Truck Driver Accident Procedures Part- I
Accidents are those unfortunate mishaps you never want to face irrespective of your business line. Needless to say, the consequences of truck accidents are serious and often harsh. They therefore put a lot at stake. In addition, you can have the FMCSA monitor your company and other companies involved in the accident as well. As bitter as the truth could get, there is no way to strike out accidents altogether. They are bound to occur at some point or the other, be it for your fault or the fault of another. However, there are ways to minimize the risk of an accident. Taking preventive measures can sure reduce the frequency of truck accidents.
In case of truck accidents, it is crucial that these measures are taken seriously as these accidents have a much larger impact in comparison with normal car accidents.
Truck accidents cause grave injuries disrupting the mental status of everyone involved in the mishap. The seriousness of these accidents can never be underestimated. So, What causes these incidents to happen? How can they be avoided? In case of an accident, what are the immediate steps to be taken?
Trucks on road come with their own set of rules and procedures in case of an accident. Here are a few immediate steps you must take in case of an unfortunate collision.
Stop Your Vehicle
No matter how small the hit, it is very important to pull up and check if the person you have banged is alright. If possible, for best investigation, leave the vehicle in the same position as it came to rest right after the collision. You don’t want a hit and run case, therefore, do not leave the accident scene until the investigation is completed. Staying at the accident site will also help you gather more information about the accident for further help with investigation.
Who All Are Injured?
Check how many vehicles and pedestrians are involved in the crash. It is important to first cater to your own immediate needs. If you can move about without much pain, check on the other people involved in the accident and offer help.
Call 911 (The Police)
In case of an accident, call the police immediately. In most cases you would be dialling 911. If the accident has occurred on the highway then your call will be routed to your local law enforcement agency and emergency responding official as part of procedure. Give them exact information about the number of casualties so they can arrange for required number of ambulances.
What if the accident is very minor and there is less injury? Even in this case you will need to call the police. You need to document the accident right away and have records maintained of all involved vehicles by the police for further investigation and record maintaining purpose.
First Aid and Medical Attention
Accidents often lead to internal injuries. Although you may look fine on the outside, you may have some internal bleeding, blood clots, hairline fractures, etc. These injuries may show no symptoms immediately. However, it is important to get yourself and the people involved in the accident examined by a medical professional to remove any sign of doubt for the same. The sooner you have this examination done, the better it is, as any delay would cause confusion in case of an internal injury. It would be difficult for a doctor to say if the injury had really occurred from the accident or not if medical attention is procrastinated. This would also hamper medical insurance claim and cover.
Collecting Information from the Accident Site
If you are not as injured and are safe to walk around the accident scene, you should try to collect as much information as you can in order to help with investigation.
Usually, what looks like a minor incident at first, turns out to be a major one later on. Hence, collect all contact information of every individual involved in the accident. Onlookers can prove to be beneficial as eye witnesses too. If possible, take down their contact numbers as well. Here is a list of information you need to look for;
- Names, contact information, addresses, of all victims involved in the accident, and all the witnesses present around.
- Note down the insurance policy number and information of all victims.
- The VIN numbers, vehicle model and make, license number of driver and license plate number of the accident involved vehicles.
- All the property damaged during the accident and injury information.
- Police and ambulance service information. Also, gather information about the tow truck.
- The time and location of the accident
- Description of the accident
- Road condition, weather at the time of accident and the lighting condition
Take Pictures and Capture Videos of the Site
Soon after the accident has taken place, there is much evidence to capture that may not be easily visible to the naked eye. Photographs can prove the fault of the person owing to the vehicle position, skid marks, injuries etc.
These pieces of evidence may prove to be very helpful in case of any future legal action as well. Snap all the damaged vehicles, skid marks, landmarks and intersections at the accident spot. Do not leave out anything that could add body and proof to the incident taken place.
The accident may have you a little traumatized and hence you are more likely to forget bits and pieces of crucial information later on. Record an audio of the mishap as soon as possible to avoid loss of any information. Videos on the other hand, can be more useful.
Truck accidents often take a long period of time to reach a conclusion in court. These pieces of evidence can therefore help with faster decisions for judgement in case of any legal action.
Absolutely anyone who saw the crash take place could be a witness. However, taking down the statement of a witness is the job of the police.
