Get general answers to the most common questions accident victims ask after they have been hit by a semi truck. Note that none of these answers constitutes legal advice and that the answers may not apply to your unique situation.
You can work with an experienced truck accident attorney to determine the best strategy for your unique truck accident injury case and how the law applies to your situation.
What to Do After Getting Hit By a Semi Truck
I’ve Been Hit by a Large Truck! What Do I Do Next?
Your first priority is your own safety and your passengers’. Check on everyone in the vehicle, including yourself. If you are in a dangerous stretch of road, determine whether you can pull your vehicle over to a safer location.
Your second priority is to check on the status of other drivers involved. You want to dial for emergency services (911) as soon as possible, but they need to know how many people are seriously hurt. If you are seriously hurt or cannot reasonably access the other vehicles without putting yourself in danger, dial 911 first.
I Can’t Tell If I’m Hurt or Not. What Should I Do?
There’s a high chance that you have sustained serious injuries after a semi truck accident. If you see serious wounds, feel intense pain, or experience unusual sensations, do not move from your current position.
Get someone else to call emergency services if possible, and if you are the only one in the vehicle then dial emergency services and then remain as still as possible. Moving or extracting yourself from the wreckage could cause further damage and health complications.
Should I Do Anything While I Wait for Police to Arrive?
If you are in a relatively safe area and are feeling like you can walk, you will want to document the accident with photos or video. Try to capture as much of the scene as you can, including damage to your vehicle, your wounds, your position relative to other vehicles, and any road conditions, such as nearby stop signs or turning lanes.
Make sure to photograph the license plate of the semi truck and any registration numbers you can see upon the rear of the trailer or the sides of the semi cab. You will also want the contact information of other drivers involved. Take a photo of their license and their insurance policy card, if they give you permission.
After taking photos, you can take statements from any witnesses. Get their contact information, as well.
When Should I Contact Insurance Companies?
You should call your own insurance company within 24 hours of the accident to let them know you have a possible claim. You will not be able to provide all of the relevant details immediately, but they can begin the process of filing a claim either for their own coverage or through a third party’s.
If another party is likely going to assume fault for the accident, you should contact their insurance provider within a few hours of the accident. Tell them the relevant information about their policy holder, but avoid discussing details of the accident with them. If they ask for specific information, say “that information will be provided following a pending investigation.” The last thing you want to do is give them information that can be used against you to invalidate your liability claim.
Do I Need a Truck Accident Lawyer After My Accident?
It can be said with 100% objectivity and honesty that a truck accident attorney can greatly benefit the outcome of a truck accident injury case, potentially including a higher chance at obtaining a fair settlement that provides restitution for all damages, past and future.
When it comes to minor accidents that result in no injuries and no damage beyond minor repairs, accident victims might decide to leave their settlement to chance. However, if you have sustained injuries and accrued medical bills after the accident, the entire process becomes more complicated.
Having a personal injury attorney represent you can ensure you make informed decisions, avoid common mistakes, get the documentation you need to strengthen your case, and generally get guidance through the process. Your attorney can also negotiate with insurers on your behalf, reducing the risk that you are offered an unfair settlement because they do not take your claim seriously.
The Other Driver Is Angry and Saying the Accident Was My Fault! What Do I Do?
You do not need to talk to the other driver aside from gathering their contact information and insurance information. Do not discuss details of the accident with anyone except police.
Simply put, it does not matter what accusations other drivers want to level at you. The decision of fault is not their’s to make. The police officer who responds to the scene of the accident will determine whether someone made a mistake or broke the law before the accident occurred. They will likely issue a citation to any driver that made decisions that caused the accident.
If you feel like you are in danger based on the actions of other people at the scene, you have the right to flee to another location where you might be safer. You must tell police that you feel threatened and where they can locate you. Otherwise, you may be charged with fleeing the scene of an accident.
When Can I Request a Copy of the Accident Report?
For a typical accident, the process of completing the investigation and filling out the necessary paperwork may take two to three weeks. For a more serious or complex accident, the investigation itself could take 4-6 weeks or longer. Police investigators might be able to give you a broad estimate at first and then a more specific estimate as time passes. A good rule of thumb is to contact the police department that responded to your accident a week after the accident and to follow up every two weeks after for a status update.
Receiving Medical Care After Being Hit by a Semi Truck
I Don’t Think I’m Hurt. Do I Need to Go to the Hospital?
You should always go to the nearest qualified emergency department (ER) after you have been in a truck accident. You want to rule out any injuries that you cannot currently feel while adrenaline is pumping. You also want to avoid a situation where a liable party claims you were not injured because you did not seek medical care.
What Should I Say at the ER If I Don’t Have Any Obvious Injuries?
