What To Do When a Tractor-Trailer Accident Happens

If the unthinkable happens and you find yourself involved in an accident, it will be important to try to remain calm and protect yourself in every way possible.  Even the most minor of accidents can create high amounts of stress and anxiety.  The first priority will ALWAYS be your safety and the safety of everyone around you.  Every step you take at the scene of an accident, as well as your time off the road in the days/weeks to come, will affect your ability to protect yourself and your loved ones from further harm.  This will include some practical things you can do to preserve your rights and assure that you will receive proper medical attention

InjuryBoard has developed some steps to take both on the scene of an accident and soon after leaving the scene that will help protect you.  These important techniques can help reduce your damages as a result of any traffic accidents you were in.

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 What to do at the Scene of the Accident

You have been involved in an accident.  You may feel disoriented or confused and unsure of what is happening.  In these first few moments it is crucial to remain calm and ensure the safety and well being of yourself and everyone else.

STEP ONE -- The FIRST Thing you should do is to asses the extent of any injuries you have.  If you are seriously injured, or think you might be then try to remain calm and still and await medical attention.  If you are not seriously injured and you are sure that movement will not seriously aggravate any potential injuries you may have received, then and only then should you move on to the next step.

STEP TWO -- Assess the safety of the scene and the extent of injury to anyone else involved in the accident.  Look for any emergency situations, like a car on fire, or someone with a life threatening emergency.  Do what you can to deal with these emergency situations.  Always make sure someone has contacted 911 or emergency services in some manner.

STEP THREE -- Get safely off the road.  One of the most important things to do will be to remove yourself, and everyone involved, from the “danger zone.”  If you can move your car, try to remove it from the roadway and the path of traffic.  Do this in the safest manner possible and move your car as far as possible from the lanes of traffic.  This will help avoid secondary accidents, where oncoming drivers are distracted or are unable to brake in time to avoid causing more collisions into your stationary vehicle.  If you are unable to move your vehicle, then determine if you can safely remove yourself from the scene to a safe location.  If you cannot exit your vehicle safely, or there are no safe places to move to, then remain in your car with the seatbelt fastened to keep yourself as safe as possible in case of additional collisions.  If you can safely move from the scene, get at far away from the lanes of traffic as possible and keep your personal safety as the highest priority.  Wait as safely as possible until the police and/or paramedics have arrived to control the situation.

STEP FOUR -- Make sure you get the help you need.  Once the police and paramedics have arrived it is important that you follow their directions as far as safely navigating the scene.  If asked to relocate, do so as quickly as possible to help them reach their goal of securing the scene and tending to the injured.  Alert them to any injured people and dangers that you know of on the scene.  If you feel you are injured or possibly injured in any way, then speak to a paramedic or EMS worker on the scene when you can.  Give them every detail you can about how you feel and any pain you are experiencing.  Follow the directions they give and accept any medical attention they are prepared to provide.

STEP FIVE -- Report all facts to the police if asked.  It is important to be honest and truthful and respond to their questions.  However, most insurance companies advise you not to admit fault (you may not know all the facts) and not to share your policy limits with anyone.  Furthermore, do not feel the need to give unnecessary information to the police at the scene.  It is easy to be very stressed, anxious, and confused after even a minor traffic accident.  If you do not feel that you can give an accurate statement to the police because of your mental state, be honest with the officer and advise him/her that you cannot give them an accurate statement at that time and request the chance to give them a statement later when you have had time to collect your thoughts and recover.  This is particularly true if the police are requesting a recorded statement.  Just make sure you are clear to them that you are not refusing to make a statement, but cannot due to the mental state the accident has caused.

STEP SIX -- Contact your insurance agency.  Find out how they will handle recovery of your vehicle.  If they have a response team they may come out to inspect the scene.  Make sure you disclose any possible injuries to them and write down the claim number they assign to the case.

