The few seconds of eerie silence following a collision are usually followed by questions racing through the mind like: Am I hurt? Was someone else hurt? How bad is the damage? Who was at fault? Will insurance pay for all of this? While these questions and concerns are completely valid, it is critical to remain calm and follow a few simple tips to make sure an accident doesn't become a catastrophe down the road.
The first thing to do after the truck accident is to immediately seek help from the police and other rescue personnel by calling 911. The sooner they are called the sooner they arrive and provide medical aid (if necessary). Looking forward, the faster the police arrive the better they are able to investigate the accident, document what happened, determine fault and preserve evidence.
Move to Safety
Next, find a safe place to move you and your vehicle out of traffic. When moving isn't feasible, use your hazard lights to alert other drivers to avoid additional accidents. Once the hazards are on, stay out of the road and away from traffic until the police arrive and can block off the area.
Demand a Police Report
Once the police arrive, make sure they create a report. Police documentation will be crucial if the other party to the accident claims you were at fault. Insist that the police officer(s) take pictures of the accident scene and the vehicles. If they will not, use the camera on your cell phone. Photos will not only help show that damage to your vehicle was caused by the accident, but will help in filling out a crash report, which Illinois law requires for accidents causing death or damages over $1,500.
Get Insurance Information
Because insurance companies communicate to resolve claims, exchanging insurance information with the other driver is critical. Without it, your insurance company does not know whom to contact, which will either delay or dash your insurer's ability to collect from the at-fault party. With no insurance information, you and/or your insurance company may have to pay for all of the damages. If the other vehicle is a commercial truck, get contact information of the company and the driver.
If a dispute arises over fault down the road, it will likely be your word against the other driver's. Having independent, third party witnesses to corroborate your account about the accident could make all the difference. Before they leave the scene, get the names, addresses and telephone numbers of those who saw what happened as you may need to call them as witnesses if the matter goes to trial.
Seek Medical Attention
During the first few hours after an accident, your adrenaline may be high and you may not initially feel the effects of a collision. However, it is extremely important to receive medical attention to know the extent of any injuries. Damage to your neck and back may not become apparent and may get worse as time goes on. Moreover, being examined immediately after an accident will establish a time period for injuries, which could become a contested issue down the road.
Do Not Admit Fault
It may be tempting to apologize to the other driver after an accident. You may not be sure if you did something wrong or contributed in some way to the collision. However, do not apologize or say anything that may be later inferred as an admission that you were responsible. You only know what you saw and experienced so let the police and the courts look at the totality of the circumstances to determine who was truly at fault.
Contact an Attorney
Do not let an insurance company bully you into a settlement without first speaking to an attorney about your situation. Even your own insurance wants to pay out as little as possible for your accident. Do not let yourself be taken advantage of by an insurer trying to save a buck.
Car and truck accidents are stressful no matter who was at fault. By following a few simple pointers, you can prevent a bad situation from becoming worse down the road.