Car accidents, especially those involving large trucks, can be intense and traumatic.
After a crash, victims are often overwhelmed by immediate concerns: injuries, pain and emotional distress are foremost, and worries about a damaged vehicle and the safety of loved ones aren't far behind.
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A serious truck crash will leave you rattled, or worse, but the moments directly following an accident can be the most important. That's why it's essential to gain an understanding of post-crash best practices before your next collision.
Here's how to build a better insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit from the start:
Due to their sheer size, trucks are far more likely to inflict catastrophic injuries than passenger vehicles. In cases of serious injury, you won't have a choice as to whether or not you are taken to the hospital. But after you arrive and receive the treatment you need, ask for any and all medical reports produced by your doctors.
Even if it's just a fender-bender, your first priority should always be your own health. If the emergency responders suggest a ride to the hospital, take them up on the offer. Even if you feel fine, or your injuries seem minor.
This is just common sense, but visiting a doctor as soon as possible can also help bolster your insurance claim or a potential lawsuit. A physician's official reports, especially ones conducted directly after a crash, go to prove that you were actually hurt.
In many cases, victims with legitimate claims are denied insurance benefits based on the fact that they failed to seek treatment after their accident. Insurance companies often take this as evidence that your injuries are minor, or non-existent.
If you are involved in a relatively minor truck accident, you may be able to gather vital information essential to an insurance or personal injury claim.
After calling 911, while you wait, try to get the truck drivers:
Take pictures of all vehicles involved, highlighting any property damage, along with photos of any injuries you sustained. If you can't take photographs, make notes on the truck's appearance. Does it have a semi-trailer (large container attached to the cab)? If so, can you tell what kind of freight it's transporting, and whether or not that freight seems well secured? Is it a smaller commercial vehicle, like a delivery van?
If there are witnesses, ask for their names, phone numbers and a short description of the crash as it appeared to them. Also, request descriptions from any passengers involved in the accident.
Next, draw a diagram of the accident. Include street names for location, note the exact time and date, and then sketch out the trajectory of each vehicle involved. Try to estimate your own driving speed, as well as that of the truck that struck you.
Finally, note down any weather conditions that may have contributed to the crash. If you can, think back to the moments just before. Did you notice the truck behaving dangerously, swerving in and out of lanes, or speeding?
Once the police arrive, follow their instructions to the letter. Be courteous and clear. If they don't ask for a statement to include in their accident report, insist on it. Then describe the facts of the crash as clearly and accurately as possible, without suggesting any fault.
If you admit to being partially at-fault for the crash, this will be noted and can be used against you later on. Just describe the crash, plain and simple. Now ask to be notified of the report's completion and request a copy. You are entitled to this report by law and, in the hands of an experienced personal injury lawyer, it can become a key piece of evidence in a future claim for compensation.
At this point, you'll probably be asked whether you'd like medical attention. Accept it. Since we already covered the importance of health reports, we'll skip over that here and continue to the days following your initial examination.
Because New York is a no-fault insurance State, you are guaranteed coverage up to your policy limit regardless of whether or not you were responsible for the accident. This is a trade-off, which leaves victims with only minor injuries unable to sue a negligent driver for pain, suffering and other "non-economic damages."
Instead, New York law only allows drivers who have suffered "severe" injuries to pursue additional compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.
Before drawing on your policy, it's a good idea to contact an experienced attorney with a thorough knowledge of New York's insurance laws. Your injuries may be serious enough to file suit right away, and many "minor" injuries become severe with time.
After consulting an attorney, contact your auto insurance company. While New York State law does not require you to report an accident to your insurer, your insurance contract probably does. Failing to inform them of a crash can result in a limitation or elimination of your benefits in the event that you need them.
As with the police, describe your accident in factual terms: what, when, and where. If they request an explanation of how the crash occurred, including any questions of responsibility, refer them to your lawyer. While your insurer cannot deny you benefits on a whim, they can make life extremely difficult.
You also have to file an accident report of your own with the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days of a crash if:
This report is required in addition to an official police report. To properly complete the report, you'll need all the information you collected at the scene. It even asks you to draw a little diagram of the crash.
After filing your report, a record of the accident will be included on your driving record. But it won't make any mention of fault or responsibility; that's not the DMV's job.
You've covered all your legal bases, and now your mind should be focused on getting better.
If you've decided that insurance is the best way to go, just follow your doctor's guidance and file claims as needed. If, on the other hand, an experienced attorney believes that you have a valid case, work together to build the strongest lawsuit possible.
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