Each day, trucks crisscross the roads and highways of this country to bring raw materials and finished products to wherever they need to go. With hundreds of thousands of trucks on the road and millions of miles driven each year, it is hard to fathom how safe the industry is.
Each truck is a heavy-duty piece of machinery, with some capable of transporting several tons of freight at highway speeds. This type of transportation is safe because trucks are under serious scrutiny when it comes to protecting the public.
Drivers need to undergo rigorous training and be adequately licensed. Owners must regularly service their equipment, and safety features such as brakes, lighting, and chains must be installed and maintained throughout the vehicle’s use.
But accidents happen, and because of the nature of these traveling behemoths, their sheer size and weight can yield devastating results. The aftermath of an accident can be confusing and chaotic. Here we will look at what to do after a truck accident.
Causes of Trucking Accidents
The massive size of trucks and the weight of the loads they haul make them crucial in transporting goods worldwide. On the other side of the coin comes the vulnerabilities that can make a truck a danger to other drivers.
Trucks’ size, displacement, and limitations make them a liability in the wrong conditions. Accidents involving trucks are usually life-changing events. They result in serious physical injuries, catastrophic property damage, and bereaved families attempting to regain their lives.
Here are some causes of trucking accidents you need to know about.
- Weather conditions: Icy and wet conditions can limit visibility and affect the ability of a truck to maneuver safely on roads, highways, and cities. The long-haul tires used on trucks are built more for distance and heavy loads but are limited in traction. Snowstorms, icy roads, hydroplaning on water, and debris on the road can cause trucks to skid. Limited visibility can impact stopping time and a driver’s ability to react, especially if traveling too fast.
- Wind: Trucks are high-profile vehicles carrying a lot of weight, but surprisingly enough, their high profile makes them susceptible to high winds. Each year, high winds have caused trucks to topple over as they move down the highway or unexpectedly veer into other lanes of traffic.
- Road conditions: Bad sections of the road which have been affected by large rocks, potholes, and even soft shoulders can cause a truck to lose control. Again, the weight and size of a truck make it dangerous for other drivers sharing the road, especially if the truck does not have time to stop or avoid these hazards without causing accidents. A truck driver should have adequate training to navigate these sorts of conditions.
- Faulty equipment: Trucks must be regularly serviced and maintained to ensure their brakes, hydraulics, lighting, and coupling equipment make them highway safe. Tires are a big concern since blowouts and lost wheels can become missiles at highway speeds. Drivers should regularly check tires and brakes and inspect their trucks routinely.
- Congested traffic: Trucks have limited maneuverability, and this is especially true in heavy traffic. Blind spots limit a driver’s ability to see immediately adjacent or behind their rig, and sudden stops or veering to avoid collisions can result in accidents. Truck accidents of this kind are serious due to underride accidents and sandwiching smaller vehicles between trucks.
- Driver error: New truckers are licensed just the same as veteran truck drivers, but a license does not mean the same as experience. On the other hand, a driver with many years under their belt might not take the same caution as a new driver. Either way, the driver’s attention to what is happening on the road and their lack of understanding of how their vehicle responds to various situations can put other drivers in danger. Companies will sometimes hire drivers with less-than-spotless driving records to save money. When they put others at risk in this way, they need to be held accountable, and an attorney can help with this.
- Exhausted drivers: State and Federal laws ensure that long-haul truck drivers get sufficient sleep throughout their travels. Inspectors at the port of entry check log books to ensure they follow these requirements. An exhausted driver can have terrible reaction times to hazardous situations or even fall asleep at the wheel. Either way, their truck can cause incredible damage when it goes out of control.
- Driving under the influence: To keep up with the demands of long, monotonous hours on the road, some drivers have resorted to taking stimulants to focus and even depressants to counteract the effects of the stimulants. Either way, these drugs impair a driver’s ability to respond to sharing the road with others and can result in injuries and even death. An attorney can sift through the evidence gathered after an accident to argue your case that the driver and possibly the company be held liable.
Immediately After the Accident
Now that you know some situations that could contribute to an accident, you should know what to do after a truck accident.
- Remain calm: By remaining calm, you can better assess the situation and limit any further damage that panic can cause. After an accident, your body will go into a fight-or-flight state. Attempting to escape the accident either in your vehicle or on foot can expose you to further collisions or being hit by traffic. You could also go into shock, which can be fatal even without serious injury.
- Get to safety: In a calm state, you can determine whether or not you are in danger by remaining in your vehicle. In a multi-car pileup, you might consider getting out of your vehicle, but then you would be exposed to other impacts, so leaving your vehicle is not advisable. If there is a fuel or chemical spill from the truck, exiting your vehicle and maintaining a safe distance is the safer alternative.
- Call 911: A truck accident almost always results in injury. Even if they are minor, the forces of an impact can result in concussion or internal bleeding that might not be obvious. You should almost always seek medical attention after any motor vehicle accident. First responders will also become a resource for collecting evidence in discovery for your attorney.
- Stay put: Do NOT leave the scene of the accident. You will be putting yourself in legal jeopardy. An attorney can explain why this is crucial in fighting your case. Instead, remain near the scene of the accident until help arrives. Do not attempt to move accident victims unless necessary. Firefighters and paramedics undergo training in ways of moving people with injuries without causing more damage.