If the accident is a serious one, there is a thick chance your witnesses would disappear after offering needful help and may also slip away from the sight of the police due to the emergency situation. Therefore, as it could be almost impossible to find these witnesses again, it is important to collect their contact information as soon as possible.
Examine Your Vehicle Soon After the Accident
Even though the accident must have been a minor one, it is extremely important to get your vehicle appraised. However, there is a procedure to be followed for this. Hence rushing to your local repair guy and getting your vehicle examined may not be the best idea.
After an accident, you can claim insurance for the repair of your vehicle. Each insurance policy has its own rules depending on their company. While some companies may demand accident photographs, some may allow towing the vehicle to the company authorized repair station. If you do not follow the rules as per your insurance policy, you may not be able to claim insurance over damage. Comply with the rules in your policy and follow procedure accordingly to make the best of your policy.
In case of an employed truck driver, you may need to contact your employer so that he can contact the insurance policy company for further assistance.
Let Your Lawyer Do the Talking
It is very important to keep mum over the accident details after the happening. Do not flow in emotion and spill out words you would probably regret saying, later. There is a thick chance you have understood the situation wrong too. Maybe everything happened in such a jiffy that you hardly could make anything from what has actually taken place. So it is best to keep calm and keep quiet about the incident. Even if you feel you were at fault, do not be too quick to admit it. Narrate the whole incident to your lawyer and make statements only after you lawyer’s wise advice.
Make sure you do not reconstruct the accident with wrong information. It is also extremely important to take care that you do not lie about any happening during the accident. Hence, if you are unsure and confused due to the trauma of the accident, it would be best to keep silent on the matter till you seek advice from your lawyer.
Maintain the same rules in case you feel the other person is at fault. Do not get into trash talking or an unnecessary fight. This could stand as wrong doing in case of further legal action.
Keep Social Media at Bay
Keep only your family and friends in the loop. This should be done over call or message, strictly offline. Do not post any pictures or videos of the accident online to draw undue attention. For that matter even if you see a post of your accident online, avoid commenting or stating anything about it, since you know better.
Social media posting could call for legal action that would simply add to your trouble. Such actions could also hurt your case in court. Absolutely anything you say online could be used against you in court. Even if deleted later, there can be screen shots for proof. There could also be eye witnesses to a deleted post who could testify the post in court. Therefore, it is very important to stay off social media for a while or keep posts related to the accident away from the online web.
Hire a Lawyer Who Handles Truck Accidents
This is the first thing you need to do after finding yourself in a truck accident, being the truck driver. The sooner you appoint a truck accident lawyer, the more beneficial it would prove to be to your case in court. If you are seriously injured, contact a family member to get you a lawyer. A truck accident lawyer can help in multiple ways. The lawyer will help you recover lost wages in the present and future (until recovery from accident) both. He can also help you with the settlement cost of the accident. He would look into the matter of medical treatment cover and other insurance covers as well.
Most accident cases get complicated due to the involvement of two or more parties along with the shipper, manufacturer, employer of the driver and the trucking company. As a truck driver, you may not have sufficient information for dealing with this legality, therefore a truck accident lawyer is extremely important for you to handle such cases with ease.
Soon after an accident, you would need to work closely with your insurance company to avail cover for the damage incurred. However, it is not a mandate that you have to talk with an insurance company official about the accident details soon after the happening. There is no rule as such either. You could always ask for time to hire and consult a lawyer before you make any statements to any official.
It is crucial that you understand that the insurance company official is not a friend although he expresses concern and sympathy for your situation. Most of the times it is just part of their job to be extra polite to get the right words out of your mouth. Although it may sound like the official is favouring you, you must remember even that is only a part of his job. Insurance companies earn their money by paying out less settlement and damage costs. Mostly an “I am fine” or “I am good” response may give you a smaller settlement amount than deserved.
Therefore it is indeed wise to hold back your emotions and consult a lawyer before making any statements to anyone about the unfortunate accident.
The aforementioned points are the immediate steps a truck driver should take after finding himself in a truck accident, provided he is lucky enough to not be wounded badly. However, in case of a serious injury, most of these steps may not be possible. It is still important to call the police in case of an accident to seek help with the same.
For more information on truck driver accidents, why do they occur? What can be done to avoid such accidents? Does the incident qualify for an accident? If yes, how to go about with the legal procedure? And general rules to follow after the truck accident, refer to our part 2 blog of Truck Driver Accident Procedures.