do not leave the scene
This is really important. If you do, you may be committing a crime and may be charged for a hit and run. Yes, this may be the case even if you were not at fault for the accident.
Most states have laws that require those involved in an accident to take very specific actions. These include:
- Providing first aid to injured persons
- Waiting at the accident scene until the police arrive
- Exchanging insurance and contact information with other drivers involved in the accident
It’s understandable if you want nothing more than to put the terrible scenes of the accident behind you as soon as possible. But you’ll hurt your chances of compensation if you leave, and you may expose yourself to criminal liability as well.
#3: Call the police
Most states have a threshold for when those involved in an accident must report the accident. In Florida, for instance, persons involved in an accident must call the police immediately if the crash results in injury or property damage up to $500.
18-wheeler accidents will usually involve a lot of damage and you can expect that your accident will pass this threshold.
In any case, it makes the most sense to call the police and emergency services while you’re on the scene and wait for them to arrive. This lets you get the facts of the accident on record and will be crucial for your claims process.
Once the authorities arrive, provide a statement/report of the accident, but keep it brief and factual. This is pretty important. Do not include your opinions of what happened or who you think was at fault. Simply state what you witnessed and leave it at that.
#4: Seek immediate and ongoing treatment for your injuries
Even if you are not seriously injured or do not think you are injured, you should allow yourself to be looked over by medical personnel. In addition, as soon as you’re able, go see a doctor for a full medical examination.
There are two reasons for this. First, accidents are often tricky things. While you may feel fine immediately after the accident, certain aftereffects can take a few days to show up.
Second, if you failed to see a doctor immediately after the accident, you may have some trouble proving what you’re now complaining of was suffered in the accident. The trucking company and their insurers will likely take this as proof that you’re trying to “game” the system.
#5: Exchange information with the truck driver
Apart from your legal obligation to do this, the process of recovering compensation for the loss you have suffered will usually start here. Exchanging information with the truck driver allows you learn who they work for and other vital details.
Some of the information you should obtain here includes:
- The name, phone number and address of the driver
- The name, address and contact details of the company (or companies) they work for
- The name and details of their insurer. If the driver cannot provide this, be sure to request the contact of someone at their company who can
You should also pay attention to what the driver says. This may help indicate where fault lies for the accident. For instance, record comments like “I’m so sorry”, “I didn’t see you”, “I was in a hurry” or “those damn brakes again” etc.
#6: Do not admit liability
This is really important. You must watch what you say at the scene of the accident, to the police and to the other driver. Anything you say here may be used against you. Avoid saying things like “I should have been more careful” or “I am fine” or “It’s nothing really”.
Statements like these are called “admissions against interest” and they can be fatal to your case. The insurance company may seize on this as evidence that you were not seriously injured in the accident or that it was your fault.
#7: Gather information and evidence
It will also be vital to gather what information you can from the accident scene. This may provide insight and evidence of how the accident occurred. It may also help you establish the liability of the truck driver. Here’s what you should pay attention to:
- Speak to witnesses at the scene of the accident. If they allow you, write down or record their statements as to what happened. Collect their contact information, as you may need to reach out to them during the claims process.
- Take pictures or video of the scene. Pay close attention to skid marks on the floor and the damage that was done to vehicles on the scene.
- Also check your surroundings to be sure you’re not missing any other clues such as vehicle parts that came off during the accident.
In the few days after the accident
Your actions in the few hours after your 18-wheeler accident should give you a solid foundation already. But your claim does not really get going until you take these steps in the few days after the accident. Here’s what you should do.
#8: Write down everything you remember
All the adrenaline and pressure of the accident and its immediate aftermath may confuse your recollection. To be sure that you don’t lose anything, make sure to write down all you can remember about the accident while it’s still fresh.
This also helps you get the facts straight and may shake loose any important facts about the accident that are hidden in your subconscious. It will also be great preparation for the next important step you need to take.
#9: Consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer
Once you have done everything above, you have put yourself in prime position for a successful claim. However, the most important step that brings it all together is retaining the services of a qualified truck accident lawyer.
With the information you have recorded and the steps you have taken, your attorney will have everything they need to help you make a winning claim. It would be dangerous to assume you can make the claim on your own.
