Commercial vehicles are often extremely big and heavy. Because of their size and weight, 18-wheelers and commercial trucks can cause horrific damage and life-altering injuries in a crash, especially at interstate speeds.
To put things into perspective, the average car weighs around 4,000 pounds but large trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds (or more) when fully loaded – especially when overloaded illegally, which can greatly impact a truck accident settlement.
Truck accidents can cause life-changing and catastrophic injuries. In fact, they’re among the worst injuries a person can suffer in any traffic accident. Common truck accident injuries include:
Serious Brain Injuries (TBI) & Concussions
A concussion is a mild form of brain injury. More serious kinds of brain injuries can also happen in a collision with an 18-wheeler, big rig, diesel truck, semi truck, or tractor trailer. Like concussions, these are called traumatic brain injuries.
The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) states that a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is “an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force. Traumatic impact injuries can be defined as closed (or non-penetrating) or open (penetrating).”
While a concussion is the most common kind of traumatic brain injury, the BIAA says others can include:
- Contusion, which is a bruise (bleeding) on the brain caused by a force (blow or jolt) to the head.
- Coup-contrecoup injury, which involves contusions both at the site of the impact and on the opposite side of the brain. This occurs when the force impacting the head is not only great enough to cause a contusion at the site of impact but is also able to move the brain and cause it to slam into the opposing side of the skull, the BIAA says.
- Second impact syndrome, also called “recurrent traumatic brain injury,” can occur when a person sustains a second traumatic brain injury before the first traumatic brain injury has healed. The second injury may occur from days to weeks following the first. Loss of consciousness is not required. The second impact is more likely to cause brain swelling and serious injury.
- Locked-in syndrome is a rare neurological condition in which a person cannot physically move any part of their body aside from their eyes.
- Open head injury, or a penetrating head injury, is a head injury in which the dura mater (the outer layer of the meninges) is breached. Penetrating head injury can be caused by high-velocity projectiles or objects of lower velocity such as bone fragments from a skull fracture that are driven into the brain.
- Closed head injury is an injury to the brain caused by an outside force without any penetration of the skull. With a closed head injury, when the brain swells, it has no place to expand. This can cause an increase in intracranial pressure, the pressure within the skull.
Sprains, strains, and tears
Many people underestimate the damage of soft tissue sprains, strains, and tears. If you don’t get a medical checkup immediately after a truck accident, more damage may be done to the soft tissue, and you may need surgery.
- A sprain is an injury to the ligaments or capsule that holds a joint together. Most sprains take about three to six weeks to heal. If the ligament is completely torn (severe sprain), it can take months to recover.
- A strain is an injury to a muscle or a tendon (tissue that connects muscle to bone). It is sometimes called a “pulled muscle.” A strain happens when a muscle or tendon is stretched too far or is partially torn. Symptoms of a strain are pain, swelling, and having a problem moving or using the injured area. The hamstring (thigh muscle), calf muscle, and Achilles tendon are commonly strained.
- A tear may occur when a joint is forced beyond its normal range of motion. This can stretch or tear the ligament, much like the fibers of a rope coming apart. Both surgical and nonsurgical treatments are used to recover from a tear.
Any bone in your body can be broken in a violent truck accident. Spinal and neck injuries are usually the most serious. Regardless, they all require serious medical treatment and surgeries. Broken bones are also known as fractures.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), “A bone may be completely fractured or partially fractured in any number of ways (crosswise, lengthwise, in multiple pieces).” The AAOS lists these common types of fractures, or broken bones:
- Stable fracture. The broken ends of the bone line up and are barely out of place.
- Open, compound fracture. The skin may be pierced by the bone or by a blow that breaks the skin at the time of the fracture. The bone may or may not be visible in the wound.
- Transverse fracture. This type of fracture has a horizontal fracture line.
- Oblique fracture. This type of fracture has an angled pattern.
- Comminuted fracture. In this type of fracture, the bone shatters into three or more pieces.
Bone fractures can take several months to heal. They should be evaluated with x-rays and treated by such means as cast immobilization, a functional cast or brace, traction, external fixation, or open reduction and internal fixation, the AAOS says.
Bleeding internally, which is not visible to the eye, can be highly dangerous. It’s even more dangerous when victims aren’t aware that it is happening. In fact, it can be difficult to diagnose, even by medical professionals.
Internal bleeding can be the result of trauma or injury, and it could be a life-threatening condition. Symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Passing out
- Severe weakness
- Low blood pressure
- Acute visual problems
- Weakness on one side of the body
- Severe headache
- Severe abdominal pain
- Chest pain
Internal bleeding can also lead to bloody or dark vomit or stool, and if it occurs behind the internal organs in the abdomen, there may be bruising around the navel or sides of the abdomen.
Exsanguination is blood loss to such a degree that the person bleeding dies. It is also known as “bleeding out” or “bleeding to death.”
Spinal Cord Injuries
Injuries to the spinal cord can involve herniations or fractures, and these can require surgery. Severe injuries to the spinal cord can cause life-changing paralysis of certain body parts.