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18-Wheeler Accidents: What Happens Right after the Truck Wreck

After Truck Wrecks

Your life may never be the same after a truck accident, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have the chance to protect your rights and seek justice. If you know what to do after an 18-wheeler wreck, you can take some simple but powerful steps to:

  • Keep yourself safe: The aftermath of big rig crashes can be deeply upsetting, confusing, and difficult to endure. If you know what to expect, however, you can avoid panicking, and you’ll have a better plan for making smarter choices at every moment. 
  • Preserve the strength of a potential claim: If you know what to do and what to avoid doing, you can avoid giving other parties, like insurance companies, leverage to reduce or deny a claim later.
  • Move forward with greater peace of mind: This can offer some confidence that you’re doing the right things to support your recovery.

Here’s why and:

This info is geared toward anyone involved in an 18-wheeler wreck, including truck drivers, other motorists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and others hurt in truck accidents.

After a Truck Wreck: 5 Steps to Protect Your Rights & a Future Claim

Whether you’re a trucker, another motorist, or another party to an 18-wheeler accident, there are at least a handful of steps you can take after a wreck to safeguard your rights and interests.

First and foremost, get to a safe spot and call 911 if anyone’s hurt or could be hurt by the wreckage. From there, take the steps that follow. If you can do at least some of these things, you could be in a better position later when it’s time to file a claim and seek compensation.

1. Get medical care.

See EMTs at the scene, doctors at the ER, or your own doctor as soon as you can. Immediate medical attention means your injuries get recorded by a professional and diagnosed ASAP. That could be crucial later when you’re trying to establish how badly you were hurt in a big rig wreck.

So can continued medical treatment and ongoing documentation regarding your injuries. So, don’t skip appointments, ignore doctor’s orders, or put off certain treatments because you’re concerned about medical bills. If you do, you could give other parties, like insurance companies, leverage to use against you and your claim.

That could mean insurance companies have enough leeway to allege that:

  • You’ve exaggerated the injuries. If you were really hurt, you would’ve seen a doctor sooner or kept up with the recommended medical treatment.
  • Your injuries weren’t caused by the accident. Something else, after the accident, caused the trauma.
  • You’ve made your injuries worse by putting off or foregoing medical care. So, you’re somewhat at fault for the trauma involved and entitled to less.

By getting prompt and continued medical care for truck accident injuries, you can create a credible paper trail from independent experts — like doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals — that makes it difficult for others to downplay your injuries.

2. Gather evidence (if you can).

If you’re able to move after an 18-wheeler accident — and that won’t put you at risk of getting hit by passing traffic — do your best to collect evidence from the scene. That can include (and is not at all limited to):

  • Pictures: Take photos of your vehicle, other parties’ vehicles, and any road features involved or damaged in the crash. Be sure to take detailed and panoramic shots that capture the damage from different points of view. Also, don’t forget to try to take photos of the road and weather conditions right after the 18-wheeler accident.
  • Videos: Recorded video footage of a truck accident scene can feature other parties involved, the action happening right after the crash, and even potential eyewitnesses. Videos can also be a great way to document certain items if you don’t have time to write details down, like statements from other involved parties or witnesses.
  • Information from others: Driver, vehicle, and insurance information is all important to document for each party in the big rig crash. Pictures of license plates and video showing identifying information can help here too.
  • Debris: Damaged personal items, broken vehicle parts, and even debris that falls out of vehicles — like empty beer cans — could also be important evidence for a future truck accident claim.

Remember, it’s not entirely up to you to get every last piece of evidence at the scene. Police who respond to the crash site will likely conduct their own investigations, which could document and yield other evidence. This could include items you were not able to obtain, like chemical test results from breathalyzers, for example.

3. Keep your guard up and watch your words.

Do not expect others at the scene or after to be looking out for you or your rights. Instead, it’s safer to assume that anything you tell other motorists, witnesses, police, and insurance companies could be used to try to:

  • Blame you for the truck accident: Your words can be heard and documented by others at the scene. Later, insurance companies could use that as evidence to blame you for the wreck, even if other evidence points to another at-fault party.”
  • Avoid paying you compensation: If you’re on record admitting fault or apologizing — even if that was done mistakenly — again, your words could be evidence others use against a future claim.

So, do not assume other parties are on your side after an 18-wheeler accident, and be extremely careful about what you say to them, both at the crash scene and after. In fact, it’s generally in your best interests to:

  • Stick to the facts only: The date, time, and location of the big rig crash are facts. Other things you remember without question can also be shared, like where you were headed, what you saw right before the accident, and more.
  • Never apologize or admit blame: You won’t have all of the facts or evidence after a truck accident, so do NOT assume you’re at fault — and don’t say “sorry” or offer an apology either. Though empathetic, those words can be leveraged to blame you for a truck wreck.
  • Avoid guessing: Do NOT embellish, make up details, or try to guess about factors you’re unsure of. If you do, you could end up hurting your own credibility and claim, especially if other evidence comes to light proving you wrong later.
  • Be careful about “official” statements: These are recorded statements insurance companies can use against you later, on top of any evidence they have in police reports or from the scene. You do NOT have to provide an official statement immediately, and you can talk to a lawyer before you make this type of statement to an insurance company.