In fact, trucking companies and their insurers will be happier if they see you’re without a lawyer. This is because they know your best chance of getting fair compensation lies in working with an experienced and dedicated attorney.
Also, working with an attorney will be very key to maximizing your claim, as 18-wheeler accidents are amongst the highest paying accident claims. Your lawyer will understand exactly what needs to be done to ensure you recover everything you deserve.
#10: Inform your insurer as soon as you can
If you carry insurance, you should notify your insurer about the accident. This is usually even more important in no-fault states. In states like this, the no-fault laws require people involved in accidents to seek compensation from their own insurer first.
Failing to inform the insurer about the accident may be a breach of your insurance policy. This may be grounds for the insurer to minimize your claim or reject it out of hand.
#11: Do not speak to insurance companies on your own
This applies both to your own insurer and the trucking company’s insurance company. The reason for this is simple. Just as you’re working on maximizing your claim, the insurance company will also be working to limit their exposure.
They’ll much rather prefer to settle the claim for peanuts or reject your claim entirely if it will make their bottom line look healthier. As a result, they will call you several times in the days after the accident, looking for facts that help them minimize your claim.
Do not speak to them on your own. In fact, you should not speak to them at all. Once you have retained an attorney to handle your claim, channel all correspondence through them. This protects your claim and gives you the peace of mind you need to recover.
#12: Document your injuries and loss
If you were injured in the accident, you may be facing a lengthy process of recovery. Try to document your injuries at this period and the recovery process. Complete and comprehensive documentation is often an important part of building a strong claim.
Take pictures or a video of your injuries. If you cannot do this on your own, get one of your loved ones to do this for you. Apart from documenting your injuries, these pictures will be important to establish a claim for pain and suffering.
#13: Record every expense
Keep every medical bill and receipts for all expenses you have had to make due to the accident. This will be crucial to showing how much the accident cost you and will ground your claim for damages.
This is because damages are usually designed to compensate you for what you have lost due to the accident. If your claim gets to trial, your lawyer will need to show the exact dollar amounts of what you have lost due to the accident. Keeping this record will help make things easier.
#14: Do not dispose of evidence
This is absolutely important. On no account should you dispose of evidence before your claim is done.
What do we mean by evidence? Everything involved in the accident is evidence for the purposes of your claim. This includes the vehicle you were driving and the clothes you were wearing at the time.
Resist the impulse to repair your vehicle immediately after the accident. The vehicle itself will be necessary to show where impact occurred and how the accident happened.
Besides, a successful claim will also involve a full repair or replacement of your vehicle, if necessary. So there’s no need to rush into repairs. You can make alternative arrangements for transportation in the interim.
As your injury claim is being processed
Now, you have done everything you need to get your claim going. All that remains is to ensure you don’t do anything to damage your chances of recovering fair compensation.
#15: Maintain a crash diary
The crash diary lets you document the process of recovery and other important information. This includes how the accident affected you physically and mentally, as well as its impact on your life in the days and weeks afterward.
The diary will help you strengthen your claim, including any possible award for pain and suffering, loss of consortium and other heads of damages.
#16: Leave off social media
This cannot be emphasized enough. What you post on social media may become evidence in your 18-wheeler accident claim and may even work to minimize your claim.
For instance, if you’re injured but your Instagram shows that you attended a party, the insurance company may raise this against you. Never mind that you only attended with all necessary precautions for your injury.
Rather than go through the process of trying to manage the fallout, it makes the most sense to either leave off social media or keep the details of your accident private.
#17: Listen to your lawyer
Lastly, the greatest service you can do yourself during your claims process is to listen to your truck accident lawyer. They are very experienced at this and have processed hundreds of claims.
They know exactly how to recover the financial settlement that you deserve and will be working hard at this. Listen to their advice and recommendations. They will be vital to helping you move on from the accident.
With these tips in mind, you now have all you need to make the most of your 18-wheeler accident claim. If you were injured in an accident and would like to get started on your claims process, we can help you find an experienced lawyer that will help you move on. Our attorney matching tool will help you find the best 18 wheeler accident lawyer near you.