If you drive the highways of Texas, then being near an 18-wheeler vehicle, often referred to as a semi truck, is inevitable at some point. Large trucks are critical parts of the economy, and transport millions of tons of goods every year as such. Unfortunately, sharing the road with 18-wheelers is not without risk. Every year, there are hundreds of people seriously injured in crashes involving large trucks in Texas (see: Texas Department of Transportation Crash Statistics).
Large truck crashes are rarely fender-bender accidents, where those involved walk away with little damage to their vehicles and injuries that aren’t serious. Rather, just the opposite is true. Based on the sheer weight of the large trucks involved in 18-wheeler truck accidents, these crashes have the tendency to be catastrophic. When 18-wheeler accidents occur, victims may not survive, and when they do, it could be with life-altering injuries, including amputations, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, and other disabling injuries.
If you are involved in an accident with an 18-wheeler in New Braunfels or surrounding areas of Texas, knowing what steps to take next is important. Refer to the following guide, and be sure to contact an experienced New Braunfels truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after a crash.
Get Emergency Medical Care
Chances are, if you are involved in an 18-wheeler truck accident, going to the hospital won’t be a choice. It is very likely that you will require emergency care, which may be administered to you at the scene of the accident, or you may be immediately transferred to the nearest emergency room by ambulance.
However, if there is non-emergency care that you require – such as follow-up care, future surgeries, or if you are having complications post-accident – you need to go to the hospital or see your doctor immediately. It is very important that you do not delay in seeking medical care when you need it following a truck accident, as this delay could not only be detrimental to your health, but could also imply that your injuries are not serious, or are not directly related to the 18-wheeler accident.
In addition to seeking medical care, it is equally important that you thoroughly document this care. Detailed records of medical care will be necessary when filing your claim and proving damages.
Talk to the Police and Obtain a Copy of the Accident Report
If you require emergency care, it is unlikely that you will wait around for the police to arrive so that you can give them your version of events. In fact, you may not even be conscious in order to do so. That does not mean that you should not report the accident to the police and file a statement, however, it just means that you may have to do so once you have received treatment.
When you give your statement to the police, be careful about what you say. You should stick to the facts of what happened and don’t speculate about things you are unsure of. If there is something that you do not remember, simply tell the police you do not remember. You should also request a copy of this report immediately.
Keep in mind that failing to report an accident in Texas is illegal, as found in Texas Transportation Code, when an accident causes injury or death.
File Your Claim With the Insurance Company
You are required to give your insurance company an adequate amount of time to investigate your claim, which means that you need to inform them of your accident as soon as is possible. If you do not inform your insurance company of the accident within a timely manner, your claim could be denied.
It is also very important that when speaking to the insurance adjuster, you stick to the facts. You should not give a recorded statement without speaking to your lawyer first, and should never sign anything without having it reviewed by an attorney.
Get Help From an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney
It is at this point in the process that you should think seriously about hiring an attorney, especially if your injuries and losses are severe. The reason that you need an attorney as early in the claims possible has to do, in part, with the collection of evidence.
When you are filing a truck accident claim in Texas, you will have to prove four things in order to recover damages. These are:
- That the defendant owed you a duty of care.
- That the duty of care owed to you was breached.
- That the accident occurred as a direct result of the breach of duty of care.
- That you suffered damages as a direct result.
In order to prove these four elements, you may need a lot of evidence. However, if you are injured, you may not be able to collect this evidence on your own, and may not even know what to look for. This is where an experienced law firm can prove to be a very valuable resource. At the Burch Law Firm, our attorneys build your case from the ground up, collecting evidence such as:
- Driver’s logs
- Electronic control module, or “black box,” data
- Witness statements
- Trucking company maintenance and service logs
- Experts testimony
- Accident reconstruction evidence
- Video or camera footage
- And much more
In order to secure some of these evidence types, motions with the court may need to be filed, or legal measures may need to be taken. We are highly skilled in this, and are confident in our ability to investigate your case thoroughly. Keep in mind that because of the number of parties involved in an 18-wheeler accident, determining liability can be very tricky, and makes the quick collection of evidence that much more important.
Start Recording Your Damages
As you start to recover from your injuries, your focus should be on healing and getting better, not on worrying about your claim. However, your experience as you heal will be an important part of your truck accident claim, as you will need to prove the extent of damages that you have suffered. As such, it is important that you begin accurately and comprehensively recording your damages.
It is recommended that you keep a journal where you can document your expenses, thoughts, pain, disability, and more. For example, a journal where you write down things such as the following can be helpful:
- “The doctors say I will be unable to return to work for at least two years. I’m not sure what our family will do for income, and I am worried about the future. My spouse keeps telling me it’s okay, but my inability to provide for my family has left me depressed and angry.”
- “Today the pain from my injury was so bad, I could hardly get out of bed. When I was finally able to get up after taking some medication, I could only spend about 30 minutes with my son before the pain called me back to bed. I’m not sure how long I can remain like this. I hope I heal soon.”
Of course, you should only write things that are true for you, but they should be as detailed and descriptive as possible. These entries can be used to determine the value of your noneconomic damages, which are the types of damages that are intangible in nature, such as the value of your pain, suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish.
Once you have reached maximum medical improvement, which is the full extent that doctors believe you will heal, you should determine your total damages amount with the help of an attorney. This amount will not only include your noneconomic losses, but your economic losses, such as the value of your lost wages and medical expenses, too.
Demand Compensation and Attempt to Negotiate a Settlement
Once you have reached maximum medical improvement, you will need to send a demand letter to the insurance company of the at-fault party requesting this amount in compensation. Typically, the insurance company will reject your demand, and offer a counter instead. You should never accept a first settlement offer without the advice of an attorney, as initial settlements are typically much lower than what you really deserve.
Once you receive a settlement offer, negotiations will begin. This is the process of going back and forth with the insurance adjuster in order to reach a settlement that you can both agree on. Sometimes, settlement cannot be reached. When this happens, a case must go to court in order to be resolved.
Contact Our Experienced New Braunfels 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyers Today
Being involved in an accident with an 18-wheeler is absolutely terrifying, and few people can imagine anything worse. If this has happened to you or a loved one and damages are significant, do not try to navigate the claims process on your own. Instead, pick up the phone today and contact our aggressive New Braunfels 18-wheeler accident attorneys today for a free consultation. We are experienced in investigating truck accident claims, valuating damages, and successfully negotiating settlements.