Large trucks and semi-trucks are not as many as regular passenger vehicles, but they stand a much higher risk of fatal accidents than regular cars. Trucks are heavy and massive, so being in a crash can mean enduring devastating injuries that can have consequences over a lifetime. As a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, you must always be aware of how such accidents can affect you and what this means for your life and career. For instance, you can suffer injuries such as the neck, back, limbs, brain, and internal injuries, among other injuries. We at the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney help victims of these kinds of injuries seek compensation for the damages and losses caused.
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) surmise that 23% of truck collisions cause trauma, and 1% of these accidents lead to fatalities. While trucks can collide at any day, 83% of these unfortunate incidents take place within the workweek – possibly as drivers try to meet their delivery deadlines. These incidents can be triggered by you or another driver under specific circumstances, as further explained in this article.
Accidents Caused by Truck Driver
A truck driver is likely to cause an accident because of:
Fatigue – truck drivers can relate with operating an 18-wheeler for many hours, crossing state lines without much rest. However, this lifestyle yields fatigue that is dangerous when operating any vehicle, let alone a large truck carrying huge loads. A fatigued driver is generally drowsy and could drift in and out of sleep behind the wheel only to jolt awake upon spotting a deer crossing a deserted road. Driving in a panicked mode may cause the truck to lose balance, leading to collision into a car or other accidents.
Drunk driving – getting behind the wheel after a couple of beers may seem harmless, but if you have exceeded the blood alcohol concentration (BAC), your driving capability will be impaired. Florida has a BAC limit of 0.08% and state laws define drunk driving as driving while the person is deprived of full possession of standard functioning. Licensees of commercial vehicles like trucks must adhere to a BAC limit of 0.04% or risk facing penalties and assessments under Florida's DUI regulations.
Speeding – however tempting it is to cruise down the open road while blaring your favorite music, driving a truck at breakneck speeds is likely to cause an accident. You have less time to control the vehicle in case of any eventuality such as a stop sign, another accident by cars ahead of you, or an animal crossing the road.
Distractions – similar to operating an average car, driving an 18-wheeler while checking up on social media posts or texting can lead to accidents. Working the radio controls to get the latest news or doing any other activity that shifts your focus from driving is dangerous, even for the most experienced drivers.
Inadequate training – if you are relatively new at the job and have not had much experience ferrying goods across the country in a semi-truck, you stand the risk of accidents. Novice drivers lack the knee jerk reaction when responding to unforeseen incidents on the road, including natural phenomena like sudden rainstorms. An experienced driver also knows how much time to allocate before coming to a full stop to avoid rear-end crashes with motorists behind them.
Poor truck maintenance – Drivers are often blamed for accidents, but things could be beyond their control in some cases. For instance, your employer may decline to do repairs even when the truck has covered thousands of miles on the road. Examples of poor maintenance are malfunctioning brakes, broken mirrors, or electrical failures. If your employer habitually refuses to prioritize maintenance of the big rig, you stand the risk of an accident on the next trip.
Cargo distribution – large trucks and semis usually ferry cargo from warehouses or ports to their desired destination. These loads must be evenly distributed to prevent tipping over or having the goods fall out in the middle of the road, thus interfering with road traffic not to mention causing accidents.
Accident Caused by Other Motorists
The above examples cover different scenarios where your actions could trigger an accident, or your employer's negligence could be at fault. As any driver knows, traffic accidents are also caused by other drivers who may not be as keen as you are to safeguard yourself. The other driver could be at fault by making the following risky moves:
- Switching lanes too fast and cutting you off as you drive at average speeds
- Cutting between a rig and the curb when you are negotiating a full right-hand turn
- Following a long vehicle too closely
- Failure to give ample time to come to a complete halt
- Not yielding the proper way to a big rig
- Attempting to overtake when there is a blind spot
- Being swayed by crosswinds emanating from an adjacent truck
- Improper merging into traffic then cutting off a massive vehicle
- Failure to adjust speed as a rig is joining traffic
What Type of Injuries Can I Get from a Truck Accident?
Whenever a truck accident occurs, the driver and other occupants are likely to suffer many injuries, ranging from minor to severe bodily harm that could impact their quality of life. You can expect to experience the following injuries:
- Torso and Rib Injuries
These types of injuries usually involve blunt force trauma to the torso area (abdomen), which means your vital organs can be harmed. If an object pokes through the skin, the injury is termed as penetrating chest trauma. Where there is no sharp object involved, it becomes blunt force trauma. Torso and rib injuries are especially harmful as they lead to more problems that could go undetected without proper medical intervention. These types of damages are further broken down as follows:
- Collapsed lung
This injury, otherwise known as pneumothorax, happens when the air inside the lungs flattens the lung, thus pressing it against the heart and the other lung. Pneumothorax of a small degree can heal within a few days even without treatment, but only if the patient is healthy. If you have suffered other injuries during the accident or have other underlying health conditions, the recovery process usually takes one to two weeks.