- Render first aid: Emergency Medical Services could take several minutes or longer to arrive. If necessary, you might need to render first aid to stop bleeding. It is important to note that if anyone receives injuries from being penetrated by sharp metal, glass, or other objects, do NOT remove them. Attempting to remove these objects could hasten the blood flow and cause them to bleed out.
- Document everything: Your smartphone is a great tool to use in case of an accident. You can record video, photograph insurance information, collect contact information of the police and paramedics on the scene, and even document road conditions, traffic signals, and even the accident itself. In slippery conditions, you can establish whether or not the truck was using snow chains or whether or not their running lights were functional. In your state, after an accident, finding a pen and paper in your car or trying to remember the names of witnesses or police is impossible. Your attorney can use the information you collect in their investigation, comparing it with First Responder reports and statements from the liable driver’s insurance company. This information is vital in arguing your case in negotiations and a jury trial if necessary.
- Seek medical attention: This is important enough to stress again. Even minor injuries could be a sign of a more serious condition. The forces delivered upon impact in a truck vs. car collision could result in ruptured organs, broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and even death if left untreated.
- Contact an attorney: Worry about your health first. A personal injury attorney can work with you to get you the compensation you deserve, which can go towards paying medical expenses, lost time at work, and even pain and suffering. Your attorney will also be able to field your legal responsibilities, such as meeting deadlines to file claims, negotiating with insurance companies, mediation, and even preparing your case to argue in a jury trial. In a stressful time such as this, your attorney can be a vital tool to have at your disposal to relieve stress and anxiety as you focus on your health and recovery,
- Seek professional help: The events of the collision with the truck might be far-reaching, from the stress of lost time at work, financial difficulties, dealing with pain and suffering as a result of your injuries and treatment, or even dealing with grief as a result of death due to the accident. Going to therapy and even seeking psychological treatment with medication could be a crucial part of your healing, especially in dealing with life changes from the accident.
What to Expect if You Survive a Truck Accident
Surviving a truck accident will result in injuries ranging from minor and easily recoverable to catastrophic life-altering events.
Let’s look at some of the challenges you might face during your recovery.
- Medical expenses: From emergency medical services to surgery to hospitalization, the cost of saving your life can be overwhelming. Healthcare costs are staggering, from tens of thousands of dollars on one end of the spectrum to hundreds of thousands of dollars and beyond.
- Permanent disabilities: If you have lost a limb, or suffered extensive brain damage, or disfigurement, you will likely have to face those challenges for the rest of your life. A permanent disability will change the quality of your life in significant ways. You might have to undergo physical therapy to learn how to walk or function daily. You might need access to a wheelchair or other assistance in your home. Your livelihood could also be affected, and you might need vocational training to support yourself and your family. Some survivors need to be fitted for prosthetics, undergo plastic surgery, or learn to cope with losing vision, hearing, or other senses.
- Lost time at work: It is common to need time away from work to recover from a truck accident. Cognitive difficulties, extended hospital stays, and physical rehabilitation will prevent you from working, resulting in lost wages, loss of future wages, and even jeopardizing your job. An attorney can help calculate these damages and include them in negotiations with insurers to get you the compensation you deserve. Paying medical bills is hard enough when you do not take a serious pay cut due to missing time or having to go on disability pay.
- Cognitive difficulties: Traumatic brain injuries and the overwhelming tension resulting from post-traumatic stress can impact your cognitive function. Memory loss, problems in comprehension, long-term memory retention, and even headaches are common in surviving a truck accident. They affect your ability to enjoy your life as you once did.
- Property losses: People rely on their cars and other vehicles to function in this world, and if it was involved in a collision with a truck, it is likely a total loss. Insurance companies will often lowball you to protect their bottom line. Someone else’s negligence should not mean you have to sacrifice your property or mode of transportation. You need to receive compensation for the loss of your vehicle, and an attorney can help.
- Death/dismemberment: Many people do not survive a truck accident and must deal with the aftermath. It could be an alienating experience, especially with picking up the pieces if someone died due to the accident. Survivors must deal with the pain and suffering associated with death and grieving. There might be funeral expenses and medical bills to account for. Dismemberment is on a similar level of stress and grief you will encounter, requiring years of psychological healing even after adjusting to this loss.
- Psychological stress: The life-changing consequences of a truck accident haunt many people for the rest of their lives. Taking care of your mind is an important element in rebuilding your life. The path will not be easy; without financial compensation for loss and damages, it might be nearly impossible. An attorney can help you fight for your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.
Seek Legal Assistance
Dealing with the aftermath of a truck accident is a serious undertaking. You will have plenty to handle between medical expenses, maintaining your livelihood, grief, and coming to terms with the accident.
An attorney can help relieve that burden and get results when it comes to compensation. Settlements against the drivers and companies responsible for hiring them are usually much higher than accepting the minuscule amounts offered by insurance companies that are as low as they can be to save money.
Your attorney will be able to gather information and use the evidence to build a case for you. Whether using that investigation for leverage in negotiation or taking the matter before a judge in those rare instances, an attorney can provide the crucial help you need to move forward with the rest of your life.