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What to Do After a Truck Accident

Updated February 23, 2023 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Any motor vehicle accident is a frightening experience. But accidents involving tractor trailers or semitrailers can be particularly scary because of the size differential between trucks and regular cars.

It’s important to know what to do after a truck accident, because there are other significant differences between a typical car accident and an accident involving a truck. First, tractor trailers and semis are subject to stringent federal regulations that don’t apply to cars. Second, a commercial truck driver is usually employed by one or more trucking companies; a trucker’s employers play a crucial role in the aftermath of an accident. 

Examples of Truck Accidents in Indiana

On January 12, 2016, a sudden snowstorm with gusty winds caused slick roads and whiteout conditions that contributed to a massive chain-reaction crash involving at least forty vehicles. The crash, which took place on Interstate 74 in Dearborn County, near the Indiana border, was a combination of two smaller pileups and closed both sides of the highway from late morning until nightfall.

At least seventeen of the vehicles involved in the crash were trucks. News accounts indicated that the accident started when a semitrailer jackknifed on the highway, possibly because of the fifty-mile-per-hour winds. The destruction escalated from there. No one was killed in the chain of collisions that followed, but six people were transported to hospitals with injuries.

Uninjured motorists involved in the accident went from vehicle to vehicle, checking on other drivers. They talked especially to people trapped in their vehicles and ensured they were okay until emergency personnel arrived.

On the evening of November 12, 2022, a high school hockey team from Chicago was heading home on a school bus. As they passed through Warsaw, Indiana, a semitrailer ran a red light and hit the bus, flipping it over. All twenty-five passengers were injured—three of them critically.

Eyewitnesses reported that the truck driver had been driving erratically. Police found that his blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit. The truck driver is facing over two dozen felony charges related to the crash. In addition, the parents of the hockey players are suing the driver and the trucking companies that employed him. The parents were appalled to learn that the driver had kept his job despite being involved in previous accidents.

As we’ll see, these examples show a number of things you should be aware of after a truck accident. 

What Happens When a Truck Driver Has an Accident?

In this section, we’ll cover crucial differences between truck driver accident procedures and procedures for drivers of passenger cars.

Stricter Regulations

Commercial trucking is subject to stricter regulations than those that apply to all drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees commercial trucking in the US. Its primary mission is “to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.” The FMCSA enforces safety regulations and sets the standards by which drivers earn their commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs).

FMCSA accident procedures require that all trucking companies keep a record of all crashes in the last three years. According to the FMCSA, a crash is any incident that results in an injury or fatality or in which a vehicle is towed from the scene.

FMCSA regulations also require mandatory testing for drug and alcohol use (1) any time an accident results in a fatality and (2) any time an accident causes an injury or a disabled vehicle and the truck driver involved was issued a citation.

Higher Stakes

Because truckers drive to earn their living, the stakes are higher for them in the aftermath of an accident than for other drivers. Depending on a trucking company’s accident policy, a CDL accident report can result in (1) the truck driver’s license being suspended and/or (2) the truck driver being fired. 

The stakes are also high for trucking companies that employ drivers involved in crashes for several reasons.

  1. As illustrated by the example of the drunk truck driver hitting the bus full of hockey players, trucking companies are liable for damages caused by their drivers.
  2. Crashes go on a trucking company’s accident register and may trigger investigations and further regulation from the FMCSA.
  3. Accidents result in damaged vehicles, lost cargo, bad publicity, increased insurance rates, and many other factors that hurt a company’s bottom line.

Because of these factors, truck drivers and trucking companies aggressively defend themselves following a truck accident report to minimize the effects on their businesses.

What to Do After a Truck Accident

The actions you take in the aftermath of a truck accident—both on the scene and in the days following the accident—can affect your ability to collect compensation for your injuries and damage to your car. Some are commonsense steps, but others are things you’re unlikely to be aware of.

Your Responsibility After a Motor Vehicle Accident Under Indiana Law

Under Indiana law, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, you must:

  • Stop your car at the scene of the accident or as close to the accident as possible.
  • Remain at the scene until you have exchanged your driver’s license and insurance information with any other drivers involved in the accident.

If anyone has been injured or killed, you must also:

  • Notify the local authorities or a 911 operator as soon as possible.
  • Assist any injured persons as directed by emergency personnel.

