Paralysis and Spinal Injuries

The number of large commercial vehicles on U.S. roads – and in Georgia particularly – has risen at a rapid clip. Nearly 32 million trucks are registered for business purposes in the U.S. These vehicles are the lifeblood of our economy, but have caused carnage on our roads.

Truck accidents resulting in spinal injuries are traumatizing physically as well as emotionally, and those affected have lengthy recovery times. In the case of those who have suffered paralysis, they may never again return to full function.

Stephen M. Ozcomert, experienced truck accident attorney serving Atlanta for more than 20 years, is committed to making these companies pay. Georgia is an at-fault state when it comes to collisions, meaning negligent drivers are responsible to pay for the damages they cause. Those who have suffered a spinal cord injury in a trucking accident may incur astronomical expense – not just for initial hospitalization and treatment, but over the course of their lives.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires commercial carriers to insure their vehicles with between $750,000 and $5 million of liability coverage, depending on the weight of the vehicle/ its purpose. That may sound like a lot at first blush, but the truth is it may not go far with a spinal cord injury. Plus, many trucking accident affect more than one victim, who may all be vying for coverage under the same policy. Even with these high coverage ceilings, we may still end up pursuing additional avenues of compensation from other third parties.

Serious trucking accidents rarely result from a singular negligent act. They are often multi-faceted events that may have been set in motion hours, days or even months earlier, with failures to check and maintain equipment, properly hire and supervise workers and load these oversized vehicles.

Why Trucking Accidents Cause Spinal Injuries

The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistics Center (NSCSC) reports the most common cause of spinal cord injuries are vehicular accidents, followed by falls, violence and sports/ recreation. Crashes specifically involving trucks are a leading cause of paralysis and spinal cord injury.

A spinal cord injury, according to the Mayo Clinic, occurs when there is damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal. This in turn results in permanent changes to one’s strength, sensation and function – up to and including paralysis. There are varying levels of paralysis, including paraplegia, which affects all or part of the trunk, legs and pelvic organs, and tetraplegia (also known as quadriplegia) which affects hands, arms, truck, legs and pelvic organs.

Part of the reason Georgia truck accident victims are at such high risk of spinal injury has to do with the fact that the two vehicles involved are so mismatched. The average passenger car weighs about 3,000 pounds, while a fully-loaded semi-truck can weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds or more. One study published in the Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine looked at motor vehicle mismatch as a specific cause of spinal cord injuries and paralysis. Researchers found that when passenger vehicles collided with even slightly larger light trucks and sport utility vehicles, there was a heightened risk of spinal cord injury. The greater height of the larger vehicles played a role in increased risk of thoracic spinal cord injuries among occupants of smaller passenger vehicles.

It stands to reason that large trucks pose an even bigger risk of spinal cord injuries when they are involved in crashes with passenger vehicles.

Because spinal cord injuries may not be immediately apparent, anyone who has been injured in a truck accident should seek immediate medical attention. In many cases, an MRI will detect spinal injuries that an X-ray might miss.

Spinal Cord Injury Damages in Trucking Accident

Victims of spinal cord injury are quickly overwhelmed not just by the physical and emotional trauma, but by the sudden financial burden they must now shoulder.

Another study published in the Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine analyzed the health care costs for patients with chronic spinal cord injury. Beyond the initial costs of emergency care and hospitalization (roughly $750,000), the average cost of medical bills alone was between $28,000 and $133,000, depending on the severity of one’s injuries, which ranged from low paraplegia to high tetraplegia. Other estimates from the Dana and Christopher Reeves Foundation put average annual costs at between $42,000 and $184,000. One needs to consider also the costs not just for medical bills (which may include surgery, trauma care, rehabilitation, long-term in-home care, medical equipment and medications) but also:

  • Lost wages and earning potential;
  • Home modifications (i.e., elevators, ramps, lower counters, railing, etc.);
  • Long-term health issues (survivors of spinal cord injury are vulnerable to respiratory infections and are more likely to die young);
  • Additional equipment (i.e., wheelchair accessible vans).

All of this is in addition to the toll of chronic pain and mental health issues that can stem from immobility.

As a long-time Atlanta truck accident lawyer, Stephen M. Ozcomert understands the burden of proof required to establish both negligence and the full extent of your damages.

If you have been injured in a Georgia truck accident, contact Atlanta Truck Accident Attorney Stephen M. Ozcomert at (404)-370-1000.