When you are involved in an accident, everything happens very quickly at the scene of the accident, and important evidence can be lost.
While your first step should be to ensure the safety of you and your passengers, there are some important steps that you can take at the scene of the accident, and following the accident, to ensure the preservation of important evidence if you file a truck accident claim in the future.
Preserving Evidence Matters With Truck Accidents
More than 10 percent of roadway accidents in Illinois involve a tractor-trailer, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. These scenes are often chaotic and may involve more than two vehicles. Because it is initially difficult to determine who caused an accident, preservation of evidence matters. Once you feel confident that you’re in a safe place following your accident, you should start to take proactive steps to prevent the destruction of evidence.
While at the scene of the accident, you should:
- Photograph the scene. Photographing the scene of the accident is important. Taking photos of signage near the scene, the vehicles involved in the accident, and the location of the accident may prove useful later.
- Obtain contact information. You should obtain contact information from all drivers, passengers, and witnesses to the accident. Additionally, you should request information regarding the truck driver’s employer.
- Accurate police report. An accurate report to police is a crucial step in the preservation of evidence at the scene. Do not accept blame for the accident. Use caution answering questions, providing only facts, not opinions.
- Seek medical attention. As quickly as possible, seek medical attention if needed. Whether you are transported via ambulance, or you take yourself, see a doctor immediately and let him or her know about any pain or discomfort. Make sure it is documented by the medical professionals that you have been involved in a truck accident.
Preserving Non-Scene Evidence
After you seek medical care, you need to take additional steps to ensure that there is no evidence destroyed or altered before a truck accident claim. Keep in mind, while a trucking company has records preservation rules, some may get destroyed before you have to file a claim within the Illinois statutes of limitations.
Here are some things that need to be done after the fact to ensure the preservation of evidence following a truck accident:
- Contact a truck accident attorney. Because of the complexity of truck accidents, you need to seek legal help. An experienced Chicago truck accident lawyer can help. The attorney will ask you questions pertaining to the accident, help you determine what steps you need to take, and make sure that you understand your rights. Your attorney may also recommend the submission of a spoliation letter. This letter can preserve information found in the black box of a truck that may otherwise be overwritten within 30 days of the accident, as well as other important information. Destruction of this evidence could harm your accident claim.
- Notify insurance carriers. Your lawyer will file an insurance claim shortly after your accident to provide a written notice of a claim.
- Documenting your health. Oftentimes, victims of truck accidents think that after their initial medical care, it is no longer important to do anything to preserve information about their health. This is not accurate; you should create a written record of your day-to-day challenges with your health, including pain levels, the time you spend running back and forth to doctors and physical therapists, and any additional information that may substantiate your final truck accident claim.
Fault and Truck Accident Claims
Driver fatigue, improper maintenance, and poor training are some of the issues that may cause a truck accident. When you retain an experienced Chicago truck accident attorney, he or she may need to launch a thorough investigation to find out the root cause of your truck accident. The investigatory process can be complicated, as it may involve numerous entities, including the police, insurance company, trucking company, and the driver of the truck.
If there is a catastrophic injury or death, a thorough investigation of the accident scene, information obtained from trucking logs, and data found on the truck’s black box will all be reviewed and analyzed to establish the facts of the accident. Such evidence will help your truck accident lawyer determine if the accident is the fault of the driver, both the driver and his or her employer, or other third parties.
Working With a Truck Accident Lawyer
After the accident you should avoid speaking directly with the insurance company. Instead, you should direct all insurance representative inquiries to your legal representative. This is important because the insurance company may reach out to you and try to obtain a recorded statement or reach an early settlement. Keep in mind, the earlier the offer, the more likely the settlement will be a small amount meant to avoid paying a larger claim. Depending on what the driver of the truck was transporting, Illinois, as well as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), have strict requirements for truck driver liability policies.
One of the reasons that it is important to avoid speaking with the insurance adjuster is his or her training. Keep in mind, insurance adjusters do not work for victims of a truck accident. Their role is to ensure that insurance companies pay as little as possible toward any claims. The less paid in claims, the lower the trucker’s insurance rates stay, and the higher the profit of the insurance company. Keep in mind, if the insurance company asks you to sign any documents, avoid doing so because it may constitute a waiver of your rights to file a claim later in the process.
You need to focus on your physical recovery following a truck accident. You likely also have several questions pertaining to what rights you have, what steps you should consider taking, and how the claims process works. The best thing you can do for yourself is to make sure you contact an experienced truck accident attorney, and ensure the preservation of evidence that may prove vital during the claim process.
Abels & Annes, P.C.
100 N LaSalle St #1710
Chicago, IL 60602