Truck accidents are one of those things that you hear about on the news, but never expect to happen to you. They seem so rare and so random that most people wouldn’t know where to begin if they had to deal with a truck accident claim. But truck accidents are more common than you may realize. In just one year, 4,136 people died in crashes involving large trucks across the United States. During the last decade, the number of fatalities involving large trucks has jumped by a frightening 31 percent.
If you are in an accident, the law allows you to file a claim against the at-fault party. This claim can help you recover damages related to your medical care and lost wages, amongst other costs. One of the best ways to defend your rights and maximize your claim is to preserve relevant evidence after your accident. If you or a loved one were in a truck accident, contact an experienced truck accident attorney in fort myers to learn more about how to do all of those things.
Your Rights After a Truck Accident
Accidents are scary. They don’t just cause physical injuries, they often cause tremendous psychological and emotional damage as well. After an accident, it’s important to know that you have rights. Florida law allows anyone injured by someone else’s negligent actions to file a personal injury claim to recover damages related to their injuries.
While every case is different, these damages may include:
- Medical bills, including doctor visits, surgeries, medication, rehabilitation, and mental health services.
- Future medical costs, to help cover the cost of future medical care in the case of serious injuries.
- Lost wages, when your injuries keep you out of work. This benefit typically starts from the first day you miss from work and ends when you return.
- Future lost earnings, if your injury is so severe that you cannot return to work.
- Residential modifications, when a serious injury makes it impossible to move about your own home without making modifications like widening doorways or installing a wheelchair ramp.
- Pain and suffering, including physical pain, as well as emotional distress such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
- Loss of enjoyment, when you cannot do what you enjoyed before the accident.
- Loss of companionship, if a serious injury interferes with your ability to have a physical or emotional relationship with a loved one.
- Wrongful death, to cover funeral and burial costs, lost wages, medical costs, and pain and suffering if a loved one was killed in an accident.
Florida does not require accident victims to prove that the other party holds 100 percent liability. Even if you hold some fault in the accident, you still can file a claim. Any evidence you can gather in the aftermath of an accident can help prove liability and quantify the value of your claim.
Evidence to Gather After a Truck Accident
In any legal matter, evidence is one of the most important components. Motor vehicle accidents are no exception. Insurance companies don’t like to pay out claims and will fight hard to reduce the value of your settlement. That’s why every piece of evidence you can gather is important.
Some items that may be helpful to your case include:
- Photos: Pictures of the accident can provide a lot of detail about what exactly happened. Particularly when there are conflicting accounts of how the accident happened, photographs can provide a clearer picture.
- Witness statements: Most people don’t just drive past a major truck accident. Chances are, if someone witnessed your accident, they stopped and asked if you needed help. Make sure you get their contact information before they leave the scene.
- Driver records: Did the driver have a bad driving record? Did they have a recent drug test? How many hours did the driver work in the days leading up to the accident? These are all important questions that can provide valuable information about the driver’s qualifications to be on the road. As a plaintiff, you have the right to this information. However, the defendant won’t want to hand it over willingly. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you secure the other driver’s employment and DMV records.
- Medical records: Your medical records will provide evidence of the degree of your injuries and any past medical issues. The driver’s medical history will show if they had any drug or alcohol issues, sleep problems, or any other health issues that might have influenced their ability to drive safely.
- Phone records: In 2018, distracted driving killed 2,841 people. Phone records can prove whether the truck driver was on the phone at the time of the accident.
- Maintenance records: Was the truck in good condition? When was the last time it received maintenance? Drivers and employers have the duty to perform regular maintenance on all trucks in service. When they fail to properly maintain a fleet, they may have engaged in gross negligence.
How to Preserve Evidence After an Accident
The value of your case will depend on how well you preserve evidence after an accident. Lost, incomplete, or altered evidence can greatly affect the outcome of your case. One of the best ways to preserve evidence after an accident is to talk to an attorney. An attorney can take immediate action to make sure evidence doesn’t disappear and procure any time-sensitive data. But while your attorney will do most of the work when it comes to evidence, there are a few things you can do to help your case.
- Take detailed pictures: Pictures can go a very long way toward proving your case. However, this is assuming you provide good pictures. When you take pictures at the accident scene, try to get pictures of both vehicles. Don’t just focus on areas of damage. Be sure to get pictures of the whole vehicle to show the location of the damage. It’s also helpful if you can include pictures of any property damage including street signs, skid marks, and road barriers.
