When it comes to crashes involving trucks, the people most at risk are often those in other, smaller vehicles such as passenger cars and motorcycles. In recent years, several high-profile accidents involving tractor trailers have made this truth even more evident.
Even when car drivers are practicing safe driving habits, they and their passengers can still fall victim to a truck accident if the truck driver is not paying attention, gets distracted, or is driving under the influence. Given the much smaller size of cars and even SUVs compared to big 18-wheelers, the likelihood of severe injury or death is that much greater when an accident does occur.
What to Do After a Truck Accident
If your car or other passenger vehicle is involved in an accident with a box truck or tractor trailer, here are some things you can do immediately to ensure everyone’s health and safety and protect your legal rights.
Call for medical help – Anyone who is hurt and needs medical help should get top priority. Call 911 right away to activate emergency responders.
Clear the way – If you can move your vehicle out of the way of oncoming traffic, then do so. This will help keep you and other drivers safer, while allowing traffic to move past the accident.
Set out flares – You can also warn drivers behind you about the crash by setting flares or other road hazard signals, such as orange reflective triangles and vehicle hazard lights.
Contact law enforcement – If they are not already on the scene by the time you address medical needs and make sure everyone is safe, you should call local or state police. They will help ensure safety of the scene, as well as take an incident report that could be important later.
Exchange information – Getting contact and insurance information is important. Your insurance company will require it if you file a claim, and it may be necessary to use that information later if the case goes to court. In addition to getting names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance cards, be sure to get the driver’s license number along with the make, model, and license plate number of the truck.
Record other details – Other critical details to record include where you are (e.g., road or highway name, mile marker, and nearby structures or geographical features), what time the crash occurred, and any damage done to your vehicle. You should also take pictures, if possible, for later reference.
Do Not Admit Fault for a Truck Crash
You may be tempted to apologize to the truck driver after being involved in a crash, even if it was not your fault. This is a natural response that many people have, but one that should be avoided. Instead, keep your focus on keeping yourself and others safe while you wait for medical and law enforcement officials to arrive.
When involved in a vehicle crash, you could be subject to certain types of amnesia that make it difficult (or even impossible) to remember specifics later. Obtaining a record of the facts and events of the incident are important to making sure nothing is forgotten later, especially if it becomes one person’s word against another’s in a courtroom.
After a crash, other parties involved may become belligerent and try to coerce you into admitting fault. In this case, try to remain calm and find someplace to be by yourself while you wait for law enforcement to arrive without speaking to the other person.
Injuries Caused by Truck Accidents
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the number of truck accidents has been increasing significantly since 2009. While the overall percentage of fatal crashes has not increased at the same pace, they are still higher than they were a decade ago.
Even in non-fatal crashes, injuries can be severe. Approximately 116,000 people were hurt in an accident involving a large truck in 2015 (the latest year for which data is available).
Most Common Injuries Caused by Truck Accidents
- Head trauma, including concussion, cranial swelling, or brain damage
- Nervous system damage, including spinal cord injuries or paralysis
- Bone fractures and joint dislocations
- Internal bleeding or organ damage
- Lacerations, abrasions, and punctures
Some of these injuries may not manifest immediately – in fact, certain injuries may take months or years before being diagnosed. Even when injuries do not lead to immediate death or disability, they can still cause lifelong health problems and shorten an otherwise healthy individual’s life expectancy. The costs of both immediate and long-term care can skyrocket, especially if the injured person is unable to work as a result of the accident.
Should I File a Truck Accident Lawsuit?
If you or a loved one are involved in a collision with a large truck, it is a good idea to seek the advice of a personal injury lawyer who can help you understand your legal rights and explain the laws in your state. Even if you are not sure that the truck driver is at fault, your lawyer will be able to help you understand the responsibilities of truckers and trucking companies.
Given the dangerous nature of large trucks, both federal and state governments require truck drivers to have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL). The very fact that such a license is required shows that truck drivers have a higher duty to drive safely and obey all of the rules of the road.
Types of Negligence in Truck Accident Lawsuits
- Inadequate maintenance – malfunctioning or ill-maintained parts
- Hours of service – failing to comply with mandatory limits on continuous driving time
- Insufficient training – hiring inexperienced drivers, failing to provide appropriate instruction
- Cargo stability – overloading or loading freight that isn’t properly balanced
- Impaired driving – operating a truck while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Moving violations – Exceeding the speed limit or breaking other road laws, such as failing to signal while switching lanes
In many cases, lawsuits for truck accidents are filed against the truck driver’s employer – the trucking company – rather than the driver as an individual, since it is ultimately the company’s responsibility to ensure that its drivers and vehicles are operating safely.
A reputable lawyer will be able to help you understand whether these or any other preventable situations could have led to your accident.