How Are Truck Accident Injuries Different from Car Accident Injuries?

a truck flipped over on the road

In the United States, there are more than 37 million large commercial trucks in circulation throughout the nation’s roadways. It is virtually impossible to travel major interstates and not encounter these massive vehicles along the way.

Semi-trucks are vitally important to our daily lives, transporting food, medicines, clothing, equipment, automobiles, and many other essential goods we rely and depend on to sustain our health and daily lives. However, these behemoth vehicles, and sometimes their cargo, can be extremely deadly when involved in collisions with passenger cars.

Why Are Accidents Involving Semi-Trucks So Dangerous?

Combined, the average semi-truck and trailer measure approximately 70 feet long, and a fully loaded truck and trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, requiring 500 or more feet to come to a complete stop. An accident happening 30 yards ahead of the truck, or a car closely crossing their path, creates an unavoidable and devastating collision.

When the accident involves a tractor-trailer colliding with a passenger car, the vehicle’s occupants will almost certainly suffer extensive personal injuries that result in permanent disabilities and lifelong conditions, if they survive. An astounding 97 percent of passenger car occupants die in accidents involving semi-trucks each year.

According to a report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA),police across the country report more than 500,000 truck accidents involving tractor-trailers annually, resulting in nearly 5,000 fatalities, almost exclusively occupants of the passenger cars.

Injuries sustained in a collision with a tractor-trailer are generally the same as those in car accidents involving only passenger vehicles. The difference, however, is the extent of those injuries, which are far more severe because of the massive size, weight, and height of the semi-truck. Such accidents more frequently result in fatalities more often than not; and those who survive suffer debilitating and life-altering injuries requiring extensive medical care and quality of life changes.

What Type of Injuries Are Common in Large Truck Accidents?

A fully loaded semi-truck creates a massive force of impact in a collision, typically resulting in severe and life-threatening injuries. It is common in most semi-truck versus passenger car accidents for the smaller car to become pinned under the trailer, which can also shear the roof off the passenger vehicle, causing catastrophic and usually fatal injuries. The most common injuries in truck accidents include the following:

  • Traumatic brain injury: The most common injuries resulting from a large truck collision are traumatic brain injuries, cell-damaging wounds that results in permanent damage. The extreme force of impact experienced when hitting large trucks cause severe trauma to the brain by violently slamming it against the skull in multiple directions as a result of the whiplash effect. This action causes deforming tears, creating permanent damage to the brain, nerves, and blood vessels. Nearly all sufferers experience personality changes; loss of motor function; lower impulse control; increased aggression; loss of senses; amnesia; mental disorders; reasoning and concentration difficulties; and ongoing, worsening lifelong complications.
  • Neck and spine damage: Nearly every person injured in a collision with a semi-truck suffers neck and spinal cord damage. In these accidents, the truck’s massive force of impact sends a violent jolt through the smaller vehicle and the occupants’ bodies. The force is so great that the neck and spine are forced to contort into unnatural positions, resulting in extensive injuries, including paralysis from shattered vertebrae bone fragments lodging into the spine.
  • Nerve damage: The body’s peripheral nervous system that surrounds the brain and spinal cord are composed of sensory, motor, and autonomic nerves that control the five senses, movement, and automatic functions, such as breathing, heart rate, and digestion, among others. Damage to any of these nerve systems results in debilitating and lifelong conditions, particularly the autonomic nerves.
  • Severe burns: In contrast to passenger cars, commercial semi-truck fuel tanks carry hundreds of gallons of explosive diesel fuel that erupt with large explosions and fire if ruptured, causing severe, life-threatening burns. Burns of this magnitude require extensive treatment in costly specialized burn centers, followed by many months of recovery and physical therapy and potentially lifelong tremendous pain.
  • Severed limbs: Passenger vehicles often become horribly mangled when colliding with a semi-truck, and the resulting force can flip, crush, or lodge the car beneath the truck. As metal and glass shatter and shred, the vehicle’s occupants are inflicted to severe bodily damage that often ends with crushed or severed limbs, especially if trapped underneath the wreckage.
  • Broken bones: It is practically impossible to walk away from an accident with a semi-truck without having some degree of broken bones, which are common in passenger vehicle accidents as well. However, accidents with semis inflict such force and damage that broken bones frequently puncture skin or internal organs, becoming a more life-threatening injury.
  • Disfigurement: Permanent scarring and disfigurement are common conditions for those who survive accidents with tractor-trailers, reducing the sufferer’s quality of life and possibly requiring multiple reconstructive surgeries in the following years.
  • Death: Although fatalities can result in any type of vehicle accident, they occur much more frequently when a tractor-trailer is involved and often include all the occupants.
  • Psychological trauma: All vehicle accidents can be frightening and traumatizing, but the magnitude of the force, damage, and injuries from accidents with a semi is exponentially more catastrophic. Survivors commonly suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, fear, anxiety, depression, nightmares, and panic attacks. These conditions are severe and can linger for years or permanently.

Although the injuries suffered during an accident with a semi-truck are generally readily obvious, some injuries may not present symptoms for hours or days later, particularly internal organ damage and some traumatic brain injuries, which can both have serious consequences if left untreated. You should always seek a medical evaluation following an accident, even if you think your injuries are minor.

How Can I Avoid Having an Accident with a Large Truck?

Driving amid semi-trucks can be intimidating. You can feel the power and weight they pull when one passes you, causing your car to shake until they pass. Although there is no way to completely avoid encountering a semi on the road, there are steps you can take to ensure you do not end up in a collision with one, such as the following:

  • Give them space: Possibly the single most important safety tip regarding semis is to maintain ample space between the truck and your vehicle. Weighed down, large trucks require between 300 to 500 feet to bring the truck to a safe stop. If you squeeze into traffic in front of one and suddenly have to slow or stop 50 feet later, the truck will crash into your car disastrously. Create significant distance between you and large trucks and adjust your speed accordingly to maintain the safe distance.
  • Pass cautiously: Passing a semi requires more time than a passenger car to be fully pass the truck and often requires you to accelerate more to do so. Assess the situation carefully before passing, determine there are no other vehicles in your way or in an oncoming lane, and pass the truck as quickly as you safely can. Stay in the passing lane until you have put several hundred feet between you and the truck before moving in front of it.
  • Avoid so-called no zones: Semi-trucks have larger blind spots than passenger vehicles, extending up to 20 feet in the front of the truck to 30 feet behind the attached trailer, one lane on the left side of the truck, and two lanes on the right. The easiest way to make sure the driver can see you is if you can see the driver. If you can see the driver’s face in their side mirror, they can see you, meaning you are not the truck’s blind
  • Pull all the way over: If you must make an emergency stop along the road, pull as far off the shoulder as you safely can. Not only are semis long and tall, but also they are wider than the average passenger vehicles and take up more space in the lane. If you or your vehicle are even slightly over the line or into the lane, you will be at significant risk of being struck.
  • Allow a wide berth: Large trucks need more room to make certain turns, sometimes requiring the use of both lanes. Not allowing them space to fully make a turn can have disastrous consequences, particularly for righthand turns.

Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Clients Injured in Large Truck Collisions

Accidents involving large trucks can leave you with devastating injuries or loss. In addition, claims for damages can be complex and involve multiple responsible parties. Let the skilled Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton advocate on your behalf to secure full and fair compensation so that you can focus on what is most important: your health and recovery. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.