Hit By a Truck? Here’s Our Semi-Truck Accident Guide


Have you or a loved one been injured in a semi-truck accident? It’s crucial to learn what to do following an accident with a big rig, tractor-trailer, or other large commercial vehicle. With 1 percent of truck accidents in 2020 resulting in fatality [1], being well-informed of everything to expect is vital for your physical and financial well-being and to retain your right to pursue a truck accident injury lawsuit.

Table of Contents:

What To Do After a Truck Accident – 7 Essential Steps

  1. Call 911

It’s essential you get the emergency response authorities involved. You will also need to file an accident report with the police when injuries and extensive damage exist. A police report is the best way to have immediate documentation of the accident. A truck accident law firm can assist with retrieving your police should injuries prevent you from doing so at the scene of the accident.

  1. Get Medical Attention

After an accident, you may be experiencing some level of shock. This means that your injuries may not be immediately evident. It’s vital to request medical attention right away to ensure your health and safety is looked after. Attend all medical appointments or it may appear that your injuries are not serious.  Insurance companies may use delay in medical treatment against you in any future claims. 

  1. Document Evidence from the Accident Scene

The success of your accident claim can depend entirely on evidence, that’s why it’s best to ensure you take photos and videos of the scene. Images and videos serve as a window into the accident and make it easier for people to make a decision of who is at fault. They’re factual and depict the scene as it was, not how witnesses remember it. 

If you have been injured in your accident, ask someone who is a witness to take the photos when possible.

Things to photograph & video include:

  • a wide shot of the entire scene (including skid marks)
  • injuries 
  • all vehicles involved (damage or no damage)
  • relevant traffic signs 
  • anything else you deem to be important.

The more evidence you have of the scene, the better for your claim. See our Accident Photo tips below.

  1. Obtain Contact Information for All Involved Parties 

While you wait for the police to attend the scene, you should use this time to now obtain the details of anyone who was involved or whoever witnessed the accident. 

For those involved in the accident, take down their:

  • Full names
  • Physical Addresses
  • Phone Numbers
  • Email Addresses
  • License Numbers
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Truck Driver Employer/Company

For witnesses who observed the crash, ask for their full name, phone number, and email address. 

All of this information will either be passed to your truck accident injury lawyer or the police if they’ve decided to perform an investigation. Obtaining all this information will save you the stress of tracking people down if you pursue legal steps. 

  1. Alert Your Insurance Company, But Use Caution

While it might seem common sense to contact your insurance company after an accident, you need to be extremely wary of speaking with them. Unfortunately, they are not your friend and are in business to make money by reducing the insurance payout you may legally deserve. Be sure to only provide them with brief factual information. Any additional communication with the Insurance company should be done by your personal injury attorney.

  1. Get Your Vehicle Appraised for Damage

This is an essential step in your claim. While you don’t want to perform any of the work, you do want a reputable body shop to review your vehicle and give an appraisal of the damage caused and an estimate to fix it. This amount may be included by your lawyer in the legal proceedings.

  1. Get a Truck Accident Lawyer To Review Your Claim (For Free)

Having an experienced  Truck Accident Lawyer is imperative when going forward with a claim. No matter the circumstances of the accident, an experienced truck accident injury attorney can advise you of your best options, determine what actions you need to take, and protect you against any insurance companies trying to take advantage. 

A law firm that helps truck accident victims will pursue justice and full and fair compensation for their damages, including medical bills, lost wages, lost future income, pain and suffering, and more. 

Who Can I Sue for Being Hit By a Semi Truck?

Depending on the circumstances of your truck accident, the liable party or parties in your claim may include one or more of the following:

  • The owner of the vehicle – cab and trailer;
  • The owner of the freight;
  • The driver;
  • The driver’s employer;
  • A parent company;
  • The manufacturer of the truck parts; and/or
  • A third-party maintenance company.

An attorney can investigate your case to determine who the liable parties are, and if a commercial truck hit you and caused injuries, your settlement will likely be paid by one of the above.

How Long Does a Truck Accident Claim Take To Settle?

The time it takes to settle a claim depends on several factors. The first thing to consider is getting your claim filed. In California and Nevada, a personal injury claim must be filed within two years from the date of the injury. This is known as the Statute of Limitations. If you wait too long, you’ll be prevented from pursuing compensation.

There then needs to be a thorough investigation of the accident. This is crucial in defining who is at fault and liable for compensation. In a semi-truck accident, there may be multiple parties who are negligent, so investigating who those parties are takes time.

One thing to note is that if you have suffered a severe injury such as amputation or paralysis, or a loved one has died (see wrongful death), it’s likely an insurer will be quite quick to offer you as much money as allowed under the FMCSA required policy. If this offer doesn’t cover the costs you’ll face due to your injury, then you will still need to pursue further compensation with the assistance of your truck accident lawyer.

Medical Recovery Considerations

Your medical recovery will be a factor relating to the time it takes to settle a case. In order to include as many medical expenses as possible, you will want to complete treatment as fully as possible. While this may not restore you to 100 percent health, you’ll want to get the fullest picture possible of needed future medical care and to get as many of your current hospital bills covered as possible.

