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What to Do After a Semi-Truck Accident

Semi-truck collisions can result in devastating injuries in Hamilton and throughout Butler County. Crashes involving semi-trucks and 18-wheelers often occur on highways like I-75 or I-275. Yet these accidents can also occur on other major roads, as well as on local streets. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) clarifies that large trucks weigh up to 20 or 30 times as much as passenger cars. In addition, large trucks have greater ground clearance. As such, passenger cars can be involved in debilitating and deadly “underride” accidents. If you were injured in a truck accident or lost a loved one in a collision, how should you proceed? What should you do after a semi-truck accident? Consider the following important steps.

Call 911 to Dispatch Police and Emergency Responders

After a semi-truck accident anywhere in Butler County, it is essential to call 911 for help. By calling 911, both police and emergency responders can be sent to the scene of the crash. Large truck accidents often result in severe and fatal injuries. As such, it is critical to have emergency responders on the scene. One or more parties involved in the collision may need to be transported to an emergency department. Others may require immediate life-saving care at the scene of the crash.

In addition, it will be important to have law enforcement assess the scene to issue a citation. The police may cite the semi-truck driver or another party who was responsible for the accident. A police report that includes a discussion of fault can be extremely important for your claim later on. You can obtain Ohio police and accident reports through the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Depending upon the circumstances, the police might also issue one or more traffic tickets. Any citations can also serve as critical evidence for your case.

Document the Scene of the Semi-Truck Accident

Many semi-truck accidents cause debilitating and deadly injuries. If you are severely injured, it will likely be impossible to document the accident scene. However, if you are able to do so, it is important to document the semi-truck crash area. You should use your smartphone to take pictures. When you take photos, you should document the scene from different angles and perspectives. Take some images that show the larger scene of the crash. Then, take photographs that show close-ups of damage and injuries. You should take enough photos from straight, high, and low angles that will provide a range of information for an accident reconstruction expert. In many semi-truck accident claims, an accident reconstruction expert can help to prove that the driver or another party was responsible for the collision. Your photographs can be essential for this process.

Beyond photographs, your immediate recollections of the crash can also be useful. You can jot down notes on your phone, for example. Or, for instance, you can send an email or text to yourself or a friend with details about the crash. The closer to the moment of the crash you note this information, the better.

Obtain Information From Witnesses and Others on the Scene of the Semi-Truck Crash

You should also obtain contact information and other data from people at the scene of the crash. If your injuries do not prevent you from doing so, you should identify:

  • Anyone who may have witnessed the accident;
  • Occupants of vehicles involved in the collision; and
  • Semi-truck driver.

For all of the above parties, you should obtain clear contact information. Be sure to ask for email addresses, phone numbers, and local mailing addresses. In addition, it is critical to obtain driver’s license and insurance information from parties driving at the time of the collision and involved in the accident. You should ask the semi-truck driver for license information and insurance details. A semi-truck driver will have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). If another motorist was involved in the crash, you should also obtain their license and insurance information. It is also important to write down license plate numbers and vehicle information. You should identify any vehicles involved in the crash and the state and number of the license plate.

See a Health Care Provider as Soon as Possible 

It is critical to have an evaluation by a healthcare provider after a semi-truck crash. In most semi-truck accidents, injuries are serious enough that the need for a medical assessment is obvious. However, in some cases, severe and life-threatening injuries may not be obvious. As the Mayo Clinic explains, certain severe head and neck injuries might not produce symptoms for hours or even days. Indeed, spinal cord injuries that can result in paralysis may not have instantaneous signs. Indications of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can also appear later on. Sometimes injuries like internal bleeding and organ damage can also show up in the hours or days following the collision. As such, you need to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible. The sooner your injuries can be identified, the quicker they can be treated.

Delaying a medical assessment and treatment could also lead to the defendant raising the issue of contributory fault. To be clear, the defendant could argue that your injuries worsened because of your delay. Under Ohio’s comparative fault law, a plaintiff who is less than 51% at fault can recover. In those circumstances, the plaintiff’s recovery would be reduced by their portion of fault. However, once a plaintiff is 51% or more at fault for their losses, they are barred from recovery.

Contact Your Insurance Company and Report the Semi-Truck Collision

You will need to report the semi-truck crash to your insurance company. When you call the insurance company, stick to the facts. It is essential to keep in mind that the insurance company will always focus on its own bottom line. Even if you have been with your insurer for decades, the insurance company will not advocate for you. The insurer will be looking for information to avoid paying a claim. Accordingly, do not say anything about your own fault. Similarly, avoid any type of apology when you are speaking to the insurer or to anyone involved in the accident. Apologies may be used as indicators of fault or liability. At the same time, be sure to keep a note if the semi-truck driver or another party apologized at the accident scene.

