Semi Truck Legal Process

Navigating The Legal Process After A Semi Truck Crash In North Dakota

April 23, 2024

Being involved in a semi truck crash often leads to catastrophic injuries or death. When the crash is due to the negligence of the truck driver and/or trucking company, the idea of a legal journey to get justice for what happened is daunting to anyone unfamiliar with the process. If you find yourself in this situation in North Dakota, understanding the steps involved can significantly ease your stress and prepare you for the road ahead. 

Step 1: Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Before diving into any legal processes, prioritize your health and safety. Even if you don’t need an ambulance from the scene, it is often important to get checked out by a doctor to make sure there are no injuries. In North Dakota, we were raised to grin and bear the pain. But, if you can’t handle the pain 5 days later and get seen by a doctor at that time, the insurance company will try to use that against you down the road. They may even argue you are faking your injuries, because you did not get seen right after the crash. So even if you feel you only have small injuries, it is better to get it checked out sooner than later. 

Step 2: Report The Accident

It’s important to report the crash to the police immediately. A police report provides an unbiased third-party account of the crash details, which is important in legal and insurance claims. Also, failing to report certain crashes can result in criminal charges.

Step 3: Document Everything

Collect as much information as possible at the crash scene. This includes photos of the scene, your vehicle, the truck, any visible injuries, and environmental conditions. Also, gather names and contact details of all witnesses, as their testimonies could support your case later. Rarely do witnesses end up in police reports, so it is important to try to gather that information if you can. 

Step 4: Notify Your Insurance

Inform your insurance company about the crash as soon as possible. This is important for many reasons, but one of the biggest ones is that your insurance company has no-fault insurance, which covers medical bills and lost wages. For more information on that, read here.

Step 5: Immediately Consult An Attorney Who Knows Truck Crashes

This is perhaps the most critical step. Crashes involving semi trucks (or other commercial motor vehicles) are much different than a typical car crash case. Because of that, it’s important you hire someone who understands truck crashes and the different rules that apply. An attorney who knows how to handle trucking cases can make a significant difference. They understand the specific legal standards and practices, including the intricate interplay of state and federal regulations and trucking standards that govern trucking and insurance industries.

Step 6: Early Investigation And Evidence Gathering

In truck crashes, it is important that the attorney you hire knows to request that the trucking company and truck driver preserve certain evidence that is unique to trucking cases. Also, early investigation into the motor carrier and their record is important. Your attorney will handle the gathering and analysis of detailed evidence, which may include hiring forensic experts to reconstruct the accident and identify the cause. This phase will also involve collecting data from the truck’s electronic logging device (ELD) and engine control module (ECM) which might have crucial information like speed, brakes application, vehicle location, and other critical data from even prior to the date of the crash. 

Step 7: Bringing The Claim

Once your attorney has a solid understanding of the accident dynamics and liability, they will file a claim on your behalf. Each case is different as to what this claim will look like. Some cases require immediate filing of a lawsuit. Other cases may be best to do a demand letter to the insurance company to see if the case can be resolved short of a lawsuit. In North Dakota, for general negligence cases (not involving some exceptions) there is a 6 year statute of limitations to start a lawsuit. But, in truck crash cases rarely is it best to wait that long to start a lawsuit. 

Step 8: Negotiations

Most claims are settled out of court dealing with personal injury. During your case, the attorney you hire will try to negotiate with the trucking company’s insurance company for a fair settlement, which covers all your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages like pain and suffering. This can happen at any stage of a claim, and a case can even settle during trial (or after). 

Step 9: Litigation

Once a lawsuit is started, there is a period of legal discovery prior to trial. In most cases, once the lawsuit is filed with the Court, trial might be set around 12-18 months after the filing of the case. But, there are exceptions to this rule too, because some cases take longer depending on a variety of factors. If the case goes to trial, most trials involving truck crashes last 1-2 weeks in length. No matter the outcome, either side can appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court if there are legal issues they feel prevented them from being successful. 

Step 10: Receiving Compensation

Once your claim is settled or won in court (or after appeal following a judgment), you will receive compensation that should cover all your related expenses and losses. Your attorney will ensure that the settlement is executed promptly and that the funds are paid appropriately. The attorney will also make sure all claims by health insurance companies or other entities (including Medicare) are properly paid back for any related medical treatment they paid for, called subrogation. 


Navigating the aftermath of a truck crash involves complex legal procedures and meticulous preparation. With the right attorney, victims can not only understand but effectively manage these procedures, ensuring they receive the justice and compensation they deserve. Remember, the key to a successful outcome is to act promptly and get an experienced truck crash attorney on your side as soon as possible. 

Our team at SW&L Attorneys knows those rules, and applies them to hold all parties responsible for the injuries or death involving these big vehicles. If you or a loved one have been in a catastrophic crash with any commercial motor vehicle, and want to speak to an attorney to see if it had anything to do with safety, please give Nathan a call at (701) 297-2890 or email at 

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