Parker Waichman LLP

If you’ve ever seen a semi-truck tipped over on the side of the road, you’re likely well aware of the destruction a big rig can leave in their wake. And if you’ve been hit by a commercial truck and lived to tell the tale, consider yourself fortunate. Large trucks contributed to nearly 5,000 fatal accidents in 2020, many due to driver negligence, mechanical problems, and bad weather.

Regardless of why you were hit by a truck, the outcome remains the same: Your car is likely totaled, and you might be lying in a hospital bed wondering what your recourse is against the driver who hit you. Here is what to do following a truck accident.

Move Your Vehicle Out of the Road

Trucking accidents often leave vehicles scattered about the road in every direction, and it’s no surprise why. Picture a charging bull, only much bigger, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what big rigs can do to cars. After an accident, you might see cars flipped upside-down or even tossed across the median into the path of oncoming traffic.

If it’s safe for you to do so, move your car out of the road so other drivers don’t hit it. On the highway, where people travel at high speeds, it’s all too easy for them not to see your car until it’s too late.

If you cannot move your car, set up visual cues to alert drivers of the accident. Some drivers carry kits with them that contain brightly colored signs and flares for emergencies.

Contact Law Enforcement

Nearly all truck accidents leave drivers with property damage and at least some kind of injury. If either scenario applies to you, you must file an accident report with the local police. How long you have to do this depends on the state in which you live.

In Florida, you have 10 days from the date of the accident to tell police if the accident involved injury, death, or property damage over $500. The law is the same for New Jersey and New York. In other states, the deadline for contacting police may vary.

If you fail to report the accident after being hit by a truck, you may have to pay a fine, and the DMV may even temporarily suspend your license (although this is more common if you flee the accident scene). In nearly every case, don’t leave the scene until the police arrive. The exception would be if you’re hurt and must go to the hospital.

Gather Evidence at the Accident Scene

There’s no better time to collect evidence than immediately after your accident. If you’re not badly hurt, pull out your phone and start taking pictures of everything that seems relevant to your case. This could include pictures of injuries, damage to your car, the semi-truck, road conditions, faulty traffic lights, or anything else that catches your eye.

You should also write down contact details for any witnesses. If the accident happened in front of a business, note the time of day. Your lawyer might want to visit the business to speak with anyone who may have witnessed the accident.

Ask all involved drivers for their insurance information. You’ll need to jot down:

  • Their name, phone number, and address
  • Insurance policy information
  • Contact details for the driver’s employer if they were driving a company-owned truck when they hit you
  • Their license plate number

You should also consider keeping a journal to store evidence you’ve gathered. In your journal, you can describe the events of the accident in detail, which could be helpful to the truck accident lawyer who takes your case. A journal also makes a good place to store photos and records of medical treatment.

See a Doctor

If you’re lucky enough to escape a truck accident with what may appear to be only bumps and bruises, seeking medical attention is still a good idea. It’s very common for accident victims to feel fine right after an accident, but that’s because they’re simply in shock. Only after the adrenaline wears off do they realize how much pain they are in.

Whiplash is a very common injury that crops up after truck accidents. If a truck or another car hits you from behind, your neck can snap forward at an incredible speed. Often, victims don’t feel pain until days after the accident.

Internal bleeding is another common outcome of truck accidents. This is a rather sneaky problem because there’s no way to tell you have internal bleeding without undergoing tests. Your doctor can tell you whether you’re bleeding internally or have damage to your organs, neck, or spine.

Another reason it’s so important to see a doctor is that your lawyer will need those records if you wish to sue the truck driver. Without them, the insurance company will try to say your injuries weren’t all that bad.

Know the Statute of Limitations in Your State

If you intend to sue the truck driver or their employer, it’s critical to know the statute of limitations for personal injury claims where you live. This is the deadline by which you must file a claim if you wish to seek damages. Pass the deadline, and the law bars you from recovering compensation.

Here are a few of the state laws around statutes of limitation for truck accidents. In New York, you must file a claim within three years (or two years for a wrongful death). In New Jersey, you have two years to make a claim. Previously, Florida gave accident victims up to four years to make a claim. The law changed recently, and now, you must file a claim within two years.

Speak With an Attorney Before Talking to the Insurance Company

After you’ve been hit by a truck, you’ll likely have calls from the other driver’s insurance company. Remember that insurance company employees are not your pals, no matter how genuine and kind they seem. They aim to pay you as little as possible, and to that end, they’ll fish for information that could allow them to reduce your settlement or deny your claim.

Avoid speaking to anyone from the insurance company if you haven’t yet talked to a lawyer. Your lawyer can advise you on what to say (and not to say) so you don’t accidentally divulge something that ruins your case.

Remember that you do not owe the adjuster the complete story of what happened during the accident. Don’t talk about pre-existing medical problems or mechanical issues you had with your car.

The adjuster could say, “You had back pain before you got in an accident,” or, “If you’d fixed your brake pads, you wouldn’t have gotten into an accident in the first place.” Any blame they can place on you could give them cause to deny your claim.

The number-one rule of talking to insurance adjusters is never admitting fault for anything. Even if you played a part in the accident (perhaps you were speeding or distracted by your phone), do not say so. Tell the adjuster only basic facts, such as your name and address.

Prove Negligence With the Help of Your Lawyer

If you hope to sue the truck driver and win, your lawyer must prove the accident was the driver’s fault. How they accomplish this varies a bit by state, but typically, they’ll need to show that the driver acted negligently.

Speeding, drug use, and fatigue are common causes of truck accidents. Drivers feel pressured by trucking companies to deliver their loads as quickly as possible, no matter the cost. Many drive for long hours without sleep despite Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations.

In an accident with a regular car, it’s often difficult to prove the driver acted negligently. After a truck accident, though, your lawyer may be able to ask the driver’s employer for the truck’s black box. This box is a treasure trove of information, such as the driver’s speed, braking, hours driven, and stops taken.

Contact Us If You’ve Been Hit by a Truck

Semi-trucks outweigh your car by a few tons, so when one hits you, you may be left with a totaled car and stacks of medical bills you can’t possibly pay on your own. If you’re ready to hold the truck driver responsible, contact the Truck Accidents Law Firm at 1-800-LAW-INFO today.