Tell them you have been in a serious accident and want to rule out any hidden injuries or complications. Tell your care provider about any pain, discomfort, or other symptoms you may have.
Also tell them about the circumstances of the wreck so that they can look for likely injuries. For instance, if you were hit on the side (T-bone), have them examine your knee and shoulder. If you were hit from behind, ask to rule out whiplash.
Should I Get X Rays and Tests at the Hospital If I’m Not Sure I’m Hurt?
Your care provider will recommend the necessary tests based on your symptoms. They will be able to determine the likelihood that you have broken bones or other hidden injuries.
However, sometimes you may need or want to ask for tests and imaging if you are worried about a potential symptom. If you have a tremendous amount of neck pain, for instance, but they can’t detect anything, you can opt to have an MRI voluntarily.
They Want to Call Me an Ambulance. Should I Get One?
An ambulance is always called if there is a serious injury or the signs of one. Accident scene responders take a “better safe than sorry” approach, and you should, too. If there is an ambulance dispatched to your location, you can usually have paramedics look you over before deciding whether or not to ride in the ambulance. Ambulances provide a much safer trip to the hospital compared to a normal vehicle, reducing the risk that any hidden injuries are made worse during the trip.
Also, the use of an ambulance can provide documentation of the severity of the accident. If you fear that you have a concussion or broken bones but decline an ambulance, any liable parties could claim you weren’t seriously injured.
I’m Worried About Paying for My Medical Care. Should I Still Go to the Hospital?
Yes. It is a sad fact that medical care is so expensive in this country. Even if you have no insurance and are convinced that you will not be able to make a third-party liability claim, you should still visit the hospital for your own sake.
For one, you may still have an injury liability case despite initial appearances. For two, you should never risk your health for any reason. You could have hidden injuries that will only become worse over time if not diagnosed and treated immediately.
I Went to the Doctor and Started Receiving Treatment, But Now I Feel All Better! Can I Just Stop Going to My Appointments?
Don’t stop receiving medical treatment until your physicians say that you are 100% cleared. If you ignore their instructions for, say, a rehab appointment, a third-party insurer may allege that you made your injuries worse or that you weren’t that hurt to begin with.
Determining Fault and Liability After a Semi Truck Accident
How Do I Know Who Was at Fault for an Accident and Whether I Can File on Their Insurance?
Simply put: you won’t know who is at fault until you do. Fault can only be objectively determined through a court proceeding. However, most auto accidents either end up with one party assuming fault (liability), or all parties avoiding the assumption of liability but agreeing to a settlement anyways.
Always get the insurance information and contact information of the other driver, even if they might potentially not be at fault. The matter of fault can take months or years to decide, and new factors like whether or not the driver was in compliance with FMCSA laws can come to light later.
I Got Issued a Citation (Ticket) After the Accident. Am I At Fault?
Police officers cannot determine the matter of legal fault or liability for an accident. Liability must either be voluntarily declared or determined by the courts.
The person who receives a citation can be a strong indicator of fault, but it is far from the final word. This is especially true if multiple people were issued a citation. You can also always dispute the ticket in court, meaning it is a charge of a violation rather than a conviction.
What Is Comparative Fault?
California is a pure, comparative fault state. That means that someone will always be determined to be at-fault for an accident, or that people will share fault according to their contribution to the accident. For instance, if you and a truck driver both made mistakes, you could split fault 50-50.
What Happens If I Share Comparative Fault?
The total value of your truck accident settlement will be calculated according to all of your covered expenses, as usual, but the final value will then be split by the percentage of fault the other driver(s) are assigned. For instance, if you have $1 million settlement but were 30% at fault and the other driver is 70% at fault, you only get 70% of $1 million, or $700,000.
How Is Comparative Fault Determined?
Comparative fault can sometimes be determined arbitrarily, especially when the police accident report and citations are used as the bulk of fault-determining evidence. However, comparative fault can be disputed just like regular fault. The parties involved will have to either come to an agreement as to how to split fault or be forced to take the matter to a lawsuit to get the court’s opinion.
What Do I Do if the Other Driver or Insurer Does Not Want to Admit Fault?
Even though fault can only be determined objectively through the legal system, investigations by crash forensics teams and personal investigators can point strongly enough towards fault that one party or the other might have a change of heart.
Simply put: the stronger evidence and argument you have, the more likely an insurer is likely to assume fault and offer a settlement to close the matter. Working with an experienced truck accident attorney
The Other Driver Didn’t Get a Citation and Doesn’t Appear to Have Made Any Driving Mistakes. How Can They Possibly Be at Fault?
There are many complex factors in a personal injury case, and most hinge upon the legal concept of “negligence.” To put negligence in a nutshell: it refers to someone taking actions, making decisions, or skipping procedures that put people in direct danger and cause an accident that leads to an injury.
