What to Do After a Truck Accident: Your Legal Options
Any time a commercial truck collides with a passenger vehicle, the results can be devastating. Due to the size and weight differences between an 18-wheeler and a car or pickup truck, a truck accident can cause life-threatening injuries to the occupants of the smaller vehicle.
In 2018, there were more than 10,000 crashes in North Carolina involving heavy trucks. Out of those crashes, more than 100 fatalities were reported. All in all, from 2012 to 2016, 5 percent of all traffic collisions in North Carolina involved at least one large truck, according to the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program.
On a nationwide scale, large-truck crashes have reached a 29-year high, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
If you were involved in a truck accident near Raleigh, NC, you should speak to a truck accident attorney as soon as possible to learn what you are entitled to under the law. For example, you may be able to recover the costs of your medical expenses related to the accident, lost wages for work you missed due to the accident, as well as a lump sum amount for your pain and suffering.
The Raleigh truck accident injury attorneys at Hardison & Cochran can help you through all stages of your claim against the trucking company. Call us now, or contact us through online chat or email. Our attorneys and staff are available to speak to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
What to do After a Truck Accident
Any time a tractor trailer crashes, the potential for serious damage is much higher than in a collision between cars. If you are involved in a crash involving a big truck, it is important to take the right steps, if you are capable, after the wreck.
- Take care of yourself and others: Seeking medical attention for everyone involved in the crash should be the top priority immediately after a truck crash.
- Call law enforcement: Contact 911 as soon as possible and report the accident. Depending on the location of the wreck, the dispatcher will determine whether the North Carolina Highway Patrol or a local law enforcement agency should be called to the scene. Do not leave the scene of the accident or you could be cited.
- Obtain information: Approach the truck driver in a friendly manner and ask for the driver’s name, employer, insurance information, and the state where the driver and the truck are registered. Offer your name but don’t talk about the circumstances surrounding the crash because any information you volunteer could be used against you in court. If the driver won’t exchange information, wait until law enforcement officers arrive.
- Take photos: While waiting for the police to arrive, take photos from several different angles of the vehicles involved in the accident and any skid marks on the roadway. Write down details about the vehicles, including make, model, color, year, registration, and damage. Also record the time of day, weather conditions, and any other wreck factors. Gathering information about the crash could be crucial to any personal injury claim you file later.
- Seek medical evaluation: In many cases, an ambulance will be called to the scene and first responders will check you out. Because your adrenaline is likely to be flowing, you might not think you need medical help, but it is better to have a medical evaluation to check for a concussion and other injuries that may not be immediately apparent. You could sustain a traumatic brain injury without realizing it.
- Obtain an accident report: Speak with law enforcement officers so they can complete an accident report. Ask the investigating law officer how you can obtain a copy of the accident report and information about the truck driver. Make a note of the vehicle accident report number if possible.
- Contact your insurance company: Notify your insurance company as soon as possible of the accident.
- Understand your legal options: Have a personal injury attorney experienced at handling tractor-trailer crashes review the circumstances of the accident and explain your legal options. The stakes are higher in accidents involving commercial trucks, so the trucking company will have a lawyer defending their interests. You should have a lawyer advocating on your behalf.
North Carolina Truck Accident Laws
All semi-truck drivers are required to have a commercial driver’s license. Most states issue a commercial driver’s license after the driver completes a training program. If the truck driver involved in your truck accident was not been properly trained or has a checkered driving record, the trucking company may be legally liable for having an unsafe driver on the road. It could affect your claim against the truck driver and the trucking company.
Trucking companies must obey regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which include restrictions on hours of service, insurance coverage, and weight allowances. An overloaded tractor-trailer can quickly overturn or jackknife if forced to come to a sudden stop.
The rules governing hours of service specify the number of hours that a truck driver is allowed to drive each day. This is because fatigued truck drivers are a danger to all those who share the roads and highways. A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that commercial truck drivers only average about five hours of sleep per night and that many do not get enough sleep for the number of hours they work each day. Many truck accidents are caused by dangerously fatigued truck drivers.
