18 Dec Navigating The Collision Aftermath: What To Expect After a Trucking Accident
The following is a guest featured article written by Lori Dodson with our friends at CDLjobs.com.
The trucking industry has its fair share of risks, particularly for drivers. Although these drivers are highly trained and should always be fully licensed before they’re allowed on the roads, accidents still happen.
Truck drivers work extended shifts, drive long routes for equally long periods of time, and are tasked with handling hefty trucks hauling heavy cargo. Pair these factors with margins of human error, both on the side of the truck driver and other motorists, bad weather, poorly loaded cargo, and speeding, and it’s easy to see why accidents and collisions can—and do—regularly occur.
Given that truck accidents can lead to serious injuries and trauma, it’s essential that the victims involved in these accidents obtain knowledgeable attorneys and counselors to assist them. If you, an employee, or a loved one has been involved in such an accident, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
An attorney is paramount, but in the immediate aftermath of an accident the following steps must be taken:
What to Do Directly After an Accident
- Ensure your safety. Make sure you are in a safe situation if you can. After a crash, vehicles may come to a halt in dangerous places on the road, exposing you to further damage and additional collisions.
- Immediately call the police. The police must come to the scene of the accident, conduct an investigation, and write up a report to preserve evidence. Be as honest as possible with the officers, even if you’re concerned about your job being jeopardized.
- Take photographs. Snap close-up shorts of the damage to your vehicle, and wider pictures of the collision scene. These pictures could later serve as critical evidence and help police officials to determine the cause of the accident.
- Take videos. If you can, take a video of the collision scene, making sure to capture the spatial factors between important vehicles and structures right after the accident. Video can also record lighting, sound and human actions and behaviors, which could form important parts of evidence.
- Video the truck driver if you are a motorist, and vice versa. Videoing the other parties involved in a crash will ensure you have a hard copy of their statements, behavior, and demeanor.
- Gather information from witnesses. Take the names and contact details of witnesses, along with the license numbers and insurance information of parties involved in the crash. Do not admit fault at the scene of the collision. Wait for an attorney to assist you.
- Seek medical assistance. Truck accidents often result in major injuries. Even if you have no obvious bruises, lacerations, or broken bones, you may still have suffered injuries. Carefully monitor your symptoms and get medical attention if necessary.
- Don’t speak directly to insurance adjusters. Bear in mind that insurance companies and their representatives may not be acting with your best interests at heart. Rather hire a lawyer and let your attorney and those hired by other parties deal with one another on your behalf.
Understanding the Accident Claims Process
It cannot be overstated how important it is to document the accident and what happens directly after it thoroughly. Until a victim or their representative company has hired an attorney, it’s crucial that they keep every piece of information relating to the collision.
This includes any photos of the accident, police reports, eyewitness accounts, and the insurance information of other parties involved. Many commercial trucks now have vehicle-mounted cameras, and their footage can be crucial to the claims process. If video evidence is available, it should be stored securely, and copies made available for all parties involved.
Documents like emergency responder records, hospital bills, after-care and therapy documentation, and evidence of accident-related costs should also be retained to keep proper legal records.
How Legal Proceedings Take Place
When a road accident involving standard passenger motor vehicles takes place, the plaintiff will usually make a claim to recover damages with the responsible driver’s insurance carrier. However, accidents that involve commercial vehicles like trucks can involve numerous potential defendants.
Upon being involved in an accident, the attorney brought in to assess the case will identify all the defendants, and contact their chosen insurance companies. These defendants could include the truck driver, the truck’s owner or lessor, and the employer of the driver, among other parties.
As an example, consider an accident that involves a vehicle owned by a national logistics company. The business may hire fleets of trucks from many owners across the nation, and they may employ their own drivers or subcontract them from an outside organization. Depending on the factors involved in the accident, the driver, truck owner, national company, and the driver’s employer may all be held legally responsible.
Once these responsible parties have been identified, an attorney will supply each defendant’s insurance carrier with a notice of representation. The victim’s attorney will issue a demand letter to each insurance company representing the defendants to inform them of the types and costs of damages the victim is seeking.
The Medical Assessment Process
While the lawyer investigates the accident further and identifies the defendants involved, medical professionals will check in on the victim’s medical diagnoses. This medical prognosis needs to be properly confirmed before the damages can be assessed.
Depending on how severe the sustained injuries are, this process can take weeks, or even months, to complete. Some victims may require a number of surgeries or long-term treatments and rehabilitation processes before the impacts of an accident can be properly gauged by a physician.
To Settle or Not to Settle?
Once a prognosis has been reached, medical experts will reassess the case to determine past and future medical costs, lost income, and the future financial impacts of the injuries on the victim’s ability to earn a living. This process may require the input of occupational professionals, economists, vocational experts, and doctors, among other specialists. Once the damages have been calculated, the lawyer will submit a letter of demand to the relevant insurance companies.
Then, once the defendants’ insurers have been notified, adjusters and attorneys will begin to negotiate a settlement agreement based on the demand letters’ stipulations. Insurers may also call in their own experts to assess the prognosis and develop a counteroffer.
If the parties involved are not able to come to an agreement, the case will proceed to trial to be settled in a court of law.