Wrecks involving commercial trucks often spell bad news. Unfortunately, in the United States, there are a lot of truck wrecks. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in one year, more than 5,000 fatal crashes involved large trucks. This figure may seem small compared to the total number of crashes. But, short of fatalities, accidents involving commercial trucks also cause greater damage and serious, non-fatal injuries.
Clearly, if you are in a wreck with a large truck, the truck should remain at the accident scene until the authorities arrive and handle the matter properly. But this is not always the case. Indeed, recent studies have found that more than one hit-and-run accident occurs every minute in the United States. This article goes into the reasons why large trucks may flee an accident scene and how to handle such a situation.
Four Reasons a Truck Driver Might Flee the Scene
Due to their size and weight, commercial trucks pose a more significant risk of causing injury and death in the event of an accident. Because of these risks, a commercial truck driver must obtain a commercial driver’s license (“CDL”) and pass written and on-the-road tests.
To retain a CDL, a commercial truck driver must pass periodic re-certifications and health screenings and adhere to strict state and federal laws. Commercial truck drivers must also ensure stringent maintenance of their trucks and comply with regulations regarding operation, carrying limits, etc.
Given how strictly regulated they are, truck drivers know better than to leave the scene of an accident. Then again, these strict regulations might be the very reason a truck driver flees a scene of a wreck.
The following are common reasons why they would do so:
- The truck driver’s CDL is invalid due to expiration or suspension, leaving them exposed to severe consequences.
- Drug or alcohol consumption impaired the truck driver's judgment.
- The truck driver knew that the truck had not passed inspection or is unfit for the road, exposing them to severe consequences.
- The truck driver did not realize an accident occurred.
Regardless of the reason, a truck driver who leaves the scene of a wreck should be held accountable. A truck driver who flees the scene of a wreck may have their employment terminated, lose their CDL, be sued for civil damages, and be subject to criminal prosecution.
What to Do When a Truck Driver Leaves the Scene of an Accident
If you are a victim of an accident involving a large truck, you should receive compensation for the injuries and harms you sustain. By fleeing the accident scene, a truck driver threatens your ability to recover. But, if you’re alert, there are often ways you can collect enough information to protect your right to compensation.
The biggest mistake you can make once you realize that the truck driver is not stopping is to attempt to chase them down. Doing so is reckless and will only put you and others more in harm’s way. Instead, if you can do so safely, get to a safe position and from there try to collect as much information as you can about the truck.
Gather Initial Evidence and Record Details of the Accident
If you are conscious and it is safe to do so, you should take note of the conditions and details of the truck accident.
Some of the most critical details to watch out for include:
- The truck’s license plate number - If you have the large truck’s license plate number, it will be much easier for investigators to identify the truck owner or trucking company. Write it down, or take a picture if you’re able. These things can serve as evidence if you later file a lawsuit.
- Make and model of the truck - Especially if the truck flees the scene quickly, getting the license plate number may not be possible. The next best thing is to note the make and model of the truck and other distinguishing features. Often, tractor-trailers and large trucks have identifying information such as the trucking company’s name and a phone number. In the absence of such details, note colors and other physical features of the truck.
- Location - Find out the exact location of the accident. If it’s not in an easily identifiable area, such as on a rural stretch of a highway, look for the nearest milepost.
- Talk to eyewitnesses and look for other evidence - An accident with a large truck is jolting and, even if you are not severely injured, you may be in a state of shock in the immediate aftermath. By the time you’ve regathered yourself, the truck driver is long gone. For this reason, you need to talk to witnesses who may have seen accident details you couldn’t, such as the truck’s license plate number or make and model. If there are businesses nearby, you might eventually check back with the owners and see whether they may have caught the accident on surveillance cameras, which could serve as especially valuable evidence in the event of a lawsuit.
The distress of an accident can make it hard to focus on collecting details. But witness memories and evidence can fade quickly, so it is important to record details of the accident as soon as you can.
Initiate a Search for the Truck and Driver
Any time a vehicle accident occurs, calling the authorities is essential. But doing so can be even more critical in a hit-and-run truck accident.
Contacting the authorities:
- Informs the authorities that a hit-and-run accident has occurred and they can begin a search for the truck driver as soon as possible.
- Ensures that there will be an official police report on the accident. With all the resources they have, police often collect a significant amount of evidence quickly, and include details of their investigation in a police report. This report may constitute one of the most valuable pieces of evidence in a lawsuit, or at least will provide significant leads to more evidence.
Hire an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney
Calling the police and giving a statement may lead to tracking down the driver and company that’s liable for your damages. At that point, you should take care of the rest, right? As simple as it may seem to hold a hit-and-run truck driver accountable once you’ve tracked them down, the process is often more complicated. If you intend to file a lawsuit to recover for injuries and harm, contacting an experienced truck accident attorney is a good idea for many reasons.
An attorney can:
- Conduct an independent investigation to help identify the truck driver, their company, and any other potentially liable parties, and to gather evidence to build up your case.
- Help facilitate your uninsured motorist benefits claims if you have such coverage.
- Negotiate a settlement with defendants, or take your case through the court process all the way to trial, after which you may recover damages ordered by a court.