If you are involved in an accident with an 18 wheeler, whether you are experiencing immediate pain from the trauma or not, it is important to take the following steps to protect your legal rights:
- Call 911 immediately to report the accident, and instruct the driver that he should remain at the scene to allow the police to conduct a proper accident investigation. Do not accept assurances from the truck driver that he should be allowed to leave the scene, regardless of the reason.
- See to it that all steps are taken to warn oncoming drivers that they are approaching an accident scene. In many cases, serious injury occurs due to secondary collision that take place while drivers are waiting for the police to arrive.
- Do your best to obtain the name, address, telephone number and license number of any eye witness to the accident. If there is a passenger in the truck, get his or her information, if possible, and make certain that the investigating police officer is aware of that fact.
- Exchange information with the drivers of all vehicles involved in the accident, including name, address, telephone number, make and model of vehicle, and the owner of the vehicles and employer of the vehicle operators. Obtain the identity of the insurer of the vehicles and vehicle drivers, including the name of their insurance agent(s). Be sure to record the US Department of transportation number that must appear on the truck and/or trailer. This registration number is required by federal law, and must be provided upon request and displayed prominently on the 18 wheeler.
- Make a record of any statement related to the accident made by any driver or witness at the accident scene. Conversely, do not give a statement to anyone at the scene or anyone attempting to contact you after the accident who fails to provide conclusive proof that is a police officer engaged in the official accident investigation. When giving a statement, always provide a clear and concise representation of the information of which you are personally aware, and avoid hearsay. If, however, the adverse driver makes a statement that is self-incriminating, you should mention this to the officer conducting the investigation.
- If you have a camera or cell phone camera with you at the accident scene, take as many representative pictures as possible. Look for camera angles that provide clear illustration of your version of the facts. Take photos of the vehicles at numerous angles. You should look for and photograph physical markings of the accident, including skid or yaw markings on the roadway, debris fields, as well as traffic signals or signs which might be changed or removed at a later date.
- Seek immediate medical treatment, even if the discomfort that you feel is not overwhelming. The nature of traumatic injury is that it may remain latent for a period of time after the trauma itself, only to become more acute after the passage of time. If you do not seek treatment immediately, however, the insurance company will argue that this is indicative that you did not experience serious injury. Continue with follow-up treatment order by your treating, since this is the only way to document a continuing injury.
- Particularly in the case of a serious accident with an 18 wheeler, it is critical to seek the services of an attorney experienced in the field as soon as possible. Trucking Companies spend enormous sums to defend these accident cases to the hilt. Tactics utilized by some of these companies may include the concealment, revision, or destruction of incriminating evidence such as false or incomplete driver logs, overweight loads, defective tires, or the “scrubbing” or alteration of critical recording devices that monitor the speed, steering, braking, and other vital functions of the truck itself. This may seriously damage the prosecution of your claim. An experienced attorney will hire an accident Reconstructionist who can conduct an immediate investigation, cutting through red tape to prevent this critical information from being lost or destroyed.
At Charles Wartelle and Associates, we take the experienced gained through years of defending trucking company practices to protect our clients from the unscrupulous practices of some Trucking companies, and to work quickly to get vital information necessary to achieve the result that our clients need and deserve.