- Utilize your phone: After an accident, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. When you feel stressed and anxious, you’re more likely to misplace things like insurance information and witness names. You already have your phone out to take pictures, so it only makes sense to use your phone to store other vital information. Take a picture of the driver’s insurance information, rather than writing it down. For witness information, program phone numbers in your phone. Just be sure to clearly label who they are.
- Back up your information: Photos can easily get erased or misplaced, even on a smartphone. It’s a good idea to have a backup copy of all accident photos. If you can, upload the photos to your computer. Once you have an attorney, send an email with these photos so they have a digital copy as well.
- Watch what you say: It may seem like a simple courtesy to say “I’m sorry” after an accident, but an insurance company will likely interpret an apology as an admission of guilt. Do not say anything to the other driver that implies that you were in any way at fault. The same goes for your doctor and the insurance company. Anything you say can become a part of your record and will affect your case.
- Don’t post on social media: The same logic applies here as it does for what you say. It doesn’t matter if you have a diagnosis of a sprained shoulder if you also post pictures of you playing baseball on social media. Your strong evidence of injury just went out the window. Do not post any photos showing physical activity or any comments about the accident. It’s also a good idea to lock down your privacy settings because the insurance company will try to access your page.
- Do not sign anything: You may have a solid case, but the minute you sign something waiving your rights, your case is done. If you have a serious case, the insurance company may try to get you to settle right away. Don’t sign anything before you talk to an attorney, even if the offer seems like a lot of money. In most cases, if the insurance company makes a large and early offer, your case is actually worth A LOT more.
- Talk to a truck accident attorney: This bears repeating. An experienced attorney will immediately take steps to preserve your evidence once you establish a personal injury claim. Once you hire an attorney, all communication with the insurance company will go through the attorney. Your attorney will also have greater access to relevant evidence and will recognize if something is missing.
How the Other Party May Try to Avoid Liability
One of the reasons it’s so important to make sure you preserve your evidence is because insurance companies are always looking for ways to pay you less than you deserve. If they see an opportunity to reduce the value of your claim, they will. An experienced attorney can help you preserve your evidence and can help you fight for what you deserve. Some of the ways insurance companies try to skirt responsibility include:
- You were in a blind spot: Trucks have big blind spots. While other drivers should do their best to avoid these blind spots, this is not always possible. Truck drivers still have a responsibility to clear their blind spots and make an extra effort to ensure their path is clear.
- Defective parts: In some cases, the other party may try to claim that a defective part was the cause of the accident. If this is the case, you may have a claim against the part manufacturer. However, if the part failed because of poor maintenance, the driver will still hold liability.
- The driver didn’t have enough time to stop: Trucks take longer to stop. When a smaller vehicle has to come to a sudden stop because of another car or hazard in the road, the truck driver has little time to react. However, drivers have a responsibility to make sure they leave enough room between their vehicles and other vehicles on the road. For large trucks, drivers should allow even more space due to the limitations of their vehicles.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait Too Long to File a Personal Injury Claim After a Truck Accident
If you have thought about making a personal injury claim, you may have heard that you have four years to do so. While this is true, it is almost never a good idea to wait until the last minute. Why? Because the strength of your evidence will diminish as time goes on. Take witness statements, for example. The insurance company (or a jury) is more likely to rely on witness testimony within the first year or so following the accident. As time goes by, the witness’ recollection of the events is likely to fade. The same goes for direct accounts from you and the other driver. Think for a minute: how much detail can you remember about an event that happened more than a year ago?
Furthermore, some evidence may completely disappear if you wait too long to file a case. Was their surveillance footage of the accident that can prove your case? In most instances, businesses don’t keep this footage indefinitely. If you wait too long, vital evidence may not be available.
Get the Help You Deserve
Truck accidents are complex. They may include multiple parties, different insurance policies, and a completely different set of rules and regulations than traditional car accidents. After an accident, the steps you take can make all the difference when it comes to the value of your case. Your future is not something you want to leave up to chance. A personal injury attorney’s job is to analyze your case, preserve your evidence, and fight for your rights. After an accident, you have rights. If you have questions or need help with your claim, contact an experienced truck accident attorney to get started.