When an accident involving a commercial semi-truck occurs, it tends to make the local news. That is partly because such accidents are relatively rare compared to collisions involving only smaller passenger vehicles. But it is also because truck accidents tend to leave a lot more devastation in its wake, including a loss of human life, serious injuries to the survivors, and extensive property damage.
If you are one of those injured victims, you are likely faced with a mountain of unexpected medical bills and other out-of-pocket expenses as you struggle to recover. If the truck driver or trucking company was responsible for your accident, you understandably want to hold them legally accountable and make them pay for what they have done. But demanding compensation following a truck accident is not a simple or easy process. And it is far too easy to make certain mistakes early in the process–indeed, during the first moments following an accident–that can limit your ability to seek full and fair compensation.
Mistakes to avoid if you are ever involved in a commercial trucking accident:
1. You Fail to Call the Police
It may seem like a no-brainer to call 911 following a truck accident. But you would be surprised how many people fail to take this basic first step. But it is critical to seek emergency assistance and get law enforcement to the scene of a truck accident as soon as possible. Indeed, under Georgia law any traffic accident involving personal injury or significant property damage must be reported to the police as soon as possible.
A key reason it is important to have the police on-scene is they can take down an official report. This report is often the first piece of key evidence you will need in building a case against the truck driver or trucking company. So you should always ask for a copy of the report when it becomes available.
2. You Fail to Gather Information at the Scene
Obviously, if you have life-threatening injuries, your first priority must always be seeking medical attention. But if you are able to get up and walk around following a truck accident, you should take the time to gather some basic information at the scene. Failure to do so can make things more difficult for you later.
While nobody expects you to play the role of police detective, you can use your smartphone to take pictures or video footage of the accident scene. This can prove useful when filing insurance claims and later trying to reconstruct the events leading up to the collision. You can also gather the names and contact information of any other victims or witnesses who saw what happened. While the police will also take down such information for their own report, it never hurts to have that information available for yourself.
3. You Fail to Go to the Doctor
There is often a mentality that after a traumatic event like a truck accident, it is best to simply walk away if you are able and assume that everything is OK. This can be a fatal mistake in some cases. Even if you are not bleeding or displaying any outward signs of a serious injury, you may have still sustained internal injuries that require immediate medical attention. For instance, you may have internal bleeding due to a punctured organ. Or you may have a moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury that will reveal itself over time through various signs of cognitive impairment.
An easy rule to keep in mind is this: If you have been involved in a truck accident, go to the doctor–even if you “feel fine.” More importantly, keep track of any medical care you receive following a truck accident. This includes any doctor’s visits, prescription medications, and rehabilitative therapy sessions.
4. You Fail to Speak with a Lawyer Before Accepting a Settlement Offer
Trucking companies are sophisticated businesses that have experience in performing damage control following a serious accident. They are also backed by large, sophisticated insurance companies who will make every effort to minimize their own financial exposure. Following a truck accident, both the trucking and the insurance companies are betting that the victims are too distracted and weakened by their injuries to put up a serious legal fight.
It is not uncommon for an insurer to quickly extend a settlement offer to a truck accident victim. Such offers are often far too low to fully compensate the victims for their devastating losses. But if the victim is suddenly unable to work or pay their bills, they may accept the insurance company’s first offer without question, just to get some money in their pockets.
In reality, this is almost always a mistake. A victim’s chances of securing a better, fairer offer, significantly increased by working with a qualified Atlanta truck accident attorney. An attorney not only has a technical understanding of the law; they also have experience in negotiating with insurance companies.
5. You Fail to Act in Time
Under Georgia law, a person injured in a truck accident generally has 2 years from the date of the crash to file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible parties. At first glance, you might think that 2 years is more than enough time. But in practice, many accident victims delay in seeking legal advice, and as a result they are unable to meet the statutory deadline.
The reality is that it often takes several months of preliminary investigation to even sort out who may be responsible for a serious truck accident. The trucking and insurance companies are also quite adept at dragging things out. So any delay on the part of the victim in taking action can leave them walking away with nothing.Do not let this happen to you. If you have been recently injured in a truck accident and need legal advice or representation from an experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer, contact Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys today to schedule a free case evaluation.