A car hit by a semi truck can crumple like an accordion. When you are hit by a semi weighing close to 80,000 pounds, life turns upside down in a split second.

The pain and the shock would be enough to overwhelm you all by themselves, but now you must deal with financial distress as well. Nobody can undo your accident.

A skilled personal injury lawyer, however, can see to it that you receive full compensation for all your losses.

 They know what to do after a semi truck accident and can guide you through the process.

Call Bensinger Legal Services now at (419) 455-1410 or use our contact form to arrange your complimentary consultation.

Seek Medical Treatment Immediately

Seek medical treatment as soon as possible after your accident, even if you don’t think you are injured. Some types of serious injury, such as traumatic brain injury, might not produce symptoms immediately.

Nevertheless, “I was hit by a semi truck” should be enough to get you an immediate medical examination. Don’t delay treatment, because medical records are important evidence.

Do Not Speak with the Other Side

After a collision, representatives of the trucking company, their insurance adjusters, or even the truck driver may approach you. While their initial offers or conversations may seem reasonable or friendly, it’s vital to remember that they are trying to protect their own interests. Even if someone appears kind or professional, you should not speak with anyone without your lawyer present.

Statements Can Be Used Against You

Anything you say to the other side, whether in casual conversation or more formal settings, can be used in court. Insurance companies and legal teams often scrutinize your statements to find any admission of fault or evidence that could weaken your claim. Therefore, the best way to protect yourself is to avoid discussing the accident with anyone altogether.

Low-ball Settlement Offers

The trucking company’s insurance carrier may approach you with a settlement offer soon after the accident. While this offer may look appealing at first, it’s important to understand that these offers are often undervalued. The insurance company wants to settle your claim quickly and for as little as possible. Accepting a premature settlement can leave you with inadequate compensation for your injuries and damages. Worst of all, accepting a settlement may prevent you from recovering more for damages you weren’t aware of when you accepted the offer.

Speak with an Attorney

After seeing a doctor, you should schedule a legal consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney. A consultation with an attorney helps you gain a clear understanding of your rights as an accident victim. Your attorney can speak with you to gather information about the accident, your injuries, and the damages you’ve suffered. They can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case, helping you understand what to do after a semi truck accident. 

Identify Possible Liable Parties

When you see a car is hit by a semi truck, you might think that the truck driver is liable. However, these accidents can be more complex than that. Your attorney needs to identify the right party to sue or else you may not be able to recover damages.

Truck Driver

The truck driver usually bears some liability in these accidents. Truckers may be tired from long hours or take risks that lead to accidents. Any negligence or misconduct on the part of the driver may make them liable for the accident. 

Trucking Company

In some cases, the trucking company that employs the driver may also bear some responsibility. These companies can be held liable for negligent hiring, training, or maintenance practices. Your attorney might investigate the company’s safety records, maintenance logs, and compliance with industry regulations to assess their potential liability.

Third Parties

Large trucks require many parts that can create third-party liability. For instance, the truck might have a mechanical defect that led to the accident. If so, the manufacturer might be liable for your damages. You might not sue these third parties, but the trucking company may try to shift the blame to them as a defense.

Gather Evidence

Your claim is useless without evidence, even if you are in the right. You are going to need to determine the cause of the accident. The most common causes of truck accidents are:

  • Malfunctioning brakes,
  • Distracted driving,
  • Blind spot accidents,
  • Intoxicated driving,
  • Tire blowouts,
  • Overloaded cargo, and
  • Falling debris. 

One of the most effective ways to gather evidence is to file a lawsuit. Your lawyer can then use the discovery process to demand evidence from the defendant and third parties. If the defendant refuses, you can seek a court order.

You might, for example, seek the truck’s “black box” to prove how fast the truck was traveling at the time of the accident. Likewise, you might seek the driver’s cell phone records to see if they were on the phone when you were hit by the semi truck.  