4. Keep everything.

A truck accident claim can take time to resolve, and the evidence you have could be crucial to achieving an optimal outcome. That’s why it’s crucial to keep all items that you have, collect, and receive related to the 18-wheeler wreck. That can include items like (and not limited to):

  • Your truck accident photos and videos
  • Medical bills, doctors’ notes, and diagnostic test results
  • A copy of the police report for the big rig wreck
  • Debris, clothing, and/or damaged personal items from the 18-wheeler accident

Here are some pro tips that can help you retain and easily access the items you have from a truck accident:  

  • Digitize: Create a digital copy of any letters, bills, medical reports, receipts, and/or other paper items you have related to the crash. Email these digital versions of paper evidence to yourself, so you have a copy in your inbox. If you do, you’ll be able to access them, print them off, and present them anywhere you have internet access (and a printer).
  • Duplicate: Ideally, you’d have at least two “copies” of each piece of evidence you have so that there’s a backup version in case the original gets lost, damaged, or destroyed. For physical evidence, like debris from the scene, duplicate “versions” could include pictures or videos of the objects. Along with digitizing and emailing records to yourself, you can also upload items to secured, shared spaces in the cloud, like Google Drive or Dropbox. That could give you the chance to share access with others and continue “banking” the evidence in a central place going forward.

5.  Get answers about a potential 18-wheeler accident claim.

Talk to a truck wreck attorney to find out more about your rights, what to expect, and what to do next. No two claims are the same, and there’s limited time to take legal action in Texas. By speaking to an 18-wheeler accident lawyer, you can get the confidential answers you need to make an informed decision moving forward.

What to Expect from 18-Wheeler Accident Investigations

After a big rig wreck, various parties may conduct investigations into the crash, depending on what happened during and after the truck accident. Some of those parties include:

  • Police: If police are called after a big rig accident, they will usually investigate the accident, take statements from witnesses, and collect other evidence at the scene. After, police will write up an official report for the truck wreck, detailing their findings. Police may or may not attribute fault for the accident to one or more parties in their reports. In Texas, it usually takes about 10 business days after the date of a crash for police accident reports to be available online (here).
  • Insurance companies: Insurer investigations into truck accidents typically get underway ASAP, sometimes just as soon as (or right after) the police investigation into a wreck. That’s because many modern 18-wheelers are outfitted with dash cams that capture and transmit real-time footage. These recordings may be monitored by trucking companies who, then, alert insurers to accidents. Unlike police investigations, insurance company investigations into truck accidents are usually focused on finding evidence of liability that helps these companies limit or avoid making payouts on claims.
  • Others: Motor carriers may investigate wrecks involving their drivers. Similarly, federal regulators may investigate truck crashes when these wrecks involve hazardous spills, toxic releases, or mass casualty events. Workers’ compensation teams, state authorities, and others may also open up investigations, depending on the victims, the circumstances involved, and/or any claims that arise from the 18-wheeler wreck.

No matter who investigates a truck accident, these investigations may:

  • Point to additional evidence or the destruction of key evidence.
  • Highlight one or more parties who could be at fault for a truck wreck.
  • Be just the starting point for victims’ attorneys to dive into deeper investigations.

What to Expect from Motor Carriers After Truck Accidents: ‘Defense’ Mode

Trucking companies tend to operate in defensive mode after 18-wheeler wrecks. They’re worried about getting sued and being found liable for an accident. That can make motor carriers almost hyper-vigilant when it comes to:

  • Monitoring dash cam footage: This can include cab-facing dash cams that record truckers and forward-facing dash cams that capture what’s happening outside and around the front of 18-wheelers. 
  • Responding to any incidents or wrecks immediately: Motor carriers may have systems and protocols set up for notifying insurers and others of a big rig wreck — sometimes even before police are notified of them. That can mean the fastest possible response, sometimes giving insurance and motor carrier investigators access to crash scenes before police arrive.
  • Looking for any evidence that could absolve them of liability: This could involve actively collecting evidence that points fault to anyone else at the scene. It may also include getting rid of certain incriminating evidence before other parties know it exists. For example, it’s not unheard of for motor carriers to sanitize the interiors of truck cabs, manipulate recorded footage, or even destroy data from event data recorders (EDRs).

In light of that, truck accident victims should NOT assume or expect motor carriers to be unbiased or on victims’ side, no matter how sympathetic the company may seem. Also, don’t expect trucking companies to get fault determinations correct. 

Instead, it’s generally prudent to investigate these accidents on your own to get a better idea of what really happened and who’s really to blame.

How to Get More Answers After a Truck Accident

Resources like this can share a lot of eye-opening info, but they won’t give you answers related to your situation. The best way to get those answers and start exploring your legal options for recovery is by talking to a truck accident attorney.