Being involved in a fatal truck accident is an unimaginable tragedy. The shock, grief, and confusion can be overwhelming. Amid this pain, you should know your rights and the steps to take to protect your rights or those of your loved ones. Nothing can replace the loss you suffer, but knowing what to do after a fatal truck accident can help you seek justice and navigate the legal process during this difficult time.

This article describes the actions you should take after a fatal truck accident in California. You will learn the legal obligations, the importance of seeking medical attention, gathering evidence, dealing with insurance companies, and other actions in your pursuit of justice.

Report an Accident Right Away

California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 20008 requires that all drivers involved in an accident resulting in injury or death report the incident to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) or the police department of the city where the accident occurred within 24 hours.

If you can, call 911 immediately from the accident scene. This will alert the police and emergency medical services. The dispatcher will ask for details such as the location of the accident, the number of vehicles involved, and the extent of injuries.

Do not leave the scene until the police arrive and let you leave. Leaving the scene can lead to criminal charges under California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 20001. You are charged with a hit-and-run offense, which is a wobbler in California. A misdemeanor can attract up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. If charged with a felony, you could serve 16 months to 3 years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Reporting the accident to the authorities ensures that emergency medical services are dispatched to the scene promptly. This could potentially save lives and provide immediate care to any survivors. The swift arrival of law enforcement also helps to secure the accident scene, preserving crucial evidence that might otherwise be lost or compromised.

After the police arrive, they write a report. The police report captures vital information such as the date, time, and location of the accident, the parties involved, witness statements, and preliminary observations about the potential causes of the collision. You could benefit from the documentation when pursuing your claim in court or with insurance companies.

Seek Medical Attention

Even if you feel unharmed after a fatal truck accident, seeking immediate medical attention is obligatory. The shock and adrenaline of the accident can mask injuries that may not be immediately apparent. Some injuries, such as internal bleeding or head trauma, may not manifest symptoms for hours or even days.

Common injuries you could sustain in a truck accident are:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Internal organ damage
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Psychological trauma
  • Burns

Prompt medical evaluation enables early detection of hidden injuries. This enables prompt treatment and increases the chances of a full recovery. A thorough medical assessment can also prevent potentially life-threatening complications.

In the unfortunate event of a wrongful death lawsuit, medical records document the injuries sustained by your loved one. These records provide a detailed account of the extent and severity of the injuries, the treatments provided, and the prognosis.

Medical records can help establish liability. They show the causal relationship between the accident and the injuries or deaths. These records can be used to demonstrate the negligence or wrongdoing of the truck driver, trucking company, or other parties involved. This evidence can be pivotal in proving fault and securing the maximum compensation for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the fatal accident.

Make a List of Witnesses’ Contact Information

Witnesses are known to help establish the facts of a fatal truck accident. Their observations and recollections can prove negligence and establish liability. If you are able, try to gather contact information from anyone who witnessed the accident.

The following is what to ask witnesses:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • A brief description of what they saw

Memories can fade over time. The sooner you can gather witness information, the more accurate and reliable their accounts are likely to be.

If you are unable to gather witness information yourself due to injuries or shock, ask someone else at the scene to assist you. Your lawyer can also help you gather witness information on your behalf. If the police arrive before you can speak with witnesses, they will typically gather this information as part of their investigation.

Photograph the Scene

If you are able and it is safe to do so, documenting the accident scene can provide evidence for your case. Your goal is to create a comprehensive visual representation of the scene, documenting every detail that could potentially be relevant to understanding how the accident occurred.

Start by photographing the vehicles involved in the accident from multiple angles. Capture wide shots that show the overall position of each vehicle in relation to the other, and close-ups that reveal specific damage, such as dents, scratches, or broken glass. Photograph the license plates of all vehicles involved and any identifying information like company logos on commercial trucks.

Turn your attention to the roadway itself. Photograph any skid marks, which can indicate where the vehicles were traveling and how they stopped. Document any debris scattered across the road, such as broken vehicle parts, personal belongings, or cargo that may have spilt from the truck.

Photograph any traffic signs or signals that may have played a role in the accident. This includes stop signs, yield signs, traffic lights, speed limit signs, and any warning signs that may have been present. Additionally, photograph any relevant landmarks that could help identify the location of the accident, such as street signs, buildings, or other notable features.

If weather conditions were a factor in the accident, try to capture photographs that convey the state of the road, whether it was wet, icy, or otherwise hazardous. Similarly, if lighting was an issue, try to capture the overall level of visibility at the time of the accident.

Have Your Vehicle Assessed

Even if your vehicle appears to be drivable after a truck accident, you want to have a qualified mechanic check it. There may be hidden damage that could compromise vehicle safety or affect its value. A skilled mechanic will examine your vehicle, checking for subtle signs of frame damage, alignment problems, or issues with critical safety systems like brakes or steering.

These hidden damages can have serious consequences if left unaddressed. Frame damage, for example, can compromise the structural integrity of your vehicle, making it more vulnerable to future collisions and potentially leading to handling problems or even catastrophic failure. Alignment issues can cause uneven tire wear, reduce fuel efficiency, and affect the overall handling and safety of the vehicle. Problems with the braking system can lead to accidents and injuries.

After identifying these hidden issues, the mechanic can provide an accurate estimate of the repairs needed to restore your vehicle to its pre-accident condition. This estimate is essential for insurance purposes, as it provides a clear picture of the financial impact of the accident on your vehicle. In legal proceedings, the estimate can also serve as evidence of the extent of the damage caused by the truck accident, potentially impacting the amount of compensation you may be entitled to receive.

Besides the financial implications, having your vehicle assessed is a matter of personal safety. Driving a damaged vehicle can be extremely dangerous, not only for you but also for other road users. A compromised vehicle may not handle or brake as expected, increasing the risk of another accident.