Your insurance company likely requires you to report accidents within a specific amount of time. To avoid any timing issues or delays, you should contact your insurance company as soon as possible.

Determine Your Options for Seeking Compensation

It will be important to determine your various options for seeking compensation. When you do so, you should also determine the order in which to pursue these options. Generally, options for compensation following a semi-truck crash include but may not be limited to:

  • Seeking compensation through the commercial truck insurance policy carried by the trucker or the trucker’s employer;
  • Filing a first-party insurance claim through your own insurer; and/or
  • Pursuing a civil lawsuit against the party or parties responsible for the truck crash.

File an Insurance Claim

Most people who are injured in semi-truck accidents will start the process of seeking compensation with an insurance claim. What should you do after a semi-truck accident for an insurance claim? You will file a third-party claim (through commercial truck insurance) or a first-party claim. Often, a third-party claim will make the most sense.

Go Through the Insurance Claims and Investigation Process

Once you file your insurance claim, the insurance investigation will begin. The insurer will assign an adjuster to your case, and the adjuster will seek information about the crash. Usually, the insurance adjuster will assess the accident scene and the damaged vehicles. In addition, the adjuster will speak with the parties involved in the collision. You should expect the adjuster to ask you various questions. It is important to be objective. Provide factual information and be careful to avoid any subjective statements. To be clear, you should not apologize or say anything that could suggest you were at fault. If you are not certain of the details, do not guess.

Negotiate an Insurance Settlement for Your Semi-Truck Injuries

Once the adjuster finishes the investigation, you will likely be offered a settlement. It is important for you to know that settlement offers are negotiable. In fact, many insurance companies assume that claimants will negotiate. As such, the initial settlement offer may not be the best offer the insurer can make. Do not accept the first offer. Instead, you should plan to negotiate the settlement to an amount that is fair to you.

How can you determine what is fair? You should identify all of your economic losses and associated costs, such as:

  • Damage to your vehicle;
  • Hospital bills;
  • Follow-up medical care costs;
  • Prescription medications;
  • Rehabilitative therapy;
  • Medical devices like crutches;
  • Wages you have already lost due to your inability to work; and
  • Future lost wages due to your continued inability to work in the future.

Depending upon the severity of your injuries, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit after an insurance claim. This is particularly relevant for people who experience significant pain and suffering, or other non-economic losses that cannot be fairly compensated through an insurance settlement.

Identify Parties Who May Be Liable for Semi-Truck Accident Injuries

Next, you should identify the parties who could be liable. Once you identify potentially liable parties, you can file a lawsuit against one or more at-fault individuals or entities. Commonly liable parties in semi-truck crashes include but are not limited to:

  • Semi-truck driver;
  • Employer of the semi-truck driver;
  • Party who owned the truck;
  • The mechanic who worked on the semi-truck;
  • The company that loaded the truck;
  • Designer of a defective truck component;
  • Manufacturer of a defective truck component;
  • Retailer of the semi-truck; or
  • The property owner of the area where the accident happened.

Know the Statute of Limitations for a Semi-Truck Lawsuit

In order to be eligible to file a lawsuit, you will need to be certain that the statute of limitations has not run out. The statute of limitations is the time limit for filing a civil claim. Under Ohio’s personal injury statute of limitations, most semi-truck claims have a two-year statute of limitations. To be clear, this means you must file your lawsuit within two years from the date of the semi-truck crash. However, the statute of limitations will work slightly differently for a wrongful death case. In a wrongful death claim, there is still a two-year statute of limitations. Yet the clock will start ticking on the date of death rather than the date of the accident.

File a Lawsuit Against the Responsible Party or Parties

When an insurance settlement is insufficient, it is usually time to file a lawsuit. Since you have identified the party or parties who may be liable, you can file a civil lawsuit. By filing a lawsuit, you can seek a wide range of economic and non-economic compensatory damages. Those damages can compensate you for the various losses you have experienced.

Contact an Ohio Truck Accident Lawyer Today

Were you injured in a crash involving a large truck? Or did you lose a loved one in a devastating trucking crash? You may be able to file a claim in order to seek compensation. Truck accident cases can be complex, and multiple parties may be at fault. In the immediate aftermath of a collision, it is important to gather evidence. With your lawyer’s help, you can use that evidence to support an insurance claim and a lawsuit later on. At any stage of a truck accident lawsuit, you may be able to obtain a settlement. Our experienced Hamilton truck accident lawyers will advocate for you at each stage of the truck accident claims process. We know that dealing with insurance companies can be frustrating and difficult. We will handle the insurer and will negotiate a reasonable settlement for you. When an insurance claim is insufficient to cover losses, we will represent you in a civil lawsuit. Contact the law firm of Kruger & Hodges today online or call our firm at 513-894-3333 to discuss your case.

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