STEP SEVEN -- Collect as much information as possible.  Once things start to calm down and all emergency situations have been resolved, it is important for you to try to get as much information as you can.  You cannot assume that the police will collect all the information you may need to preserve your rights.  In a manner as unobtrusive and respectful as possible try to collect the following information:

  • All information of the other people involved in the accident.  This will include the full names of the other driver(s) and any passengers and their current contact information (which can be different that what is on their driver’s licenses).  Get information about their driver license and insurance information.  Make sure that you share this information with the police and other drivers as well, but remember, you DO NOT need to discuss or mention your insurance policy limits.  Make notes on how the other drivers appear, whether fatigued, intoxicated, or irrational.  Also try to take detailed notes on any admissions other drivers or passengers may make at the scene.  Additionally, make sure that you get the names and contact information for all of the police officers and emergency workers that respond to the scene.
  • All information on the vehicles involved.  Try to get the tag numbers and vehicle description (make, model, color, etc.).  Also look for any significant information about the car, like damage unrelated to the accident, the condition of the lights and tires, and decorations or objects that could obstruct the driver’s view of the road.
  • Witness information.  Get the full name and contact information of any possible witnesses at the scene.  Try to get some notes on what they have seen or heard.  This is important because many of these witnesses may be reluctant to speak to the police, or may not be questioned.  Therefore, this important information may be lost if not collected at the scene.
  • Documentation of your injuries.  Make sure any injuries that you or anyone in your family have suffered are recorded.  This includes EMS reports, your own notes.  If possible, take picture of any injuries at the scene before they have been treated to keep accurate documentation of the injury as it occurred.
  • Description of the scene.  Make notes about the accident and how it occurred.  Try to diagram out the positions of the vehicles.  Make notes as to the road conditions such as weather, lighting, hazards in the road, and traffic.  If you have a camera, take as many pictures as possible from different angles to assist in recreating the scene.
  • Any other information that might be important in describing that accident to someone who was not there.  Remember that to effectively pursue your rights, you may need to be able to produce information about the accident to insurance adjusters, an attorney, or possibly a jury.  The more information you have that can help these parties get an accurate view of what happened, the better your chances of prevailing against insurance companies and possible legal issues.

What To Do After an Accident

After you have left the scene of the accident and begin to recover, there are still some important things to do to ensure your wellbeing ad help reach a beneficial recovery.  You will need to develop a plan in the following areas to cover your needs and get you back on track as soon as possible.

Medical Issues – First, make sure that you are receiving adequate medical care.  If you received treatment at the scene or were transported to a hospital, determine if you will need follow-up care.  If you were not treated at the scene, have you experienced any other pain or medical issues since the accident?  It is crucial to make sure that address any and all medical concerns as soon as possible.  Keep records of ALL of the doctors and professionals you see.  Get their names and contact information.  Also, write down exactly what their diagnosis are, what they prescribe, and what they recommend for follow-up.

Insurance Issues - Second, follow up with your health and auto insurance agencies.  Discuss your medical needs with your health insurance company and determine what your plan will cover and how it will be covered.  Contact your auto insurance company.  You may need to discuss how the damage to your car will be handled and a possible rental car.  Make sure to document who you speak with, when you speak to them, and what they tell you.

Legal Issues - Now that you know your medical needs and where you stand with your insurance company, you can plan out how you want to proceed legally.  You will probably want a lawyer on your side, a good one.  These cases can become very complicated due to the high level of involvement and can include multiple parties who might share responsibility for the accident.   There will be a lot of paperwork, and it may take a lot of action to make sure that you and your family are adequately cared for during this entire process.

It will be important to contact an attorney quickly, especially if you were seriously injured or unable to complete a full investigation at the scene.  Right from the start the trucking company and their insurance company are going to be working to try and minimize what they will have to pay for your case.  To the companies it is a business decision.  They will start talking to the driver and any witnesses as soon as possible.  It is important to have representation that can do the same for you and make sure that you are not being treated unfairly.

Read the next article:  Medical Issues Related to a Tractor-Trailer Accident 

Contact an attorney in your area.