If you’re hurt in an accident involving a large commercial truck in Mt. Pleasant, the injuries you suffer are likely to be much more serious than those you might sustain in a crash with another car. A tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, whereas your car or SUV probably weighs only 4,000-5,000 pounds. The impact of a collision with an 18-wheeler traveling at highway speed can cause catastrophic injuries to any part of your body, including your shoulder.
The shoulder, which has a wider range of movement than any other joint, consists of three bones: the scapula (shoulder blade), the clavicle (collar bone), and the humerus (upper arm). These bones are connected by a system of ligaments, tendons, and muscles that enable you to rotate your arm and lift it above your head. The complexity of the shoulder joint makes it vulnerable to serious injury in a jackknife, rollover, head-on, rear-end, or override or underride truck crash.
Common Truck Crash Shoulder Injuries
Because your shoulder is crucial to so many activities that you carry out in your personal and work life, you’re apt to be seriously debilitated by any one of the shoulder injuries you might suffer in a truck accident. Common shoulder injuries include the following:
- Shoulder separation or dislocation
- Fracture of the scapula, clavicle, or humerus
- Torn ligaments
- Nerve damage
- Sprains and strains
- Adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder)
- Superior labrum (SLAP) tears
- Torn rotator cuff
Symptoms of Serious Shoulder Damage
The symptoms of a shoulder injury include pain and stiffness, numbness, inflammation, discoloration of the skin, a decreased range of motion, difficulty sleeping, and an inability to move or raise your arm. It’s very important to have a shoulder injury diagnosed and treated as soon as possible after an accident. Any delay in treatment can result in increased discomfort and a slower, more difficult recovery.
Diagnosis of Shoulder Injuries
If you experience any of the symptoms above or if you’ve suffered an impact to your shoulder in a truck crash, you should see a doctor for a thorough examination and one or more imaging procedures:
- CT scan
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Treatment of Minor Shoulder Injuries
Minor shoulder injuries revealed by an exam and imaging can sometimes be treated with ice, a heating pad, an arm sling, rest, pain medication, and physical therapy to restore strength to the shoulder muscles. More serious injuries, such as torn rotator cuffs and SLAP tears, however, could require surgery.
Soft Tissue Shoulder Injuries
Soft tissue injuries like rotator cuff and SLAP tears are more common in truck wrecks than shoulder bone injuries are. A SLAP (superior labrum anterior and posterior) tear can occur when a truck crash causes trauma to the labrum, which is a rim of strong tissue that surrounds and deepens the socket in your shoulder blade. The head of the humerus (upper arm bone) fits into this socket, where the labrum provides stability when you lift and rotate your arm. Many of the tendons and ligaments in the shoulder area are also attached to the labrum. When it’s damaged in an accident, you’ll experience a decrease in your range of shoulder motion and suffer extreme pain.
Your rotator cuff consists of tendons and muscles that connect around the bones in your shoulder and enable you to lift and rotate your arm. The tissue of the rotator cuff is five layers thick, and one or more of these layers can be torn when you suffer trauma to your shoulder in a truck accident. The pain from a rotator cuff tear typically originates in the front of your shoulder and moves down your arm. A snapping or popping sensation that occurs when you try to raise your arm is a sign of a rotator cuff tear.
Types of Shoulder Surgeries
Surgical procedures to treat shoulder injuries such as rotator cuff and SLAP tears include:
Small fragments of tendon and bone are removed, and minor tears can be sutured with a small instrument inserted into the shoulder.
The acromion at the outer edge of the scapula is surgically shaved to reduce painful impingement on tendons in the rotator cuff.
Open shoulder surgery
Grafts of tendon tissue are used to repair tears in the rotator cuff.
In the most serious cases, your injured shoulder might have to be replaced with a mechanical one.
Claims for Damages Following a Crash With a Commercial Truck
If you suffer a shoulder injury caused by a truck driver who is reckless, fatigued, distracted, drowsy, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or in violation of traffic laws or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, you’re entitled to file an insurance claim for your damages: medical bills, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering. If any one of the insurance companies involved does not offer a fair settlement, you may file a personal injury suit in civil court.
Fighting the Insurance Company
An insurance company’s primary objective is to earn profits for its shareholders, so it will look for any possible reason to delay, devalue, or deny expensive damage claims. Because truck crash injuries are often catastrophic, your claim is likely to be costly, with high medical expenses and extended time off work for treatment and recovery. The insurer might contact you to offer a quick, low settlement before you even know what your total medical expenses will be.
You should never accept such an offer, and you should not communicate on your own with an insurance company. Its adjusters are well-trained to take anything you say about your accident out of context and use it against you to deny your claim. This is just one reason why you should retain your own lawyer if you’ve suffered a shoulder injury in a truck crash.
Multiple Defendants in Truck Crash Cases
Another reason why it’s a good idea to have an attorney in your corner is the possibility of multiple defendants in a truck accident case. Unlike a car-car accident in which you generally demand compensation from one at-fault driver, a truck crash case could require you to seek compensation from more than one party who bears responsibility for your damages. Possible defendants in a truck crash include:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- A manufacturer
- A mechanic or repair service
- Loading dock personnel
- A government agency if road conditions or faulty traffic signals played a part in your wreck
The process of investigating your accident to identify all liable parties and determine their respective percentages of fault, demanding fair compensation from all insurers, and negotiating reasonable settlements is best left to an experienced truck crash lawyer. Your attorney can also obtain crucial data from the truck’s black box data recorder, dashboard camera footage, and the trucker’s log books or information from electronic logging devices to find out whether FMCSA hours-of-service (HOS) regulations were violated.