If your claim proceeds to trial, your settlement will likely be pushed out by a substantial length of time. There are positives and negatives to proceeding to trial, but it’s best to take the advice of your truck accident lawyer. They can guide you to make a strong decision, but at the end of the day, the choice is yours.

How Much Is My Truck Accident Worth?

Due to their vast size difference, trucks are likely to cause more severe damage and injuries than cars. With this in mind, trucks are required by law to carry insurance with higher liability limits (between $750,000 and $5,000,000 for freight vehicles [2]) which means there is often more money available for compensation (to the victims) in truck accidents.

While a legal professional can conduct an evaluation of your damages (damages to vehicle, medical expenses, lost income, financial compensation, etc.) and provide you with a rough estimate of your potential recovery, they are unable to provide you with an exact figure. This estimation by your lawyer will be used in your claim.

What Causes Semi Truck Accidents To Happen?

Trucking is an essential part of our economy, but with those vehicles often weighing 45 times more than a passenger car, accidents do happen on highways and roads across America. According to National Safety Council’s Injury Facts, more than half of fatal large-truck crashes occurred on rural roads, with about a quarter of them happening on interstates. [3],

The most common causes of truck accidents [4] are:

  • Driver Error
  • Driver Fatigue
  • Cell phones and Distracted Driving
  • Blind spots
  • Jackknifing
  • Intoxication
  • Unrealistic schedules
  • Failure to inspect tires, brakes, and lights
  • Unrealistic time constraints
  • Speeding
  • Improper cargo loading

While there are special regulations governing the trucking industry, truck accidents are still common, and the causes can be a combination between the driver being at fault and outside influences; such as weather. 

Did you know: A tractor-trailer traveling at 70 miles per hour has twice as much momentum as a truck traveling at 50 miles per hour? That’s a lot of force, moving very fast! You can imagine the damage that ensues when a big truck accident happens at that speed.

Special Regulations Governing the Trucking Industry

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces certain laws and regulations in the trucking industry to reduce trucking accidents and keep the roads safe for everyone.[5] Some of these regulations are as follows:

  • Truck drivers must abide by Hours of Service restrictions which dictate how many hours they are allowed to drive in a certain period of time. The amount of driving and off-duty time must be kept track of in a driver’s log.[6]
  • No driver can go on duty with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater. In addition, the regulations prohibit drivers from consuming alcohol four hours before driving.
  • Other rules must be followed before a commercial vehicle can be operated. For instance, a trucker may not drive if he or she is too tired, drunk, knows that the vehicle is not in good working order, etc.
  • All drivers must be approved, certificated, and adequately trained to operate an 18-wheeler. They must also not have a record of certain criminal offenses.
  • Trucking companies must properly maintain all equipment and parts to ensure safe operation.
  • Cargo must be properly distributed and adequately secured.

What Happens When a Truck Driver Has an Accident?

After a semi-truck accident, the driver may need to undergo a drug test. The FMCSA outlines exactly when a drug test is required after a semi-truck driver is involved in an accident [7]. The result of this drug test will be significant for the claim and potential settlement.

If the truck driver is partly or fully responsible, it’s likely that they will be fired after the incident, especially if major damage occurred or if people were injured. The company that employs the driver and owns the vehicle can be responsible for the driver’s actions and may be the liable party in your claim.

How Does My Lawyer Find Evidence To Support My Truck Accident Claim?

Owners and drivers of large trucks face strict regulations and requirements in order to be on the road, therefore all of that information can be subpoenaed by your lawyer. These items can include the Truck Driver’s logbook, statements from the driver, his employer and coworkers, a copy of their Commercial Driver’s License [8], history checks, drug screening results etc. 

When an accident involving a truck occurs, these regulations and requirements come into play, affecting liability and other elements of the subsequent injury claim.

Other documentation that can be used as evidence in a truck accident case include:

  • Bills of lading
  • Delivery documents
  • Weight tickets
  • Dispatch instructions
  • Company manuals, policies and procedures
  • Driver logs
  • Driver Qualification File [9]

Truck Accident Investigations: Driver Qualification File

Truck accidents differ from car collisions in many ways: (1) the stakes are usually higher since damages tend to be more severe, and (2) the state and federal regulations which govern the trucking industry add a layer of complexity to truck accident injury claims that are for the most part absent in claims involving regular motor vehicles. That is why it is highly advised that you consult with an experienced attorney after a California truck accident.

You may have a claim against not only the liable truck driver but also his or her employer as well. While the bulk of the supporting evidence for your claim will be extracted from the accident site, the Driver Qualification File (DQF), a vital piece of evidence that most people don’t know about, can give you information that will boost the strength of your claim.

So What Is a DQF?

