Commercial truck accidents occur more often than you may know in and around Philadelphia. In July, a car became wedged under a tractor-trailer in what is commonly called an underride accident, in nearby Bellmawr. A 24-year-old woman tragically lost her life in the crash. Earlier this year, a truck carrying a load of watermelons crashed on I-95 in Philly, and the cargo spillage resulted in the death of a motorist. Another truck overturned on I-95, spilling its cargo all over the highway.
Even if someone survives a truck crash, the potential for life-changing injuries exists. Truck accident victims can suffer brain damage, shattered bones, internal injuries, and more. Some truck accident victims suffer spinal cord injuries, which can lead to disabling paralysis.
What Causes Paralysis?
The spine is an essential part of the body’s central nervous system. The spinal cord transmits messages from the brain through nerve channels throughout the body, facilitating movement, sensation, and other functioning of organs, limbs, and extremities. When the spine suffers trauma—such as in a collision—the spinal cord may sustain damage that disrupts the messages from the brain to the rest of the body, therefore, disrupting proper functioning. Often, this impedes a person’s movement and sensory abilities in the body below the injury location, which is known as “paralysis.”
Paralyzing spinal cord damage often occurs as a result of a traumatic blow to the spine. Such trauma can cause fractures, dislocations, compression, or crushing of the vertebrae and the delicate spinal cord tissue. Such spinal cord trauma is common in a variety of incidents, including falls, violent assaults, and sports injuries. According to the Mayo Clinic, however, the leading cause of this type of injury is motor vehicle accidents, and car, motorcycle, and truck accidents account for nearly half of spinal injuries every year.
Additional risk factors cited by the Mayo Clinic that may increase the chances of a spinal cord injury include:
- Alcohol, as many accidents that result in spinal cord injuries involve one or more intoxicated parties
- Maleness, as about 80 percent of spinal cord injury victims are male
- Age, as spinal injuries are more common for adults over age 65 and for young people between the ages of 16 years and 30 years.
- Risky activities, as extreme sports or other risk-taking behaviors can often lead to spinal cord injuries, especially without the proper safety precautions
No matter how old you may be or what type of lifestyle you lead, however, anyone can suddenly be the victim of a commercial truck accident without any warning or additional risk factors. Therefore, never underestimate your risks of a spinal injury resulting from a truck crash.
The initial spinal cord injury is not the only cause of paralysis. In some cases, damage may worsen due to fluid accumulation or inflammation that follows the initial trauma. Every spinal injury requires emergency trauma care, and most victims will spend time in the hospital, so doctors can monitor their condition. This includes working to prevent swelling, bleeding, and other factors that may worsen the injury and increase the chances of prolonged paralysis. For this reason, obtaining proper medical attention right after a suspected spinal cord injury is critical.
The Potential Effects of Paralysis
Not every spinal cord injury results in paralysis, though many patients so suffer some degree of either temporary or permanent paralysis. The extent and permanency of paralysis depending on where the spine was injured and the “completeness” of the injury. First, spinal cord damage will often impact the body below the point of injury. If someone suffers a lower spine injury, their pelvis and legs may be affected (paraplegia). Spinal injuries in the neck can affect the arms, trunk, and legs (quadriplegia). Paralysis can also affect organ function, including the lungs, bladder, bowels, and sexual organs.
When a spinal cord injury is “incomplete,” the injury should not entirely or permanently disrupt all communications. Some incomplete injury victims experience partial paralysis, such as loss of some sensation or movement ability, or temporary total paralysis. With incomplete injuries, extensive rehabilitative therapy can sometimes help a victim regain their abilities, though this process can take time and can be costly.
A “complete” spinal cord injury permanently shuts off communications with parts of the body. In such cases, paralysis is generally total and irreversible. Victims will likely need to rely on medical equipment and other assistance for the rest of their lives. Depending on the location of the spinal injury, such assistance may include:
- Modifications to the home or vehicles
- Personal assistance with hygiene, eating, and basic tasks
- Respiratory assistance
- Patients with upper spinal injuries who suffer quadriplegia may need help with almost all tasks for the rest of their lives.
Whether paralysis is temporary or permanent, the condition can still have many effects on your life. First, any degree of paralysis will require extensive medical treatment, including hospitalization, possible surgeries, medications and medical equipment, and ongoing rehabilitation. Paralysis can also prevent you from working if your job requires the use of the paralyzed body parts. Some paralyzed accident victims never return to work again and instead, must rely on disability benefits. Estimated lifetime costs of living with paralysis include:
- For a 25-year-old who suffers paraplegia – $2,310,104
- For a 50-year-old who suffers paraplegia – $1,516,052
- For a 25-year-old who suffers quadriplegia – $4,724,181
- For a 50-year-old who suffers quadriplegia – $2,596,329
In addition to the staggering financial costs of paralysis, such a condition can take a significant toll on your personal life, as well. There are many intangible losses associated with spinal cord injuries, such as physical pain and suffering, emotional and mental trauma, loss of enjoyment of life, and more. Not being able to participate in sports, certain social events, and other activities you once loved may not directly result in monetary losses, but these effects are real, and any truck accident lawyer should carefully consider the full range of intangible losses.