- Flail chest
This injury describes a situation where considerable force is applied to the ribs, breaking them and leaving them hanging by the side, moving back and forth. As you can imagine, flail chest is dangerous and needs a medical intervention soon after the accident occurs.
- Sucking chest wound
This torso injury is essentially a hole in the chest that occurs after a puncture by a sharp object, thus opening a new pathway for air getting inside the chest. Air enters this cavity when you inhale and can potentially lead to tension pneumothorax where a collapsed lung leaks air between the lung and chest wall.
Overall, broken ribs require speedy diagnosis and medical intervention to prevent them from puncturing lungs or causing extensive damage to your vital organs.
- Cuts and Lacerations
These sorts of injuries are not as severe as rib and torso damage, but they can potentially have an enduring impact. When the truck crashes into another vehicle or rolls over the side of a hill, you are likely to suffer cuts and lacerations from severed metal, broken glass, and a range of unrestrained objects inside the truck. These injuries vary from cuts and bruises to lasting wounds on the face, hands, nose, not to mention the grim possibility of a sharp item gorging your eyes out.
Depending on how severe the bruises are, you may need several doctor appointments to treat the wounds and negate any infections that could breed more health problems. More so, you may need facial reconstructive surgery if your face is badly damaged and recovery could take a while.
- Spinal Cord Injuries
Commercial trucking accidents usually have a significant impact that can damage the nerves in the spinal cord and break a few bones. The aftermath of spinal injuries is partial, momentary, or full-on paralysis can set in affecting different parts of the body. You will experience excruciating pain throughout recovery, and you may need complex rehabilitation to restore your spinal cord. Some injuries are so severe that physicians will need to do an MRI scan to diagnose appropriately, and they may recommend surgery to treat.
- Seatbelt and Airbag Injuries
Drivers are required to belt up for their safety as seat belts come in handy in rollover accidents, so you don't eject out of the vehicle. As per NHTSA, fastening belts on the shoulder and lap reduces the chance of fatal or severe injuries to front-seat occupants by around 50%. In extreme collisions where passengers are ejected fully from an automobile, their likelihood of surviving is dismal, and NHTSA derived that 51% of fatal crashes in 2017 had unrestrained male passengers.
Lap-shoulder assemblies for all seats are the industry standard for vehicles produced or sold in the country, as mandated by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations. The goal is to prevent serious injuries whenever crashes of any kind occur and even more so when dealing with large vehicles like trucks. Wearing a seat belt, however, does not change or reduce the amount of force sustained in a crash, but instead, it influences how that force is distributed by sharing it to the pelvic section, which is less vulnerable. By doing so, seatbelts confine the torso (chest and abdomen) during a collision, and this too has damaging effects.
These safety features can hurt you in a truck accident, and hence, the term seat belt syndrome. This condition refers to any bodily harm that is linked to the use of seat belts, and this could be a reddish mark left across the chest or other severe damages to the intra-abdominal organs such as bowel perforations. Abdominal wounds and damage to the thorax vertebrae are common during a strong impact like the truck crashing into a brick wall at high speeds. The lap belt can trigger liver and spleen contusions, abdominal compression, and lumbar spine fracture and associated neurological deficits, and other injuries.
Airbags are yet another safety feature protecting the front-seat occupants from impact during crashes. According to NHTSA statistics, frontal airbags have saved 44,869 lives between 1987 and 2015. Frontal and side-impact airbags give supplemental cushioning and are designed to deploy when crashes occur. Airbags work by reducing the risk of your head or upper body striking the interior of the truck during an accident, so you remain secure inside the vehicle.
Please note, airbags are not interchangeable with seat belts; this safety feature works best when coupled with seat belts and taking the correct seating positions inside the vehicle. Even when driving a truck without functional airbags, you are still safer buckled up than when the airbags are working, but you forget to buckle up. These benefits notwithstanding, airbags can hurt the driver by deploying with high speed, thus causing blunt force trauma to the head, and tearing the skin of your hands. Seatbelt and airbag injuries can lead to additional damage to the neck, back, and chest area.
- Internal Injuries
An accident involving a truck colliding into another or hitting something at high speeds yields blunt force that causes inward injuries that may not be detected immediately. Moreover, these crashes exert physical stresses on the body, and safety equipment like airbags can lead to abdominal trauma as described above. Internal injuries may involve critical organs like the liver, pancreas, bladder or kidneys, and managing these problems is not easy even at the hands of specialist physicians. As a result, you may go home with permanent physical limitations that could reduce the quality of life and keep you from working.
- Head and Brain Injuries
As you can imagine, any trauma to the head or brain is dangerous, and the side-effects can last a lifetime. It could be a mild concussion for a couple of days or severe traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that could have life-changing effects. For instance, TBIs can result in personality changes due to trauma to certain parts of the brain, such as the frontal and temporal lobes and the hippocampus. When this happens, the survivor is susceptible to a range of adverse changes like volatile emotions, diminished impulse control, impaired memory, and physical imbalance.