Even if the truck driver has a squeaky clean record and isn’t given a citation for their driving, the driver or their employer may still have committed an act of negligence in other ways. Perhaps the driver was working too many hours, impairing their ability to drive? Perhaps the employer was not in compliance with truck inspections and repairs, leading to brakes that didn’t function properly?
Many of these factors may not come to light until weeks or even months after the accident. Police forensics units and independent investigators may also unearth new evidence. Anything is possible, and the issue of fault is never final until a settlement is agreed to or a court ruling is made.
I Can’t Come to an Agreement with the Other Driver or Their Insurance Company. What Happens Next?
If allegedly at-fault parties involved in the accident (or their insurer) do not declare fault or offer you a fair settlement, your next option is to file a damages claim through the courts through a formal complaint (lawsuit). During the course of the lawsuit, the insurer may make a more fair and generous offer, or the lawsuit may conclude in a ruling through a judge, jury, or arbitrator.
If you have had no luck negotiating with an insurer on your own up to this point, you may possibly benefit from acquiring a truck accident lawyer. They can help strengthen your claim, negotiate on your behalf, or eventually file a lawsuit if no agreement can be made.
What to Say and What Not to Say After Your Semi Truck Accident
Who Should I Discuss My Truck Accident With?
The first thing to recognize is that you aren’t obligated to talk to anyone about your accident except the police, your insurer, and any insurance companies you might potentially have a claim with. You only need to talk to other drivers long enough to exchange contact and insurance information. You may need to talk to your employer to let them know why you might miss work because of a wrecked car or a personal injury. You may also want to work with a semi truck accident injury attorney to help handle your claim.
As for everyone else, including your own friends and family, avoid talking about your accident if at all possible.
Why Can’t I Talk About My Truck Accident With Anyone I Want To?
You are likely going to want to discuss your accident just to get it off your chest. Also, people will be curious and want details. Unfortunately, sharing details can jeopardize the impartiality of the independent investigations being conducted by your insurer, other drivers’ insurers, and any other parties with interest.
Even a seemingly innocent statement like, “we had been to a ball game and were pretty tired” can come back to haunt you through accusations. A good rule of thumb is to not tell anyone anything they would not read on the accident report.
Can I Post About My Accident on Social Media?
You really shouldn’t, but you have that option. Posting information about your accident is not only likely to generate questions you’ll feel obligated to answer, but it also serves as a permanent semi-public record. Anything you say or post can potentially be used against you during case proceedings, even after it’s deleted. Avoiding discussion of the accident can be the best policy in most cases.
Who Should I Be Most Open With After My Truck Accident?
Arguably, there are only two people who need to know every last detail of the accident according to your knowledge: the police, and your semi truck accident attorney. You should always be honest and truthful with everyone else, but you can also withhold information at your discretion.
Who Should I Be Most Wary About Talking to After My Truck Accident?
The parties with the most to gain by obtaining information that can be used against you are the other allegedly liable parties and their insurers. In fact, insurance investigators and defense attorneys have the strongest incentive to get information that hurts your case. Accordingly, only reveal information contained on the police report. You do not have to elaborate on your statements made. You do not have to provide any details aside from your name, your address, your employer/occupation, your insurer, and the case number for the police investigation.
Paying Medical Bills After a Truck Accident
Who Pays My Bills for My Emergency Room Visit and Treatment?
You are responsible for paying all of your medical bills at the time services are rendered. You can optionally use your medical insurance or Med Pay coverage to cover the costs.
If I Pay Medical Bills With My Insurance, Do I Have to Share My Settlement With Them?
In almost all cases, your insurer will want to be compensated for coverage they provide for expenses that will later be covered by a third-party liability insurer. The act of obtaining this compensation is called “subrogation,” and it means you are legally obligated to use your settlement to reimburse them.
My Insurer/The Third-Party Insurer Wants to Negotiate My Bills! What Happens?
Your medical insurance provider has the option to dispute the cost of a bill and attempt to negotiate a lower price for your medical care. In some instances, a third-party insurer may attempt to do the same.
When it comes to subrogation, you are only covering the final cost of care, which means that your medical insurance provider cannot pocket more for your settlement than they paid. If you paid out of pocket, the third-party insurer may not be able to negotiate for lower healthcare costs since they are reimbursing you, not the care provider.
I Gave the Hospital My Insurance Information and I Still Got a Bill! What Gives?
Hospitals are notoriously slow and disorganized when it comes to billing. You may receive a bill that has technically already been paid weeks ago. Before assuming whether or not you do owe the amount on the bill, contact the provider’s billing department. Ensure they have your insurance information on file and that it is correct. Stay in contact with your medical insurance provider to receive confirmation for expenses that have been covered.
