Pennsylvania Truck Accident Injuries

Any traffic accident can cause serious or fatal injuries, but truck accidents are more likely than car accidents to cause catastrophic harm. While only 5% of Pennsylvania traffic accidents that cause an injury involve collisions with trucks, truck accidents account for 13% of all fatal traffic accidents.

Injuries and death usually correlate with the amount of force that a collision generates. Force is a function of speed and mass. A loaded eighteen-wheeler might weigh seventy or eighty thousand pounds. Most large truck accidents occur on highways and freeways. A semi traveling at highway speeds generates too much force for airbags and other passenger vehicle safety features to overcome.

When occupants of a smaller vehicle survive a truck collision, they often suffer disabling injuries. Here are some of the most common injuries caused by Pennsylvania truck accidents.

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    Truck Accidents Pennsylvania | Spinal Injury

    Spinal Injuries

    Spinal cord injuries can cause paralysis. When the spinal cord is severed in the accident victim’s neck, the victim loses the ability to control arms and legs. A severed spinal cord in the back will cause paralysis in the lower back and legs.

    Less severe spinal cord injuries may allow accident victims to retain some ability to move arms and legs, although fine motor control is often lost. Unfortunately, individuals with serious spinal cord injuries rarely make a full recovery and are at risk for secondary issues, including infected bedsores, pneumonia, and deep vein thrombosis.

    Spinal injuries are classified as catastrophic because they typically result in a complete change of lifestyle. Victims of spinal injuries cannot usually return to their former employment and may be unable to pursue any gainful employment. They may also need a lifetime of care, including assistance with eating, bathing, and the other activities of daily living.

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    Bone Fractures

    Even the strongest bones in the human skeleton are easily shattered by the forces generated in a collision with a heavy truck. Hip bones and pelvic bones are commonly fractured in side-impact (“T-bone”) collisions. Since major arteries are located near the pelvis, a pelvic fracture is often accompanied by life-threatening internal bleeding.

    Some broken bones can be treated with splints and casting, but severe fractures typically require surgical repair, including the insertion of metal rods or plates to hold the pieces together until they mend. Months of healing may be followed by physical rehabilitation to strengthen surrounding muscles that withered while the injury victim was unable to exercise.

    Broken bones in the face and jaw may require multiple reconstructive surgeries. It may also be necessary to wire the jaw closed to prevent movement and promote complete healing. Accident victims with TMJ and other jaw bone injuries may endure months of discomfort before their injuries heal.

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    Head and Brain Injuries

    Traumatic brain injuries can also be catastrophic. Brain damage can affect the ability to reason, remember, concentrate, and speak. Traumatic brain injuries often change the accident victim’s personality and reduce independence. Even after vocational rehabilitation, many victims of traumatic brain injuries are unable to return to their former jobs and may be unable to work at any gainful employment.

    Brain injuries are caused by a blow to the head. Truck accidents may cause a car occupant’s head to strike the dashboard, side panel, or some other part of the car. The engine or other parts of the car may be pushed into the victim’s head. Brain injuries also occur when a car rolls over after a collision with a truck, or when an occupant is ejected from the car. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists have an enhanced risk of sustaining a brain injury when they are struck a truck.

    Some head injuries lead to bleeding or swelling inside the skull. Increasing cranial pressure can be a fatal condition if it is not relieved promptly. Any concussion in a truck accident should be reported to a physician so that the head injury can be examined and monitored.

    Organ Damage and Crush Injuries

    Crush injuries occur during rollovers when a car’s roof collapses, when the car’s engine is pushed against a car occupant’s chest, or when a car occupant is ejected and comes to rest underneath the car or is driven over by the truck. Crush injuries can cause internal bleeding that requires immediate surgery.

    Some crush injuries, such as a collapsed rib cage or crushed lungs, cause death from asphyxiation. Truck accident victims who survive a crush injury may be facing life-threatening medical conditions.

    Surgery may be needed to repair or remove organs that are damaged by the force of an impact with an eighteen-wheeler. The organs that are most often damaged in truck accidents include the spleen, the liver, and one or both kidneys.

    Internal bleeding or impaired organ functions may not be obvious immediately after the accident. Symptoms might not appear for several hours. Whenever a victim’s body has suffered an impact in a truck accident, a prompt and thorough medical examination might mean the difference between life and death.

    Truck Accidents Pennsylvania | Injury

    Amputations and Puncture Wounds

    A traumatic amputation occurs when an accident victim loses part or all of a limb, finger, or toe in an accident. Truck accidents are more likely than car accidents to cause amputations, because the force generated by a truck accident is more likely to cause metal to tear apart, creating sharp edges that sever the accident victim’s limb.

    Amputations are particularly likely to occur in rollovers. Impacts with a fast-moving semi are more likely to cause rollovers than collisions between two vehicles of the same size.

    Particularly gruesome and inevitably fatal amputations of the head occur when a car travels underneath a tractor-trailer. The front of the car continues moving in those accidents until the trailer sheers off the car’s roof and windshield. Some trailers are equipped with underride guards to prevent those injuries, but many trucking companies save money by installing guards that do not fit, that detach easily, or that are made of light metal and offer no protection to accident victims.

