It’s not a question you think to ask until it’s happened to you: ‘I’ve been in a big rig accident…what do I do now?’
The truth is that the emotions that go along with shock and injuries that can occur may seem overwhelming in the wake of a California big rig accident, so it is best to prepare yourself as best you can just in case the worst should happen. Below is a list of steps you can take to make sure you and any other parties in the accident are taken care of.
Remain Calm, Stay at the Accident Site
Truck accidents can be shocking and terrifying, enough to make you want to simply get away from the destruction as soon as you can. Stress puts us into ‘fight or flight’ mode, and most of us choose flight over fight in moments of chaotic stress. But it is imperative that you fight the urge to run away—one of the worst things you can do is leave the site of an accident before you have assessed the damage, exchanged information, or ensuring you’ve examined by an emergency responder.
Make Sure That You and Your Passengers Are Okay
It is important to do this before assessing the scene and looking for any damage. Because big rigs are so heavy, the force of any impact is sure to be substantial. You may not be aware of this when you are in shock minutes after the accident, so pay attention to any lingering injuries that become more obvious once the shock has worn off.
If anyone needs medical assistance, call 911 immediately. In the event that someone in your vehicle has neck or back injuries, it is best not to move them until emergency responders arrive. However, if they are in a perilous situation (ie lying near leaking gas) and they need to be moved to safety, do so while supporting their head and neck. The less someone with significant injuries is moved, the better.
If Possible, Talk to Law Enforcement Officials
When law enforcement arrives at the scene of the big rig accident, ask for a police report to be filed. If the big rig accident occurred on a highway, you will be speaking with a California Highway Patrol officer. If the big rig accident happened on a city street, you will be speaking with a local police officer. In either scenario, make sure to get the names and badge numbers of the officers filing your report.
Speak With Other Drivers Involved in the Accident, Exchange Information
Considering big rig accidents are so traumatic, there might be a part of you that feels guilt, even if the accident was not your fault. Some people get out of their vehicles in the wake of a big rig accident and immediately apologize for what happened. Crash scenes are chaotic and it isn’t always immediately evident who was at fault. So try to keep your emotions in check and don’t admit to any wrongdoing until the fault is determined.
When speaking with the other drivers or passengers involved, remember to be cordial. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you, don’t force the issue, as that won’t do either of you any good. If they agree to it, write down what they say and get their name, license plate and phone number so you, your insurance company or your California big rig attorney can contact them on your behalf.
Before you leave the scene, you or someone you know should have:
- The big rig driver’s name
- Driver’s license number
- License plate number of the truck
- Insurance company information
- Registration information
- Any relevant trucking company information
Document the Truck Accident as Much as You Can
Nearly everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, and nearly all smartphones are equipped with a camera. Use it to snap photos of the big rig crash so you have photographic evidence of the damage and the crash scene. This will be helpful for your insurance adjustor, and your California big rig accident attorney, should your case go to court. If you have a picture of your car before the accident, this will also be helpful.
Alert Your Insurance Company of the Crash
You should take this step and tell your insurance company what happened as soon as you can. It is vital that you tell them the truth as best as you remember when recalling the accident. If they find in their investigation that you have lied, it could have serious repercussions on your coverage.
While your insurer will likely obtain it on their own, you should have a copy of the accident report from the California Highway Patrol or local police. This will help them understand which party broke traffic laws.
- Keep Detailed Notes on Your Medical Care: It is vital that you keep track of all medical expenses that you incur as a result of your accident. This includes physicians, physical therapists, psychologists, chiropractors, etc. Be sure to also make note of which medical professionals referred you to other care providers. The more organized you are with this information, the easier it will be for your attorney to assist you in court.
- Get a Damage Valuation: Your car insurance company will provide a valuation for damages. But if you are not satisfied with their assessment, it may be in your best interest to secure a second opinion. If you still can’t get together on the valuation after receiving a second opinion, consult with an attorney.
- Don’t Discuss the Accident with Just Anyone: There is a decent chance that the insurance company of another driver involved in your accident will contact you. If they do, politely tell them to refer any interview requests or questions to your attorney or insurer. Be sure to get the representative’s name and contact information so your attorney can find out more about why the company reached out to you.
Hire an Experienced California Big Rig Accident Attorney
Be wary if your insurance company approaches you with a settlement offer immediately after your accident. You might feel financial hardship begins to set in if you are forced to miss time from work due to injuries, especially if your health insurance doesn’t cover your medical expenses. But you need to make sure that any money you accept is enough to fully cover all of the damages you incur as a result of the accident.
You should be aware that a trucking company’s insurance carrier will be doing everything in its power to limit the amount of money it pays out in the event of an accident. This is one of the many reasons you should consider hiring an experienced California truck accident attorney as soon as possible to help you file a personal injury claim.
In a typical big rig accident, there are likely multiple parties responsible for your injuries, including the truck driver, the trucking company he or she works for, the truck’s manufacturer, or even the manufacturer of a defective truck part. A big rig accident attorney will investigate the crash and gather the necessary evidence to hold any responsible parties accountable.
Remember: the sooner a California big rig accident attorney is involved in your case, the greater chance your attorney has in recovering the damages you deserve.