What You Need To Do if You Are Injured In a Wreck with a Large Truck
Gloria dropped the kids at school, and was headed north on I-75, about to get off at her exit to grab some coffee at her favorite coffee shop. As she slowed to exit, she felt a tremendous blow as a semi-truck smashed into her from behind, throwing her car onto the shoulder. Gloria was disoriented and terrified, and she was having trouble moving her legs, which were trapped under the dash.
This wasn't a passenger car (a 4-wheeler, as the truck drivers like to say) that struck Gloria. It was a large, tractor-trailer truck. What difference does that make? Aren't all wrecks the same?
The answer is yes, and no.
To an injured person, yes, it doesn't matter if it was a tractor-trailer or a Hyundai that struck her. An injury is an injury, regardless of its cause.
And yes, in some ways a big-rig wreck is like an auto wreck. They're both motor vehicle accidents, which means you need to call 911, make sure the police investigate, get a wreck report, get medical attention and notify your insurance companies, just like you would after any wreck.
But a tractor-trailer wreck is different in very important ways. This article will briefly address some of the differences you need to know.
Quick and Thorough Investigation is Crucially Important
First, investigating quickly is very important when you've been in a wreck involving a semi-truck. Large trucking companies may send a “quick response” team of investigators and experts to the scene of a wreck the same day of the wreck, or soon after, to do an investigation. You don't want to be at a disadvantage by not doing your own investigation.
The investigation of trucking cases includes things a car wreck doesn't include. For example, are the truck driver's log books and fuel tickets and invoices being preserved and not altered? Have the brakes been inspected? Was there an operational speed governor on the truck? What about the GPS system? Was the driver on his cell phone, or was he/she fatigued? Questions like these come up in the context of wrecks involving big rigs, and you want to be sure no evidence is altered or destroyed. “Spoliation” letters should usually be sent as soon as possible to all involved parties to try to ensure no evidence is altered or destroyed.
Experts and Attorneys May Need to Get Involved Early
Although some of my attorney friends might not like me saying this, I don't believe that every injury case demands a lawyer's involvement. I have come across a few small claims where I felt I had to tell someone that I didn't think hiring an attorney was going to be all that helpful to him/her financially. Typically, those are really small injuries, involving maybe only a few hundred dollars of medical treatment, where the insurance company has already offered a settlement of some sort.
But I do believe that just about every person with serious injuries in a tractor-trailer wreck should consider hiring an attorney. The laws and regulations governing big rigs are detailed and complicated. The investigation and expertise required is also more complicated and typically much more expensive than would be required in an ordinary car wreck. So I usually tell clients that they should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible after they are hurt in a wreck with a tractor-trailer.
Every case must be analyzed individually, but hopefully this helps give you an idea of some actions that may be important after a wreck with a tractor-trailer. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us.