KEEP YOUR CALM.
The most important step to take after you’ve been in a crash with a commercial semi truck is to keep calm.
Honestly, that is so easy to say. But the reality of the situation is totally going to mess with your emotions. You might be seriously hurt, your loved ones might be seriously hurt.
And you’re not alone.
Each year, more than 6 million car accidents happen in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
So if you’ve been in a minor fender bender or a serious collision, you may be too shaken up to think clearly. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself a bit ahead of time.
Here’s what to do at the crash scene:
1. Determine If Anyone’s Hurt
Start with yourself. Check to see if you are ok; check to see if you have any cuts or broken bones or any other injuries such as a concussion or another head injury. Once you’ve determined that you are ok and can safely extract yourself from your car, check on your passengers and their safety.
Once you’ve determined that you and everyone else is ok, safely exit the vehicle and move to safety. Never leave the scene of an accident, even a minor one. Your first priority is safety; everything else can wait.
Make sure everybody’s OK and call for medical assistance if you or somebody else needs it. CALL EMERGENCY SERVICES.
2. Get Yourself And Your Vehicle Out Of Danger
If you’re not injured and the crash with the semi or commercial truck was a minor one, turn on your emergency or hazard lights and carefully drive your car to the side of the road so it doesn’t impede traffic.
Once you’ve moved your vehicle safely to the side of the road, keep your hazard lights on.
If you have them, set up flares or reflective emergency triangles to alert other drivers on the road you are on to slow down. However, if the crash is more severe or if anyone is hurt, leave the vehicles where they are.
Even if you don’t think you’ve been injured, be extra careful when getting out of your car, especially if the accident took place on a highway or busy street. You may not be thinking clearly because of the trauma of the crash. So if you step out of your car or vehicle or whatever in that state, you could be seriously putting yourself in massive danger.
3. Contact The Police…But Only If It’s Super Serious
What? Yup, it’s true. So while it’s definitely important to report the crash with the commercial vehicle, in some places the police may not respond to a minor collision. So if that happens to you, it’s incredibly important that you report the crash to the local police department through their online reporting portal or in person as soon as possible. You can request a copy of the report from the law enforcement office, or through the insurance adjuster handling your claim.
But what if the police do come? If police arrive, note the officer’s name, badge number and contact information. Although cops are usually pretty good about this, make sure to get a copy of the accident report from the friendly officer who is there to help you.
4. Collect Important Information
Most of us now have a very powerful tool that we carry around everyday to watch funny animal memes on. You can use this powerful tool, your mobile phone, to take video of the scene and take pictures of documents of the other driver.
Or – if you love living the analog life and eschew all technology, no judgement here – with pen and paper, get the name, address, phone number and driver’s license number of everyone involved in the accident.
If the driver’s name doesn’t match up with the car’s registration or insurance papers, determine what the person’s relationship is to the vehicle’s owner.
Then, gather all vehicle information including year, make and model, color, license plate number and vehicle identification number.
Get the insurance policy number and the company’s phone number, in case the other person doesn’t report the accident.
See if any witnesses are willing to provide you with contact information and details about what they saw.
Never share your personal information such as your Social Security number, the coverage limits on your insurance policy. (any others?)
5. Document The Scene
Record as much detail about the accident as possible using your smartphone’s camera, video and voice memo features.
Check the impact to the car: Was it on the front side, driver’s side, rear? It’s easiest to do that by taking a photo of the entire car and close-up photos of the damages for both your car and the other party.
Record the date and time of the accident, and photograph or video the entire scene of the accident, including skid marks or property damage. Note street names and the direction each vehicle was heading both before and after the accident.
One thing that often gets missed is the position of the cars [relative] to the street. This is critical information, because it helps the adjuster re-create the accident when you report the claim.
Sketch a diagram of the crash scene. Using the voice memo app on your iPhone or Android device, dictate what happened while the details are still fresh in your mind. Make sure to include information about the weather and visibility.
6. Don’t Discuss Anything About Responsibility
(need some law advice in this section, please ping Sean)
7. Call A Tow Truck If Needed
Depending on how much damage your car sustained in the crash with the semi-truck, it may need to be towed to a body shop or collision repair center. If you have motor club memberships like AAA, you may have roadside assistance is one of the benefits.
The police may call a tow truck company, and some car manufacturers like Mercedes and BMW offer driver assistance programs, too.
HOLD UP!! Don’t assume a tow truck that magically shows up at the crash is reputable!! I’m not saying always, but usually these guys are vultures who are looking to make money through kick backs. So make sure to always verify the tow truck company credentials and take down all contact information.
8. Call Your Insurance Company!
While it may be tempting to negotiate a cash deal to avoid making an insurance claim, not notifying your insurance company after a crash is – ahem, excuse my language, DUMB! – because it can leave you liable for damages stemming from the accident! Don’t be dumb.
9. Begin Your Claim Process Right On Your Mobile Phone
Many insurers now offer virtual tools such as a mobile phone app to allow you to begin the claims process online. Check your proof of insurance card for instructions or call the toll-free phone number. Your insurance company will ask for lots of information about the accident, and may even prompt you to use a remote inspection tool via your smartphone.
Beyond documenting crash details, some insurers can send a tow truck, arrange a rental car or provide other roadside assistance through the app.
Make sure to stay in contact with your insurance company after reporting an accident. Keep all your accident-related documents in one place and organized as best you can as you work with your adjuster to process your claim.
10. See Your Doctor
Strange as it seems, you may feel perfectly fine right after an accident. Careful of that and don’t become complacent about your crash because some injuries become apparent only after a day or two.
You could’ve gotten serious head or spinal injuries even from a minor crash with a semi-truck, so visit your doctor as soon as you can after the crash even if you don’t experience pain or unusual symptoms.
Injuries resulting from a crash are usually included in your auto insurance claim, so it’s important to document any physical harm stemming from it.
11. Be Proactive!
Look, the reality is that if you are on the road driving, there’s a real possibility that you might be in a serious car crash with a semi-trailer commercial truck. I’m not hoping it happens to you, i’m just saying it happens. That’s why I’m writing this, so that you can be best prepared.
It’s so much easier to remain calm after an accident when you’re prepared. Download your insurance company’s app or forms that guide you through the insurance claim process and read through them just so you know what they are all about, even if you aren’t needing that info immediately.
Designate a spot in your car to keep your registration, proof of insurance card, contact information and a list of key things you need to remember at the scene of an accident.
These things don’t come naturally to people, so having a checklist right at hand will help you navigate the process.