What Not to Say After a Car Accident

Following a fatal truck accident, emotions are understandably high. However, be mindful of what you say to others at the scene, to insurance adjusters, or on social media. Certain statements can be detrimental to any potential legal case or insurance claim.

Avoid saying words such as ‘I am sorry.’ Even if you feel a sense of guilt or responsibility, apologizing can be interpreted as an admission of fault. The shock of the accident can mask injuries. It is best to seek medical attention and refrain from making statements about your physical condition, for example, ‘I am fine’ or ‘I am not hurt.’

Avoid speculating who was at fault or what caused the accident. It is advisable to leave the determination of liability to the investigators and your attorney.

Do not discuss your insurance policy or limits with anyone other than your attorney or your own insurance company. Also, do not agree to any settlement offers from the other party's insurance company without consulting with an attorney.

It is important to cooperate with the police and provide them with the necessary information to complete their report. But you should do so without incriminating yourself. Stick to the facts, avoid speculating, and refrain from discussing who was at fault. You can politely decline to answer any questions that may be incriminating and inform the police that you would like to consult with an attorney before making any further statements.

Anything you say can be used against you in lawsuits. It's best to be cautious and consult with an attorney before making any statements about the accident.

Notify Your Insurance Company

After a fatal truck accident, you must notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Even though it was a fatal accident, you still need to report the collision under your policy.

Provide them with the basic facts of the accident, such as the date, time, location, and the names of any parties involved. However, avoid discussing fault or liability with the insurance adjuster.  Stick to the facts and inform them that you will have an attorney contact them to discuss the details further.

The insurance adjuster's primary goal is to minimize the amount the insurance company pays out. They may try to get you to make statements that could harm your case or pressure you into accepting a low settlement offer. Having an experienced attorney handle communication with the insurance company can protect your rights and ensure you receive fair compensation.

Stay Away from Social Media

In today's digital age, it is tempting to share our experiences on social media. However, after a fatal truck accident, you want to refrain from posting about the accident on any social media platform.

Any information you share, no matter how innocuous it may seem, can be exploited by insurance companies and defense attorneys. They routinely scour social media, seeking any detail that could potentially undermine your case or reduce the compensation you may be entitled to.

Even seemingly harmless posts can be twisted and used against you. Photos or comments intended to express grief or seek support can be misinterpreted and presented as evidence that you are not as devastated or that your loved one's injuries were less severe than claimed. A simple check-in at a restaurant or a photo of you smiling could be used to suggest that you have quickly moved on from the tragedy, potentially impacting the perceived value of your claim.

Moreover, sharing details about the accident on social media can inadvertently compromise your privacy. Discussing sensitive information in a public forum can attract unwanted attention, potentially exposing you and your family to harassment or intrusive inquiries. It is important to remember that once information is shared online, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to control its spread or erase it.

To protect your rights and the integrity of your legal case, it is advisable to maintain a complete social media silence regarding the accident until all legal matters have been resolved. This includes refraining from posting any photos, videos, comments, or status updates related to the accident. While it may be challenging to resist the urge to share your experience, prioritizing your privacy and legal interests is paramount during this sensitive time.

Speak with a Truck Accident Lawyer

Truck accident cases are complex. They involve numerous parties, hard-to-understand regulations, and often substantial damages. Therefore, after a fatal truck accident, seeking legal counsel is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your rights and seek justice for your loved one.

An experienced truck accident lawyer can guide you through the legal process, advocate for your interests, and help you secure the compensation you deserve. They have the knowledge and experience required to investigate the accident thoroughly, leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit of the truth. They will examine all available evidence, including police reports, accident scene photographs, medical records, and any relevant data from the truck's electronic logging device (ELD) or other onboard systems.

Your attorney will actively seek out and interview witnesses who may have observed the accident or events leading up to it. Their testimonies can be invaluable in reconstructing the sequence of events and establishing the fault of the truck driver or other liable parties. Additionally, truck accident lawyers often collaborate with accident reconstruction experts, engineers, and other specialists to analyze the technical aspects of the collision and provide expert opinions that can bolster your case.

Beyond the investigation, your lawyer will skillfully handle all communication and negotiations with the insurance companies involved. This can be a difficult task for those who are unfamiliar with the tactics and strategies employed by insurance adjusters. Your attorney will advocate for your interests, ensuring that your claim is fairly evaluated and that you receive just compensation for your losses. They will fight tirelessly to secure a settlement that reflects the full extent of your damages, including medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of financial support, and the profound emotional pain and suffering you have endured.

If a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiation, your truck accident lawyer will file a wrongful death lawsuit on your behalf. They will prepare your case for court, gathering and presenting compelling evidence to demonstrate the negligence or wrongdoing of the responsible parties. Throughout the legal process, your attorney will provide invaluable guidance and support, explaining your rights and options, answering your questions, and offering compassionate counsel during this difficult time.

It is imperative to choose a lawyer who specializes in truck accident cases, as these cases often involve corporations and government entities and require a deep understanding of federal and state trucking regulations. An experienced lawyer will possess the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate these complexities, build a robust legal strategy, and fight tirelessly to obtain the justice and compensation you and your family deserve.

Find a Truck Accident Injury Lawyer Near Me

After you are involved in a California truck accident, you want to seek a qualified lawyer’s help. A personal injury lawyer possesses the knowledge and experience to handle truck accident cases and fight for your rights.

If you're looking for an experienced truck accident injury lawyer in California, contact the Truck Accident Injury Attorney Law Firm. We are dedicated to fighting for the rights of truck accident victims and their families. Talk to us at 888-511-3139. We will be your advocate and guide, helping you seek justice and closure if your loved one dies in the accident.