File a Lawsuit Within Two Years

Ohio has a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims. A judge might dismiss your claim if you file a lawsuit after this period. You can sometimes file a lawsuit after this period in rare cases, but only an attorney can determine if an exception applies. Also, the statute of limitations only requires you to file the lawsuit within two years. Courts understand that litigation takes time and will allow your claim even if the two-year mark passes while litigation is on-going.

Prove That the Truck Driver Was Negligent

Determining the cause of the accident might turn out to be the most important step in proving liability. Under Ohio’s legal principle of negligence per se, if you can trace the accident to the violation of a trucking regulation, you can establish negligence.

Commercial trucking is governed by extensive federal and state regulations that cover nearly every aspect of a journey from beginning to end. Even rest periods are regulated. 

An experienced truck accident lawyer will know trucking regulations by heart, and they will know where to look to prove a violation. If you can show that the driver violated a trucking regulation, you can prove that the driver was negligent. You can also prove negligence through independent means, even if the truck driver did not violate a specific regulation.

Prove That the Truck Driver’s Negligence Actually Caused the Accident

Once you establish negligence, whether or not due to the violation of a trucking regulation, you will need to prove that the truck driver’s negligence was a substantial cause of the accident. All the negligence in the world will make no difference if the negligence did not actually cause the accident. 

You might, for example, use cell phone records to prove that the driver was talking on their cell phone at the moment of the accident. You might also use eyewitness testimony to establish that the driver was dozing off at a nearby truck stop, which could suggest that the driver fell asleep at the wheel.

Prove the Amount of Damages You Suffered

Once you establish negligence and causation, you can hold the truck driver liable for all your losses, both tangible and intangible. Damages could include:

  • Medical expenses. These cover everything from ambulance fees and hospital bills to surgeries, medication, and ongoing treatment. 
  • Lost income. Some injuries can cause you to miss work as you recover or reduce your future earning capacity. 
  • Out-of-pocket expenses. Victims often have to pay for transportation to medical appointments, home modifications, or assistive devices to accommodate disabilities. 
  • Pain and suffering. These damages consider the physical and emotional distress you endure as a result of the accident. 
  • Psychological distress. Accidents can have a lasting psychological impact, leaving you with emotional trauma, anxiety, and mental anguish.
  • Punitive damages. In extreme cases such as a DUI accident, courts may award punitive damages to punish the truck driver and deter similar reckless behavior.

Keep a diary in which you record your day-to-day experiences with your injuries—how much you suffered, what you could not do, etc. Intangible damages such as pain and suffering might amount to well over half of your total recovery.

Also, your attorney can help you quantify these damages, especially if your case goes to trial. They might hire an expert to help reconstruct the accident or explain your medical condition. 

To Sue or to Settle?

In all likelihood, you will resolve your claim at the settlement table rather than in court. When a semi hits a car, the insurance company generally does not want to go to court and face a jury.

Juries are unpredictable and often sympathize with injured plaintiffs, which makes insurers hesitate going to trial. Trials are also public record, and companies do not want to generate bad press after being found liable for injuries. 

You do need to be ready to win in court, however. Otherwise, you will have no bargaining power when trying to negotiate a settlement. Select a lawyer with a track record of winning in court, and then let them do the negotiating for you. This way, the insurance company will know that you are serious and may offer a high settlement to avoid taking the case to trial.

Although your lawyer will handle the negotiations, you keep all power. Your lawyer cannot agree to a settlement without your permission.

Contact an Experienced Ohio Truck Accident Lawyer Today

If you or your loved one has been injured or killed in an accident caused by a semi truck, call Aaron Bensinger, a partner at Balyeat, Leahy, Daley, Miller & Bensinger, LLC, at (419) 455-1410 or contact us online for a free case review.

Our team will help you understand what to do after a semi truck accident. We serve clients throughout Northwest Ohio and beyond from our offices in Lima, Ohio.

Author Photo Aaron L. Bensinger

Aaron L. Bensinger is an Ohio attorney serving personal injury and civil litigation clients. He has extensive trial experience and makes client service is his primary focus. As a partner at Balyeat, Leahy, Daley, Miller & Bensinger, LLC, Aaron happily works in Lima, OH, and serves the entire Northwest region of the state and beyond.

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