Federal regulations require trucking companies to properly maintain DQF files on every one of their drivers. The following documents (or copies of them) must – by law – be included in the DQF:

  • Driver-specific applications for employment
  • Valid licenses
  • Original motor vehicle record
  • Background investigation reports
  • Driver’s road test and certification
  • Medical examiner’s certification (or waiver, if issued)
  • Annual review records
  • Truck maintenance records
  • Personnel records
  • Hours of Service (HOS) records
  • Employment history
  • Relevant training certificates
  • Alcohol and drug screening results

Requesting the DQF is one thing – actually getting it is another matter. Trucking companies are highly resistant when it comes to parting with DQF files, particularly if the information is incriminating. Only a qualified truck accident lawyer can ensure that you get the DQF. He or she may have to subpoena the trucking company if they are being withheld.

Photos Can Help You Win Your Truck Accident Case

The success of your vehicle accident claim depends on the evidence and documentation you can provide to prove your case. One of the most common – and effective – forms of demonstrative evidence is photographs. Photographs depict the accident scene as things actually were and not as remembered by those involved and witnesses. Any truck accident attorney who is worth his salt knows this.

Tips For Taking Effective Truck Accident Photographs

The effectiveness of accident scene photographs depends on their clarity and capacity to tell a story. Here are some tips for taking effective truck accident photographs:

  • Begin by photographing the entire accident scene: Take wide-angle shots of the accident scene from several different angles.
  • Photograph the traffic signs: If there are traffic signs that can be used to show that another driver was at fault, then photograph them.
  • Photograph injuries: If anyone is injured (including yourself), then take photographs of the injuries. Try to capture images of lacerations, abrasions, contusions and broken bones.
  • Photograph the vehicles involved in the accident: Take photographs of the vehicles involved in the accident to show their position immediately after the accident and their proximity to the exact place where the accident occurred.
  • Photograph the damages to your car: If your car has sustained damages or dents, then take photos of the damages from several different angles and distances. Make sure the photographs can be associated with your car.
  • Photograph the damages to the truck: If the truck has sustained any damages or dents, then take photos of its damages, too.
  • Photograph damages to objects: If any surrounding objects have been damaged, such as trees, guardrails and street signs, then take pictures of them.
  • Photograph reference points: If there is an intersection, crosswalk or any other point of reference near the accident scene, then photograph them.
  • Photograph skid marks: If there are skid marks made by the truck, then take close-up and long-range photographs. If possible, show where the truck was when the driver started braking.
  • Photograph debris: If there is any debris that had come off from your car as well as the truck, then photograph them.
  • Photograph everyone involved in the accident: Take photographs of everyone involved in the crash, including the truck driver, the other occupants of his truck, the occupants of your vehicle and witnesses.
  • Photograph police officers and paramedics: Take photographs of police officers and paramedics who have arrived to respond to the accident.

Make a copy of your photographs available to your truck accident attorney before filing your accident claim. The success of your claim depends on them.

Considering Truck Accident Statistics

Every year, multiple agencies release reports that focus on Large Truck and Bus Crash facts. Most injured persons in big truck accidents are the passengers in the other car. In fact, trucks are up to 45 times heavier than cars, and when these two forces collide, the smaller vehicle rarely “wins.”

If you get into a car accident with a semi-truck, it’s best to understand the Truck Accident Statistics so you can avoid becoming one of them. 

Hit By a Truck? Accident Guide - Wilshire Law Firm

Frequently Asked Questions for “Commercial Truck Hit Me”

What happens when you get hit by a truck?

If you got hit by a semi truck, it’s likely that you’re going to be in some degree of shock, make sure you’ve reviewed our steps for What To Do After a Truck Accident – 7 Essential Steps. These steps will give you an idea of what to do when you’ve unfortunately been involved in this daunting incident.

Can I sue a semi driver personally?

Yes, one of the liable parties that can be at fault for a semi-truck accident can be the driver themselves. Once a thorough investigation is conducted, your lawyer will be able to determine who is at fault, it may be one person or multiple parties, it will depend on the details of the crash.

What is the main cause of truck accidents?

The number one cause of truck accidents is driver error, typically related to distracted driving. What makes these wrecks more horrific is that they are often preventable. It’s also likely that there is more than one factor when it comes to truck accidents like fatigue, intoxication etc.

More Helpful Resources

Start a Free Case Review with a Truck Accident Lawyer

At Wilshire Law Firm, our truck accident lawyers have the experience and resources to take trucking companies and their insurers head-on. Using the latest technology and experienced expert witnesses, we aim to establish your side of the story so the liable party or parties have no choice but to give you full and fair compensation for your losses. If litigation becomes necessary, we will aggressively fight to protect your best interests in court. In short, we will do whatever it takes to get you an optimal case outcome. 

Don’t worry about upfront costs. Our firm operates on a contingency-fee basis, which means you pay us NO FEES unless we win your case. Call us 24/7 at 800-501-3011 to get started on a free review of your very important case.

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By submitting this form, you agree to receive telephone calls and text messages at anytime, which include hours outside of business hours (8:00 a.m. PST - 9:00 p.m. PST). This is so that we may reach you as soon as possible in order to consult on your potential case.