If you leave the scene of the accident before taking these steps, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony if the accident resulted in serious injuries.

Call us at (317) 689-0654 for your free consultation.

What to Do in Case of an Accident Involving a Truck

If you’re in a tractor trailer or semitrailer accident, follow these steps to comply with the law and optimize your chances of recovering compensation for your injuries or any vehicle damage.

1. Keep Calm

As much as you can, try to remain calm. If you were not at fault, you may be angry with whoever caused the accident, but venting your anger won’t help the situation and may make it worse. It’s best to contact a truck accident attorney for help in dealing with the accident and its aftermath.

2. Call 911

As soon as possible, call 911 so first responders can be dispatched to the scene to attend to any injured people. The police will interview those involved in the accident and any witnesses and create a police report.

3. Assist in Any Way You Can

If you are injured, wait in your car for help to arrive. If you are uninjured, move your car to a safe area out of traffic, if possible. If safe to do so, check on other drivers and passengers involved in the accident to see if you can help them with anything. The actions of the drivers involved in the multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 74 in 2016 are an excellent example of drivers caring for other drivers in need.

4. Exchange Information with Other Drivers

Exchange insurance and driver’s license information with the other drivers involved in the crash. Insurance information should include the insurance company and the policy number. You do not (and should not) provide any details regarding your insurance policy, such as types and amounts of coverage.

Ask the truck driver involved in the accident for the name and address of their employer, and record the truck’s license plate number.

5. Get Contact Information from Witnesses

Witness testimony can be critical to establishing your claim for compensation. Witnesses may leave once they’ve checked that everyone involved in an accident is okay. Ask for their names and contact information (phone numbers and/or email addresses) as soon as possible.

6. Get Police Information

Ask the officer creating the police report for the accident for their name, badge number, and the police report number. The information in the police report can help with determining fault after a truck accident. It can also help your truck accident attorney in investigating and building a case for your insurance claim or lawsuit.

7. Document the Accident Scene

It’s crucial to collect all the evidence you may need after a truck accident. As soon as you can, write down how the crash occurred. Include the accident location, such as the cross streets, address, or highway mile marker. Take photos of the vehicles involved, documenting any damage. If there are skid marks, take photos of the skid marks, too.

8. Be Careful What You Say

What you say in the aftermath of a truck accident can affect your ability to collect compensation for your injuries or damage to your vehicle. Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t admit fault to anyone, even if you caused the accident. Your lawyer’s investigation may uncover mitigating circumstances that transfer some of the fault to other parties.
  • Tell the police your story, but don’t admit fault.
  • Talk to a truck accident attorney as soon as possible. The experienced Indianapolis truck accident lawyers at Wilson Kehoe Winingham can advise you on what to do after a semitruck accident.
  • Don’t talk to insurance companies. Suppose you casually tell a claims adjuster from your insurance company that you’re okay. That may hinder your ability to collect damages or reduce the amount of the settlement offered by your insurer. A trucking company’s insurer will usually fight hard for its client. Politely decline to talk to insurance adjusters, and let them know that your truck accident attorney will contact them.
  • Don’t post anything about the accident on social media. Suppose you post a picture of your car after the accident with the caption, “Got into a crash with a truck, but I’m okay.” Your post can be used to argue against any claim you make for injuries suffered in the accident.

9. Get a Medical Evaluation and Document Any Treatment You Receive

As soon as you can, get a medical evaluation for yourself and any passengers in your car at a hospital emergency room or from your primary care doctor. Do this even if you feel fine after the accident, because a doctor can diagnose internal injuries you may not be aware of, and symptoms of some injuries (e.g., back and neck pain) may not be felt immediately.

Keep all records of your medical treatment and bills. It can also be helpful to keep a diary of how your injuries affect your daily activities. Write down, for instance, if you can’t work or if your injuries cause you to miss any of your everyday activities.

10. Get Your Car Appraised

Wait to get your car repaired until your insurance company authorizes you to do so. However, you can bring your car to one or two independent body shops and ask them for a repair appraisal.

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today

Any motor vehicle accident is traumatic, but it’s clear that commercial vehicle accident procedures are more complex than the aftermath of a typical car accident. If you or a loved one have been involved in a truck accident, contact the Indianapolis truck accident attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you navigate the difficult and confusing time after a truck crash. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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