An accident between an automobile and a semi-truck is a uniquely perilous situation. In a collision, a semi-truck’s enormous mass advantage creates a high risk of death or serious injury for a car’s occupants. Less obvious is the issue of liability. When a semi-truck is involved in an accident, liability can fall on the driver, the trucking company, manufacturers of the truck’s components or the subcontractor that loaded the trailer. Because of these factors, the moves you make in the aftermath of an accident may shape the rest of your life.
What To Do on the Accident Day
Many of the steps you should take in the aftermath of an accident with a semi-truck are good practices for any vehicular incident.
Notify First Responders
If any individual involved in the accident suffered injuries, dial 911 immediately. The operator may want you to remain on the call until first responders arrive. If you are able, you may assist injured persons with the guidance of the 911 operator. Avoid moving persons if you suspect neck or back injuries. Well-meaning efforts may cause disabling spine injuries. Indiana law requires drivers to remain near the site of an injury-causing accident until dismissal by a law enforcement officer.
Move Obstructing Vehicles
When an auto accident occurs, Indiana law requires motorists to move drivable vehicles out of the way of traffic flow. Before moving your car, you may quickly take a few photographs if you can perform that task without compromising your safety. After moving your vehicle, keep the emergency flashers on until first responders arrive.
After an accident, Indiana law requires that all involved drivers display their operator’s license and make available their name, address and vehicle license number to all other persons involved in the accident. Your emotions may run high during this time, but do your best to remain calm and courteous. Neither apologize nor accuse other drivers. If witnesses are present, politely ask them for their contact information. Do not ask witnesses for their recollection or make any attempt to shape their perception. Thoroughly photograph the accident scene to the degree traffic permits. If you or persons in your car suffered injuries, photograph the injuries.
Photograph the condition of all vehicles, skid marks and property damage. If the accident damaged possessions in your car, photograph these as well. If possible, document the tire condition on both the semi-tractor and trailer. Indiana is a fault state. That term means that damages are awarded in line with a driver’s percentage of fault in the accident. Your documentation efforts can ensure that a settlement does not unfairly shift excess fault onto your shoulders. If the accident caused injuries, expect a law enforcement officer to ask for your explanation of what occurred. Avoid admitting fault and under no circumstances lie to the officer. If you overhear another person give a false account of the events to an officer, do not use your interview to dispute the issue. Instead, let your accurate recollection stand by itself. You may record the interview with your smartphone’s voice memo app. After providing your account, note the officer’s name and badge number and then ask for the police report number.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Nearly every auto insurance carrier requires a prompt notification after an accident. Some insurers have smartphone applications that may streamline the reporting process. If your auto policy includes roadside assistance, you may be able to arrange for a tow truck or rental car on the same phone call.
Essential Steps in the Post-Accident Days
In the days following your accident, you will not need to cope with an adrenaline rush anymore, but you will have to attend to several vital tasks.
Keep Your Medical Follow-Up Appointment
If you were treated for injuries and released on the day of the accident, it is likely the attending physician urged you to schedule a follow-up appointment with your regular doctor. Do not neglect this step, even if you feel fully recovered. Whiplash and soft-tissue injuries may take days to manifest. The follow-up appointment benefits your health — your number-one concern — and also builds documentation for obtaining the compensation you deserve.
Deal With Your Vehicle
With your medical issues on track, you can turn to the state of your car. Much like the human body, an automobile may have significant damage that only shows up with a detailed examination. If your vehicle is repairable, take care to receive a comprehensive appraisal before any work commences. This appraisal is essential for recovering property damages. If your insurance carrier specifies a list of approved body shops, use one of their providers. If the accident totaled your vehicle and your injuries do not prohibit driving, you should begin a search for a replacement car. Insurance payments for a rental car stop with a property damage settlement.
Create an Accident File
At the earliest possible moment, write down your account of the accident. You may wish to draw a diagram illustrating the movements of the involved vehicles. When finished, take a time-stamped photograph of your efforts, and make these documents the first entries in your accident file. This file will serve as your single repository for information needed to get your life back on track. The file should also include:
- Accident scene photos
- The police report number
- A symptom diary charting your injury recovery
- All records of medical tests and treatments
- Sick days claimed with your employer
- Rental car expenses
As your treatment progresses, you may deal with a succession of physicians and therapists. Having your medical documents organized will streamline your treatment and support your insurance claim.
Watch What You Say
Within a few days of the accident, your insurance carrier’s adjuster is likely to phone you. Take care with this conversation. The adjuster has an incentive to limit your payout, and that fact means you must tread carefully with this contact. If the adjuster opens the conversation with “How are you doing?” reply with “How can I help you?” Similarly, politely decline if the adjuster asks for permission to record the conversation. Consider consulting an attorney before moving forward with the adjusting stage. Your insurance company may offer you an early settlement deal for both injuries and property damages. This settlement may not be in your interests. Calculating property damage is a straightforward process, but evaluating the harm of injuries may take months. Once again, an attorney can help you sort through these issues. Social media presents another minefield. Any account of the accident you post on the internet will be fair game for the opposing counsel if you choose to pursue legal action. Deleting the post may not solve this problem. With the ever-expanding capabilities of web-scraping software, a deleted post may reappear as an exhibit in a trial. Make “The internet never forgets” your mantra and avoid sabotaging your attorney.
Proven Legal Help for Semi-Truck Accidents
If you are involved in an accident with a semi-truck, the trucking company and your insurance carrier will have experienced legal counsel at their backs. You deserve an experienced truck accident attorney in your corner. Hensley Legal Group has decades of experience helping drivers injured in semi-truck accidents, and our fee will never exceed one-third of the money we collect for you. We invite you to contact us.
Consumer’s Guide for Injured Victims by John D. Hensley
A Quick Guide to Property Damage by John D. Hensley
Indiana Code Title 9. Motor Vehicles § 9-26-1-1.1
Indiana Driver’s Manual – Chapter 8