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What Steps Should I Take After a Truck Accident Leaves Me Paralyzed?

Posted on: October 1, 2020

Those who are left paralyzed after a truck accident should contact a qualified Freehold truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after seeking immediate medical attention. Paralysis and resulting complications may be compensable under New Jersey law. Although there is currently no known cure for paralysis, it is a condition that often requires long-term medical treatment and significant lifestyle changes. Personal injury plaintiffs who can prove that another party’s negligence led to their paralysis may be entitled to compensation for the costs of those damages and other related expenses.

Unique Dangers of Commercial Trucks

In 2018 alone, there were 5,096 fatal crashes and 112,000 injury crashes involving large trucks and buses, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Commercial trucks are much larger than passenger vehicles and can therefore cause more serious accidents and injuries. They also often carry tons of heavy cargo that can become detached if not secured properly. These unique dangers are, in part, why trucking companies and truck drivers are subject to strict rules set forth by the FMCSA. When they fail to follow those rules, it can lead to catastrophic injuries such as paralysis.

What are the Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents?

The causes of truck accidents are varied and often involve more than one factor. However, truck accidents are typically due to human error, the cause of 94 percent of all motor vehicle crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA). Specifically, some of the most common causes of truck accidents include the following:

  • Fatigue. Drowsy driving is prevalent in the trucking industry, where drivers may travel for up to 11 hours a day with few or no breaks.
  • Drinking alcohol. Drunk or impaired driving remains one of the top causes of motor vehicle accidents, causing over 30 deaths each day in the United States, according to the NHTSA.
  • Speeding. Truckers are often under pressure to meet tight deadlines, which can incentivize them to speed. The NHTSA reports that in 2018, speeding killed 9,378 people.
  • Distractions. Cell phones, GPS, and infotainment systems are just some of the distractions drivers face. In 2018, 2,841 people were killed in distracted driving accidents, according to the NHTSA.
  • Improper truck maintenance. Drivers should check all parts of the truck before heading out onto the road. Failure to check and maintain parts such as tires, steering, transmission, and lighting can lead to truck accidents.
  • Defective truck parts. Sometimes, truck parts fail to perform properly as a result of a manufacturer’s defect or improper repair.
  • Failure to follow FMCSA rules. Trucking companies and drivers are supposed to comply with FMCSA rules; when they fail to do so, serious accidents may result.
  • Negligent hiring. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires transportation industry employers to run background checks and screen drivers for drug and alcohol use prior to hiring. Additionally, they must perform random drug and/or alcohol tests on a certain percentage of workers each year.
  • Inadequate training. Inadequately trained or inexperienced truck drivers pose a serious risk to themselves as well as others on the road.
  • Poor road conditions. Potholes, lack of adequate signage, and deteriorating road quality can cause or contribute to truck accidents.
  • Inclement weather. Ice, snow, rain, fog, and other inclement weather increases the risk of getting in an accident, especially when combined with poor road conditions.
  • Unsecured or overloaded cargo.  Lost loads are one of the most common causes of trucking accidents; when drivers fail to adequately secure cargo or overload their trucks with cargo, it can lead to serious accidents and injuries.

What Causes Paralysis?

When someone suffers a traumatic blow to the spine, such as in a truck accident, they may become paralyzed. Paralysis is the result of damage to the spinal cord that causes complete or partial loss of function in one or more parts of the body. Paralysis varies in location, referring to the part of the body affected; duration, whether the injury is temporary or permanent; and severity, whether the patient is experiencing partial or complete paralysis.

Types of Paralysis

Paralysis can either be localized, meaning it affects only a certain part of the body; or generalized, meaning that it affects multiple body parts. The main types of paralysis include the following:

  • Monoplegia. Paralysis affecting one part of the body, such as a limb. Those with monoplegia can move the rest of their body except for the affected area.
  • Hemiplegia. This type of paralysis affects half of the body. Hemiplegics can move still move one side of their body but not the other.
  • Paraplegia. Paralysis to the lower part of the body is called paraplegia. Those with this type of paralysis typically lose function below the waist and are unable to feel their lower extremities.
  • Quadriplegia.  This affects both arms and legs, as well as possibly the functioning of internal organs. Quadriplegics may experience loss of sensation below the site of the injury as well as spasticity, or uncontrollable movements. 

Complications of Paralysis

There are many potential long-term effects of paralysis, including loss of sensation and movement in the affected area as well as other secondary complications. Some common complications arising from paralysis include the following:

  • Incontinence. Those who are paralyzed from the waist down may not be able to control their bladder or bowels.
  • Circulatory issues. Being unable to move can lead to circulation problems, which can cause blood clots, pulmonary embolism, and/or deep vein thrombosis.
  • Respiratory challenges. Those with paraplegia affecting the chest muscles may not be able to breathe properly without special exercises and medical equipment.
  • Phantom pain. Even though those who are paralyzed may not be able to feel external pain, they may be prone to feeling phantom pain at the site of the injury.

What Legal Remedies are Available for Truck Accident Victims in New Jersey?

Those who suffer catastrophic injuries such as paralysis as a result of a truck accident in New Jersey may be able to obtain compensation. Personal injury claims for paralysis and related injuries may be filed against at-fault parties such as trucking company owners, truck drivers, third-party cargo loaders, and truck part manufacturers or repair shops. Generally, a plaintiff must show that the other party’s negligence caused the accident that led to their injuries in order to recover damages.

Types of Damages

There are two possible types of damages: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are designed to replace both economic losses, including medical costs; and non-economic losses associated with the injury, including pain and suffering. Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant for intentional or particularly egregious behavior; this type of damage award is granted much less frequently than compensatory damages and is often capped at a certain amount.

In New Jersey, punitive damage awards are limited to $350,000, or five times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is higher. However, there are no limits to compensatory damages such as recovery for the cost of the following:

  • Medical treatment. This includes costs of hospitalization, medication, surgical costs, and rehabilitation.
  • Lost income. Compensation includes reimbursement for lost wages as well as wages the victim would have earned in the future but for the accident/paralysis.
  • Property damage. Recovery for property damage includes that to the plaintiff’s vehicle and any personal items damaged in the accident.
  • Pain and suffering. In addition to compensation for pain and suffering, the victim is compensated for emotional distress, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life.

It can be difficult to calculate the lifetime costs of a paralysis injury; it depends on the severity of the injury, any resulting complications, and recommended treatment, in addition to other factors. Those who were paralyzed in a truck accident should contact an experienced truck accident lawyer to discuss their legal options as soon as possible; the standard statute of limitations for personal injury cases in New Jersey is two years from the date of the accident.

Freehold Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Seek Compensation for Paralysis Injuries

If you were left paralyzed after a truck accident, contact the Freehold truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law. Our legal team will obtain the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York City.

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