In addition, truck drivers must keep time logs that tracks their activities and progress, including hours worked and miles traveled. However, the trucking company is only required to keep copies of their employees’ logbooks for a certain period of time.
Whether it was an unlicensed driver, a fatigued truck driver, or an overloaded tractor-trailer that was the cause of your trucking accident, an experienced semi-truck accident lawyer may be able to prove that the truck driver’s carelessness and the trucking company’s disregard for safety caused your accident. You may have the option of filing a truck accident lawsuit and demanding compensation for your injuries from the trucking company’s insurance carrier.
Statute of Limitations
North Carolina has laws regarding the time frame in which you may bring your truck accident injury claim. For example, if you were involved in a truck accident in Raleigh, you must file your claim against the truck company within three years of the date of the accident.
Time is of the essence. You should call to speak to the truck accident attorneys at Hardison & Cochran as soon as possible to guarantee that you do not miss the deadline for filing your truck accident claim.
How Does A Trucking Claim Process Work?
After you have received medical treatment for your injuries and your condition has stabilized, you should reach out to an experienced Raleigh semi-truck accident lawyer to discuss your potential claim. An attorney at Hardison & Cochran can review the details of your accident and evaluate your legal options.
If our truck accident law firm believes that you have a valid claim, we will offer to represent you on a contingency fee basis. That means our law firm only receives payment if we secure money for you, and you can have legal representation without paying any upfront costs.
Once a retainer agreement is signed, your attorney will begin investigating the accident. The investigation may entail documenting the scene of the truck accident, interviewing witnesses to learn how the accident occurred and having a truck mechanic examine the wrecked truck.
Your attorney may collect evidence of negligence by requesting documents from the trucking company, including the driver’s logbook. Further, if the semi-truck was equipped with a black box, your attorney may attempt to obtain its data, which may show the speed of the semi at impact and whether the driver tried to stop suddenly immediately before impact.
Our investigators also will attempt to locate any available video of the accident. We will gather and review your medical records and medical bills.
Settlement Option in Truck Accident
Once our investigation is complete, we will determine the extent of your present and future medical bills and losses related to your injuries. We will send a demand letter to the insurance carrier for the trucking company. The demand letter will outline the specifics of the accident and your injuries and include a settlement demand. If the truck driver and trucking company have different insurance companies, you may have the option of making claims against more than one insurance company, which can increase the amount of compensation available to you.
Your truck injury attorney will attempt to negotiate a reasonable settlement that reflects the extent of your injuries and losses. If the insurance company refuses to agree to a reasonable settlement, your attorney will file a complaint in court on your behalf.
Litigating Options for A Truck Accident Case
If you want to recover money damages for your truck accident injuries in court, your attorney will need to prove that the truck driver or the trucking company was negligent.
Negligence is the failure to exercise due care under the circumstances presented.
To prove negligence, you have to show the following:
- A duty of care – All vehicles on the road have a duty of care to obey traffic laws and avoid accidents involving cars, property, and pedestrians.
- Breach of the duty of care – Was the truck driver speeding? Was the truck overloaded? Did the driver get enough rest? These are all examples of a breach of a duty of care.
- Causation – Did the truck driver’s breach cause your damages?
Our commercial truck accident lawyers understand truck accident law and the required legal standards to show negligence on the part of a trucking company.
If a settlement agreement is not reached, your attorney will present the evidence to a jury at trial. The jury will then decide the issue of negligence, and how much money you should be awarded for your injuries.
If you or a loved one is injured in a semi-truck accident, it is vital to retain a truck accident attorney to protect your rights. The sooner you hire an attorney, the sooner they can begin to collect evidence that might not be available at a later date. The more evidence the attorney can gather, the better the result they will be able to retain on your behalf.
Contact a Truck Accident Attorney in North Carolina Now
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a Raleigh truck accident, please reach out to our attorneys as possible. The Raleigh law firm of Hardison & Cochran is dedicated to helping victims of accidents caused by the negligence of other drivers to obtain full and fair compensation for medical bills and lost work time. We are ready to discuss your legal options to hold the negligent trucker, trucking company, or any other responsible party accountable for the harm you’ve suffered. Contact us today.