Personality changes during accidents can wreak havoc on your life in several ways. First, you suffer a great deal of emotional anguish, unresolved conflicts, undermining trust with your loved ones, and troubles with intimacy. There is also the gnawing risk of you hurting others when bouts of verbal and physical aggression occur, which can be as frequent as several times a week. In extreme cases of head and brain injuries, the individual may succumb and die immediately or when undergoing treatment.
Other adverse effects of traumatic brain injuries include slurred speech, recurring headaches, drifting in and out of consciousness, blurred vision, confusion, and many others.
- Amputated Limbs
Whether you are liable for the accident or another motorist is, an accident involving a rig can leave your arms, hands, legs, or feet grossly injured upon impact and the ensuing rollover. You may have to lose one or more limbs and have them replaced with prosthetics to regain normal functioning. These treatments are not cheap, and the artificial limb may function with diminished capacity as compared to a natural one.
It is not typical to see a crash that ends up with a big blow-up with flames raging and thick smoke billowing into the sky. When this happens, the driver and other occupants will suffer burns on different parts of the body, and these could be so severe that body parts are unrecognizable. If you are unable to free yourself, seat belts may prevent you from walking away before the fire breaks out and first responders arrive.
Fires are more common during accidents with commercial trucks than with conventional vehicles due to the sheer size of these trucks, which means the force of impact is more significant. The fuel tank is more likely to burst and start a fire that could trigger more combustion depending on what goods are being ferried. Burns from such accidents can leave you disfigured beyond recognition, and thus, need a series of emergency interventions like skin grafting. Apart from the apparent trauma associated with such collisions, many survivors of extreme burns never fully recover, and they are left to grapple with this new reality for the rest of their lives.
- Neck and Back Injuries
The force that comes with forceful crashes affects the neck and back during impact, and this force harms the structural systems that comprise the neck and back. When these complex systems are injured, you can endure incapacitating pain and some form of paralysis in extreme cases.
When your head is suddenly thrust forward during impact, the neck suffers soft-tissue damage, a condition known as whiplash. The associated symptoms are discomfort in the upper limbs, diminished range of motion in the neck area, and possibly numbness in the upper part of your body.
Regrettably, some accidents lead to severe damage, and the victim succumbs even before the paramedics arrive or they die while undergoing treatment. The victim's family can file a wrongful death claim to get restitution after their loved one passes on as a direct result of injuries incurred following a commercial vehicle accident.
What Can I Do Following a Truck Accident?
Once you are involved in a commercial vehicle accident, there are steps you need to take for legal and medical reasons as follows:
- Report to Authorities
If you are in a position to speak, call 911 immediately so paramedics can be deployed to the accident scene and start attending to your wounds and injuries. Traffic police will arrive to inspect the scene and start taking statements from you and other road users who may have witnessed the crash.
- Collect Driver Information
Regardless of whose fault it is, you need to exchange information such as insurance details, license number, address, etc. with the other motorists involved to share with authorities. If the accident involves another commercial truck, gather the company's details – you can find these displayed on the vehicle's left or right sides, or both.
- Find Eye Witnesses
Unless you were driving on a deserted road, there is a strong likelihood that someone witnessed your crash and they can share some useful details that could exonerate you. Request them for contact information so your legal counsel can reach them for additional interviews if deemed necessary.
- Document the Scene
Take pictures or video recording of the scene provided you don't expose yourself to unnecessary harm. This photographic evidence will prove useful when you file a personal injury suit. An insurance adjuster will need to see the full extent of the accident long after authorities have towed the truck to an impound lot.
- Get Medical Help
As much as sticking around at the scene may be helpful, your well-being must come first so you can better your chances of reaching full recovery. We mentioned earlier that some injuries are internal, and they can only be detected through sophisticated imaging like taking an MRI scan. The sooner you get medical assistance, the sooner they can identify or rule out internal injuries to crucial organs.
- Hire a Lawyer
Companies are notorious for bullying people into accepting lowball offers and blaming them for crashes even when maintenance problems the main cause of the accidents. Hiring the best personal injury attorney will ensure things go a lot smoother and you get the restitution needed to cover medical bills now and in the foreseeable future.
Find a Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Being involved in a truck accident can be a life-altering event, and victims who live in dread of these incidents need to be fully informed on what they can expect and how to respond. Injuries emanating from crashes vary in degree depending on the circumstances of the accident. You could suffer mild injuries and recover quickly then return to work, or the damage can be so severe that you may never regain your health. Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney is here to assist you with your injury claim, so the party at fault pays your dues without skirting the law. Contact us today at 904-800-7557 so we can examine the details of your case and see how to help you win this lawsuit.