Commercial truck accidents are devastating events that often lead to significant injuries, property damages, and even death. For victims and survivors of these horrific events, compensation can be a lifeline and hope for the future.
If you are ever in a big-rig truck accident and are interested in receiving the maximum possible compensation for your losses, you should understand that there are a few things you must do following the wreck to increase your chances of getting a high-dollar payout. It’s almost always in your best interest to contact an experienced Tampa truck accident attorney following your accident.
Get to a Safe Place
If you can safely move yourself and your vehicle, do so. Get to a place of safety, such as the shoulder, emergency lane, turnout, or parking lot. The danger created by vehicles left on the road is immense and can cause pile-ups and further injuries to occur.
Per Florida law, if you are in any vehicle accident, you must render reasonable assistance when possible. Rendering aid in this context consists of helping the injured receive medical assistance. If other drivers or passengers need aid, you need to help out in any way possible.
Consider Seeking Medical Attention
Sadly, commercial truck accidents lead to some of the most severe crashes and wrecks on the road. In many cases, these accidents’ injured victims are taken to the hospital for immediate treatment and evaluation.
On the off chance that you are in a truck crash and are not taken to the hospital, consider seeking medical treatment as soon as possible. You may have sustained unknown injuries that could become exacerbated if not tended to.
Additionally, if you file a claim for compensation for injuries you have suffered, you will need a timely medical report of said injuries. Without one, doubts can reasonably be raised as to the source of your injuries.
File a Report with the Authorities
Florida reporting requirements mandate that drivers alert authorities when an accident involves:
- $500 or more of property damage
- An injury or a fatality
- The involvement of a drunk driver
Failing to report an accident in a timely manner (in Florida, that is ten days following the accident) can result in a misdemeanor charge. It can also cause you to lose out on valuable compensation. A police report is a vital record that victims need to file truck accident injury claims and lawsuits. Without one, proving liability becomes a major challenge.
However, you should know that in many truck accident cases, the police will automatically arrive and take a report down themselves. When this occurs, drivers do not have to file the report themselves, but they should quickly get a copy of the officer’s report for future purposes.
Gather Evidence Safely
You will need evidence to back up your compensation claim, and some of the best evidence will come directly from the accident scene.
Other Drivers’ Information
Write down the name and contact information of every driver involved in the accident, including the make and model of the vehicles they were driving and the license plate numbers of their vehicles.
For the commercial truck driver, make sure you write down the driver’s Department of Transportation (DOT) number and any of their employer information. You can add the employer to your claim for compensation, even if the employer was not necessarily negligent.
Information Regarding Witnesses
If witnesses are present at the scene of the accident, their statements can prove immensely helpful in your claim, especially if they do not know you or the commercial truck driver. Approach anyone who was there and politely ask them for their name and contact information so you can contact them later. Although full contact details are the best, an email or a phone number can suffice.
As you collect that information, you might find that a witness is open to being recorded while making their statement. Take full advantage of such an opportunity if it’s made available, as hearing fresh accident testimony is always stronger than testimony gathered too long to fully remember after the fact.
Traffic Control Details
Take note of the various traffic control measures in the area of the crash. Snap photos of stop signs or traffic lights and of any other signs or markings. Don’t forget to gather photos of the road that show the type of road lines that were present, as well as the existence of special commercial truck lanes and markings.
Surveillance and Traffic Cam Locations
Given today’s advancements in technology, it is very likely that at least one camera captured the entire truck accident. At the scene, look around and identify the locations of any and all cameras in the area, including traffic and highway cams, along with any residential and business surveillance cameras. Their contents will prove valuable in your claim for compensation.
Truck Accident Scene Information
The scene of a truck accident contains plenty of valuable information for a compensation claim, and most of it can be photographed or filmed in a way that a truck accident attorney can later use.
For example, truck and car skid marks are quite probative for various issues, such as:
- The speed of the drivers
- The drivers’ locations
- The drivers’ reaction times
- The drivers’ attentiveness
Other valuable information at a fresh accident scene includes:
- The extent of truck and vehicle damage
- The injuries of involved parties, or lack thereof
- The presence of scattered intoxicants, such as cans or bottles of alcohol
Additionally, you will want to make sure that you gather your photos or video footage from multiple angles.
Start a Post-Accident Journal of Your Day-to-Day Life
Aftrer an accident, begin documenting the daily struggles caused by the injuries you suffered. Part of the compensation you may deserve covers disruptions to your life, and a daily journal can provide powerful evidence of how the wreck compromised your life.
