What Can I Do to Protect My Rights After a Truck Accident?
Traffic accidents can be traumatic experiences, especially when they involve a commercial truck. These vehicles can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. If a loaded semi strikes you, it can also lead to serious injuries that impact you for years to come.
After an accident, you may feel confused and overwhelmed, leaving you at a loss for what steps you should take. However, what you do following the collision is vital for protecting your rights and the integrity of an accident and personal injury claim. Here is how you can make sure your rights are not violated after a truck accident.
Do Not Apologize or Admit Fault
Apologizing after a car accident is often an automatic response. You need to resist this temptation. While you may think of it as a polite and sincere statement of remorse that an accident occurred, the insurance companies or courtrooms can use it against you when you file an insurance or legal claim. Even if the accident was clearly the trucker’s fault, apologizing gives the other side leverage in determining liability. They interpret it as an admission of guilt.
Similarly, whether you feel the accident was your fault, never admit it to anyone. Truck collisions are often complicated, and liability is not usually clear-cut. When you are involved in a crash, you may not fully understand all contributing factors. Often, more than one driver shares the blame.
Michigan follows a modified comparative negligence rule, which means that you cannot collect noneconomic damages if you are 51% or more at fault. However, if you are no more than 50% liable, you can recover noneconomic losses such as pain and suffering. If you admit guilt, it provides the insurance company or defense attorneys with proof they can use to attribute more of the liability to you.
Seek Medical Attention
Whether you believe you have a severe injury, it is essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible. If paramedics arrive on the scene, do not turn down an evaluation. Some injuries are not readily apparent immediately following a collision. For example, the symptoms of a traumatic injury may not occur until days or weeks after the accident.
If you turn down or fail to seek medical attention right away, the insurance company or defense attorneys can deny your claim, stating that you have no proof the injuries occurred because of the accident. Even when a doctor pinpoints the collision as the likely cause, the other side may claim that your failure to get medical care exacerbated or contributed to your injuries.
Physicians know the signs of injuries and may run tests to discover hidden physical harms. They can document your physical condition and may request follow-up visits to check for late-onset symptoms. In any case, you will have documentation that you received medical care promptly.
Take Photographs and Video
If you are physically able, taking photos and videos at the accident scene is a good idea. These provide evidence of damages and can help with accident reconstruction, which is essential in determining liability. Without these, you may need a professional to aid in reconstructing the events that led to and caused the accident.
Insurance claims adjusters are more interested in saving the insurance company money than in protecting your rights. They will look for any evidence that indicates you were at fault. Though Michigan is a no-fault car insurance state, your insurance company may look for ways to reduce or deny your personal injury protection claim. The truck driver’s insurance company claims adjuster will also look for ways to pin the blame on you so the company does not have to pay for damages to your vehicle.
File a Police Report
Under Michigan law, you must immediately file a police report after a truck accident that leads to $1,000 or more in property damages, injuries or fatalities. The state requires you to submit your report to the nearest police station or officer. Though a legal requirement, doing so is also in your best interest.
A police report helps you protect your rights by providing written evidence of your side of the story. You present your recollection of preceding events and document the property damages and physical harms. The state holds onto the police reports for three years, which also happens to be the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim.
Do Not Accept a Quick Settlement
You have a right to fair compensation for damages to your property and personal injury losses. If your injuries are serious, you also have the right to pursue a lawsuit to recover economic and noneconomic damages. Insurance companies are in the habit of offering quick settlements hoping truck accident victims will want the fast cash to take care of pressing financial needs.
Unfortunately, these offerings impinge on your right to fair compensation. Insurers will not willingly provide a settlement that covers all damages you are entitled to. Once you accept a payment, you are stuck with the amount you receive. You no longer have any recourse to negotiate higher compensation or pursue a lawsuit.
Understandably, you may have concerns about paying mounting medical and other bills, especially if you cannot return to work for an extended period or lose your capacity to work to the same degree you did before the crash. However, if you get help negotiating the claims process, you may reach a fair settlement sooner than you think. Additionally, many companies are willing to work with people who can’t pay their bills due to extenuating circumstances (such as a serious traffic accident).
Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer
You may want to talk to a personal injury attorney with experience handling truck crash cases. The best time to make the call is immediately after the accident. A lawyer can help you protect your rights. Attorneys provide guidance on handling communications to ensure you don’t inadvertently say something that the other side can use against you.
If you retain a lawyer’s services, the legal team will handle communications with the insurance company or defense attorneys. An essential component of their job is to protect your rights. They understand the process and know how the other side operates. They can help you sidestep tricky situations by representing you throughout the process. A truck accident lawyer will:
- Help gather the evidence
- Talk to witnesses
- Seek assistance from relevant experts and professionals
- Communicate with the other side
- Handle the negotiations
- Submit required paperwork
Most personal injury claims settle with the insurance company or in pre-trial negotiations. However, if your case needs to go to court, the lawyer continues to protect your rights and represents you in the courtroom.
Find a Michigan Truck Accident Attorney
Mike Morse Law Firm is serious about protecting client rights. If you sustained injuries in a truck collision, we are here for you. Our firm will work hard to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve through negotiations with the insurance company or in legal proceedings. We have the experience and knowledge to stand up for you against those who would rather save money than look out for your best interests. We are compassionate and caring and won’t stop fighting for you. We also won’t collect any fees until we win your case. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.