I Have No Health Insurance and Can’t Pay My Debt Until I Get a Truck Accident Settlement. What Now?
If you have no health insurance or Med Pay coverage, you will have to basically owe a debt to your various care providers. The hospital will send you a bill — likely one that says “past due” — and urge you to make payments or pay in full. At their discretion, they may be able to charge you fees, penalties, or interest on the debt.
You can also arrange a “medical lien” agreement to delay payment until you receive your truck accident settlement.
What Is a Medical Lien, and How Does It Work?
A medical lien is an agreement between you and a care provider to put your payment on hold until you receive a settlement. Your care providers then have first priority to take what you owe them out of the settlement.
Medical liens are arranged at the discretion of each provider, and they often take a skilled truck accident attorney to persuade providers to agree to. You may also have some providers not agree to a lien while others do.
Documenting Injuries After an Eighteen Wheeler Accident
Why Do I Need to Visit the ER if I Don’t Have Major Injuries?
Going to the ER for a few cuts and scrapes may seem like overkill, but you want to be looked at immediately for a few reasons. First, you want to be sure you’re not hurt worse than you think. Second, you need a baseline medical record after your accident. An emergency room visit will be thorough and include all the necessary tests to obtain documentation of exactly how hurt you were after an accident. Otherwise, you could wait to visit a clinic days later and have insurers allege you weren’t hurt until then.
How Do I Get My Auto Accident Doctors to Provide the Level of Detail I Need in My Medical Documentation?
Ask nicely! Review your documentation and pretend that you are someone else reading about your case. Could they piece together every symptom, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment just by reading the report? Can they get specific, such as being able to pinpoint the exact location of a scar? If not, make sure that every detail is there.
What Medical Records Should I Keep?
All of them. No, seriously. Any records of a visit, treatment, or expense you should keep. You should also keep receipts for expenses necessary to your treatment. If you had to pay for parking or catch a cab to go to the doctor’s office, for instance, those expenses may be eligible for reimbursement.
Who Should Have Copies of My Medical Records?
Keep all original versions of your medical records for yourself, and provide copies to your truck accident attorney. You should also be able to provide copies to your medical insurance, your auto insurance, or a third-party insurer if need be, although all of these entities should have copies sent to them automatically.
Truck Driver Laws and Potential Liabilities
What Is a Blind Spot on a Truck?
A blind spot is area around a semi-truck where the semi-truck driver cannot see. These areas cannot be seen out of the front window, or by the semi-truck driver’s mirrors. Blind spots exist on semi-trucks, and if you are located in a trucks blind spot, they will not be able to see you.
A good rule of thumb is that if you cannot see the mirrors of the semi-truck, the semi-truck driver cannot see you. This is not always true, but generally the easiest way to think about it.
What Happens If I’m Hit While in the Blind Spot?
Defensive driving must be practiced at all times around semi-trucks, to avoid these blind spots. Minimize the time that you and your vehicle are located in these blind spots, and you decrease the risk of being in a semi-truck accident.
If a truck driver hits you while you are in their blind spot, you could potentially be at fault instead of them. However, you may have partial or “comparative fault”
Wait, Shouldn’t Blind Spots Be Illegal?
Blind spots are an unavoidable part of large truck design, but that is changing. There are new technologies that are starting to remove the blind spots on trucks. These technologies include video cameras, ultrasonic sonar type systems, RFID systems, and specialty mirror systems. These cannot be relied upon, as most of these systems have yet to take a large role in the semi-truck community. Until these systems are more widespread, it is easier to assume these technologies are not in use when driving around large trucks.
What Is Microsleep? And How Does It Affect Truck Drivers?
Microsleep is where the brain briefly shuts down to micro “sleep” to make up for a long period of time without sleep. The microsleep occurs in a few fractions of a second, up to half a minute. The brain does not function well, and is often associated with confusion, disorientation, and lapse in vision, decision making, and most importantly, a strong lack of reflexes. Microsleep is the result of sleep deprivation.
Ever been driving a car late at night, and finding yourself having to shake yourself awake as your head keeps dropping? Where you jerk awake and feel like you were drifting off? That is an example of “microsleep.” If this happens you should pull over and rest for a few hours.
Semi-truck driver have strict schedules, and have long hours. The laws state they have restrictions on the number of hours they can work. Often these laws are broken, as truck drivers get paid when they complete the trip. The drivers and their companies push extra miles, and therefore extra hours. The extra hours late at night often causes semi-truck drivers to be particularly susceptible to accidents.
Studies have shown that the more sleep deprivation a person is, the larger the accident risk. There are some studies that show that 20% of accidents at night are a result of some type of sleep-related disorder. This includes sleep deprivation and sleep debt.