What Caused Your Truck Accident?
When a truck accident happens, the aftermath can be chaotic. This is especially true if you suffered a spinal cord injury, as the priority will be to get you the medical care that you need. Emergency medical technicians will immobilize suspected spinal injury victims and transport them directly to the hospital. There is no time for victims to remain at the scene of the accident and help determine what caused the crash.
Identifying the cause of a commercial truck crash is essential, however, to financial recovery for injured victims. Because the losses from a paralyzing injury can be so overwhelming, successfully pursuing recovery from any negligent parties is imperative for your future financial well-being. An experienced Philadelphia truck accident attorney can investigate the cause of your crash to advise you who may be responsible.
Some common causes of commercial vehicle accidents include:
- Distracted driving
- Truck drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Fatigued driving
- Aggressive truck drivers
- Drivers who violate state traffic laws or federal trucking regulations
- Poor truck maintenance
- Hiring dangerous or unqualified drivers
- Lack of proper truck driver supervision
- Noncompliance with trucking safety standards
- Defective truck parts
- Dangerous road conditions
- Improper cargo loading
The above are only some of the many possible causes of your truck accident. In some situations, the cause of the crash may be apparent. For example, if police officers arrest the truck driver at the scene for being intoxicated, it can be easier to identify that drunk driving caused the crash. In many truck accidents, though, it can require investigation to determine the cause. An investigation may involve:
- Analyzing data from the truck’s “black box”
- Reviewing footage from truck security cameras
- Reviewing electronic log data
- Reviewing trucking company records
- Interviewing witnesses
- Examining whether there is other video footage of the accident
- Employing the help of truck accident reconstruction experts
It is less than likely that you or your family will have the time nor resources to conduct such a thorough and complex investigation while you are dealing with your physical recovery and adjustment to life with paralysis. The longer you wait, however, the more difficult gathering evidence can be. The good news is that an experienced truck accident attorney will be able to handle the investigation and identify any causes of the accident while you are focusing on your physical condition.
Who is Liable for Your Paralysis-Related Losses?
Once an attorney determines the cause of a truck accident, the next step is to identify any possibly liable parties. If a truck driver made an error that led to a crash, you may assume the driver would be the only responsible party. However, in many cases, additional parties may also be accountable.
For example, trucking companies may have to take responsibility for the negligence of drivers under a legal principle called “respondeat superior.” A company may also be negligent in its own right, such as by hiring drivers with a history of drunk driving, causing serious crashes, or other reckless driving behaviors. Our legal team will always examine the possibility of trucking company liability, as companies must carry more substantial insurance policies than individual drivers. Because spinal cord injuries and paralysis can be so expensive, a company’s policy may have a better chance at covering your losses.
Other third parties may also be at issue in a truck accident claim. For example:
- Third-party cargo loaders if improper loading led to injuries
- Truck manufacturers if a defective truck part caused the crash
- Maintenance and repair companies for inadequate servicing of semi-trucks
- Government entities if road hazards or dangerously designed roads led to the accident
Many truck accident cases involve multiple insurance claims, which can get complicated very quickly. You need the right legal representation from the very start to ensure a law firm addresses every aspect of your case to seek the full amount of compensation you deserve for your extensive losses.
What Should You Do Now?
Many people with catastrophic injuries understand that they should seek help from an experienced lawyer, but they might have little idea how to find one. The Levin Firm has years of experience handling complex accident and injury cases in the Philadelphia area. We have a thorough understanding of the trucking industry and the technical issues that commonly arise in truck claims. We will evaluate your case for free and advise you regarding how a trucking case may work.
Trucking insurance companies have the interests of themselves and their policyholders in mind. Unfortunately, this means that insurers will often work to limit an accident victim’s claim as much as possible. This is especially true for parties who do not have legal representation and having a lawyer communicating with the insurance company from the very beginning can increase your chances at a fair settlement offer.
We help clients in many ways, including:
- Investigating and determining liability
- Valuating past and future damages
- Filing an insurance claim and communicating with insurance adjusters
- Negotiating a higher settlement when needed
- Taking the matter to civil court when needed
Our priority is obtaining the full amount of recovery each client deserves, and we have many tools with which to do so. We work to relieve the stress from our clients who are already struggling with severe injuries, and you never pay us unless we successfully obtain compensation for you.
Consult With a Dedicated Philadelphia Personal Injury Firm Today
Spinal cord injuries are considered to be catastrophic because of the lasting and severe effects on a patient’s life. Paralysis can alter almost every aspect of your day-to-day experience and can result in extensive financial and intangible losses. If someone else caused your injuries, the law entitles you to financial recovery for both past and long-term losses. To seek the compensation you deserve, you should take action and contact a Philadelphia injury attorney as soon as you can. The Levin Firm knows how to represent clients with severe and disabling injuries, so please do not wait to call 215-825-5183 or contact us online for specific information about how we can help.