    Accident victims are at risk of bleeding to death after an amputation. Those who survive may be able to regain some functionality with prosthetic arms or legs, but many victims of amputations are unable to resume their employment or to enjoy their former lifestyles.

    Sharp edges and flying pieces of metal also produce puncture wounds. A puncture wound can be fatal if it affects a vital organ or causes uncontrolled bleeding. Other punctures can lead to infections and eye injuries. Some infections are life-threatening. Victims may require hospitalization and long-term treatment.

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    Truck Accidents Pennsylvania | Injury

    Facial Injuries, Dental Injuries, and Disfigurement

    Flying shards of metal and broken glass are common in collisions with a big rig or other heavy truck. Glass embedded in tissues may work its way to the surface for months after an accident. Torn skin may result in scarring. Cosmetic surgery might improve the appearance of accident victims, but some scars are permanent, leading to embarrassment and a loss of self-esteem.

    Broken noses and dental injuries are also common in truck accidents. Surgery is sometimes necessary to correct the appearance of a broken nose or to restore the ability to breathe easily. Dental injuries may require frequent trips to a dentist to repair or replace broken teeth.

    Neck Injuries

    Rear-end collisions cause a car occupant’s body to twist while the head moves backward and forward violently, all in less than a second. Those “whiplash” injuries can cause serious damages to the muscles in the neck, causing pain to radiate through the back and shoulders. The cervical spine can also be damaged by a rear-end collision.

    Even low-speed whiplash injuries can cause nagging pain for months. The forces generated by a collision with a semi magnify the injuries caused by whiplash. Some accident victims experience long-term or permanent pain after their necks are injured in rear-end truck accidents.

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    Joint Injuries

    Knees and ankles are not protected by airbags. Knee injuries include a broken patella (kneecap) and damage to the structure within the knee, including bones and ligaments.

    Ligaments are connective tissues that join bones together. Ligaments in knees, ankles, elbows, and wrists, are often stretched or torn in truck accidents.

    Sports fans are familiar with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, which are commonly caused when an athlete’s knee twists or crashes into the playing field. The ACL attaches the thighbone to the shinbone, stabilizing the knee joint. Injuries to the ACL occur in truck accidents when the force of a collision twists the knee or drives it into the dashboard or some other hard surface.

    Knee injuries can be permanently disabling. In some cases, ligament damage requires surgical correction. Artificial knees may be necessary to correct severe injuries. Since artificial knees wear out and must be replaced periodically, a knee injury can lead to a lifetime of surgeries.

    Truck Accidents Pennsylvania | Injury

    Damage to Muscles, Tendons, and Nerves

    Muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves are among the body’s “soft tissues.” A soft tissue injury is often frustrating, as painful symptoms may persist for months or years. Some soft tissue injuries result in permanent disabilities.

    Muscles in the shoulders and back are particularly susceptible to injury in a collision with a large truck. When muscles are stretched, months of rest followed by exercise may be needed before the injuries heal. When muscles are torn, surgery may be required to repair the damage.

    Tendons attach muscles to bones. While tendons are found throughout the body, tendons in the rotator cuff that allow the shoulder to move are frequently torn in truck collisions.

    Regardless of treatment, some muscle and tendon injuries result in permanent injuries. Those injuries may limit the ability to bend or twist the body, to lift objects, or to turn the head from side to side.

    Nerve damage may also be permanent, as doctors have little success curing injured nerves. Injuries to sensory nerves can cause ongoing pain or numbness in the affected areas of the injury victim’s body. Injuries to motor nerves can cause muscles to weaken and may contribute to paralysis.

    Wrongful Death

    When a truck driver’s negligence causes fatal injuries, Pennsylvania law allows the personal representative of the accident victim’s estate to pursue wrongful death compensation. The beneficiaries of that compensation are the victim’s spouse, children, and parents.

    Wrongful death compensation includes the funds the victim would have contributed to family members, the value of services the victim would have provided, and the loss of the victim’s love and emotional support suffered by family members. If the victim suffered before dying, the victim’s estate can also recover compensation for that pain and suffering, to be distributed according to the terms of the victim’s will.

    Emotional Injuries

    Every physical injury is accompanied by pain, suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish. Depression, anxiety, and loss of self-esteem are common byproducts of a truck accident. In most cases, emotional distress damages are the largest component of a truck accident settlement.

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    Pennsylvania Truck Accident Lawyers

    The first thing an injury victim should do after a Pennsylvania truck accident is to seek medical attention. Once emergency care and a full examination has been provided by a doctor, it is essential to follow the doctor’s treatment plan.

    Before talking to a trucking company’s insurance adjuster, it is important to understand your rights. Insurance adjusters try to talk to accident victims before the victims have a chance to talk to a lawyer. It is vitally important to obtain legal advice before deciding whether to talk to an insurance company. To learn about your rights as the victim of a collision with a tractor-trailer or other large truck, call us at xxx-xxx-xxxx or ask us a question by using our contact form.