If you were normally an active member of your community who regularly participated in community events, truck accident injuries might knock you out of commission. As such, a journal that documents your suffering could demonstrate that you can no longer go to a place like a local community center because you are unable to leave your bed or home.
Limit Your Social Media Posts About the Accident
Social media is how people communicate these days, but the public nature of such platforms requires accident victims to take extreme caution when posting details of their truck accident. What victims post on various platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube, can end up costing them significant compensation due to a simple slip of the tongue—or keyboard in a case like this.
In other words, everything you say on the web can subsequently be used by an insurance company and their attorney to fortify their position of paying you less or outright denying your claim. Even if you are 100 percent not at fault in a trucking accident, something you write down, either flippantly or with significant premeditation, can sometimes come back and wreak havoc on your claim.
Maintain a Record of Your Accident-Related Expenses
Keep a record of all of your medical account balances and any other expenses related to the truck accident for compensation purposes later on down the line.
Include expenses such as:
- Treatment-related travel expenses
- Costs for hiring domestic homecare help
Later, your truck accident attorney will be able to use these records to demonstrate the precise dollar values of the economic damages you have suffered as a direct result of the accident.
Do Not Sign Anything or Make Any Official Statements
After your accident, you may end up being contacted by an insurance company handling some or all of your compensation payments. Always remember that the goals of these companies are to pay you less than you deserve. Doing so allows them to preserve their profits and grow as a company.
One of those tactics they’ll use to accomplish that is to get accident victims to agree to statements that might cast doubt on the liability of their clients or shift the blame onto the victims. Hence, victims must refrain from communicating with insurance companies unless they are fully represented by their counsel.
Another tactic they use is getting victims to sign and accept quick and easy settlements, which effectively bars them from the compensation they truly deserve. Insurance companies know how desperately victims need these funds and will typically dangle quick and easy money just to tempt victims into closing out the case for less than they deserve without knowing any better.
With a truck accident attorney on your side, all offers of compensation and other communications will have to pass through them, and with the eyes of experience, your truck accident attorney will know whether an offer is valid or an attempt to close the case.
Get a Vehicle Appraisal Unless Destroyed
Contrary to popular belief, not all vehicles involved in trucking accidents are completely destroyed. With that being said, you will want to get your vehicle appraised as soon as possible if it survives the accident, prior to getting it repaired at an auto shop. The repair estimates you receive will eventually form part of your claim for compensation.
However, if you get your car repaired too quickly, you might choose an auto shop that is not part of the approved network of mechanics used by the insurance company that is handling your claim. You might also run afoul of some other procedural requirement by seeking to get a repair done too quickly.
Instead, have your vehicle towed from the scene and wait to learn the “how” with regard to its repairs before you act on them.
Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible
If you or someone you love has been harmed in a truck accident, the compensation you or they may eventually receive will depend greatly on whether a solid truck accident lawyer represents you. The extent of your injuries and losses is, of course, relevant, but to maximize your claim for compensation, you need a seasoned truck accident lawyer to begin representing you as soon as possible.
The principal focus of your truck accident lawyer will be maximizing your claim for compensation, which is accomplished by making sure that every compensable damage you have suffered is taken into account and assigned an acceptable payment figure.
Besides vehicle damage reimbursement, the funds that truck accident victims are typically entitled to include a variety of compensatory damages under the right circumstances. However, it is important to note that Florida is a no-fault insurance state, and therefore, drivers have their own personal injury protection (PIP) insurance.
PIP insurance only covers up to $10,000 of medical bills and a percentage of a victim’s lost wages, so if your truck accident yielded serious injuries, it is likely that the $10,000 won’t cover your medical bills.
Fortunately, Florida truck accident victims can pursue more compensation once their PIP insurance payments run out. Additionally, compensation claims beyond PIP insurance can include a variety of other important damages, most notably non-economic damages.
Non-economic damages affect the non-financial aspects of your life, such as loss of the ability to enjoy life as you once did. Although they do not come with a predetermined dollar value, they are just as real as economic damages and can therefore be assigned monetary values depending on their severity.
Common non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of the ability to enjoy life
- Mental anguish
- Permanent disfigurement or scarring
- Loss of consortium
Still, determining a dollar value for non-economic losses is a challenge. Victims need the services of a savvy truck accident lawyer with a successful track record of getting top-dollar compensation for all of the losses of their clients.
You may seek punitive damages when the at-fault party acted with gross negligence or intentionally harmed you.
The destruction caused by big-rig truck accidents is such that victims uniformly suffer significant injuries and various losses thereafter. If you have been in a truck accident, you have the right to pursue the compensation that will help make you whole. Contact a personal injury attorney for a free consultation and to learn more about your options.