doctor examining a patient's knee | South Carolina Truck Accident LawyerIn any accident involving a car or SUV and a large commercial truck, the occupants of the smaller vehicle are likely to sustain catastrophic or fatal injuries. The seriousness of such injuries is due to the size and weight differences between the two vehicles. While the average passenger car weighs 4,000-5,000 pounds, a tractor-trailer rig can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded.

If you’re lucky enough to survive a crash with an 18-wheeler, one of the most painful and debilitating injuries you might suffer is known as dashboard knee. This term refers to a range of knee injuries that result when your knees are smashed against or under the dashboard of your car in a head-on, rear-end, sideswipe, or T-bone truck wreck.

Types of Truck Crash Knee Injuries

Common dashboard knee injuries sustained in truck accidents include:

Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains are the most common and least serious of truck wreck knee injuries. There is no fracture of bones or tearing of ligaments, but you will still feel pain and find it difficult to get around. Rest, ice, compression, and exercise (the RICE treatment method) will generally heal a sprain or strain in a reasonable period of time. A knee brace or support might be necessary when you first return to normal activities so that the muscles surrounding the knee joint can grow strong again without the risk of re-injury.

Kneecap Dislocation

The patella (kneecap) is a bone that “floats” freely in front of your knee to protect that joint. When you’re sitting in your car with your knees bent, the patella is exposed and vulnerable. A hard impact can knock it out of place and cause it to move toward the outside of the leg. The victim of a kneecap dislocation generally experiences severe pain and an inability to straighten the leg, stand, or walk.

Fractured Patella

A fractured patella is a broken kneecap, which can result from the impact of a truck crash and make it impossible for you to stand or walk without extreme pain. Patellar fractures are divided into the following categories:

Stable or non-displaced

The bone is cracked, but the segments remain more or less in alignment. A cast or splint might be used to hold the bone together while it heals.


The segments of the broken bone are knocked out of alignment and generally require surgery to repair.


The patella is crushed into three or more pieces that move around inside the knee joint. Surgical reconstruction is required.


The sharp edge of the broken bone protrudes through the skin, also requiring surgery.

Torn Ligaments

One or more of the four ligaments connecting the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone) can be torn if your knee is damaged in a truck accident:

  • Posterior cruciate (PCL)
  • Anterior cruciate (ACL)
  • Lateral collateral (LCL)
  • Medial collateral (MCL)

Sprains and tears of the knee ligaments are classified according to their severity. A Grade 1 ligament injury is mild and can be treated with the RICE method. A Grade 2 injury is a partial tearing of the ligament(s), and Grade 3 indicates a complete tear. Torn knee ligaments can make it impossible for your knee to bear any weight. Surgery followed by physical therapy might be necessary to repair the ligament(s) and allow the knee to regain its stability. The healing process can take several months, and some victims develop degenerative arthritis, which can be a life-changing condition.

Torn Meniscus

Severe twisting or hyperextension of the knee joint in a truck wreck can tear the meniscus, which is a shock-absorbing disc of connective tissue in the knee. A minor tear might heal itself with the help of physical therapy, while more severe meniscus tears require surgery.

Tibial Plateau Fracture

A tibial plateau fracture is a break at the top of the tibia. The resulting damage to vital tendons, ligaments, and cartilage can prevent the knee from bending and absorbing the shock of walking or running.

Dashboard Knee Symptoms

Symptoms of the truck crash knee injuries described above include:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Difficulty bending or straightening your leg
  • Pain when you put weight on your leg

Even if you don’t have such symptoms right after a truck accident in which your knees sustain impact, you should see a doctor immediately. A medical exam, (MRI) test, or other diagnostic procedures can reveal a knee injury of which you’re not even aware. Early diagnosis and treatment mean a quicker recovery and provide you with crucial documentation for your damage claim against the at-fault trucker.

Recovering Compensation for Damages

If you sustain a knee injury in an accident caused by a trucker who is speeding, driving recklessly, distracted, under the influence, or fatigued from too many hours behind the wheel, you’re entitled to recover compensation for your medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering. You can do so by filing a claim against the trucker’s insurance company or by filing a civil lawsuit if you don’t receive an adequate settlement offer.

Do not assume that the trucker’s insurer will simply offer you fair compensation, especially if your claim is an expensive one with serious injuries, high medical bills, and significant time off work. The insurance company is in business to earn profits for its shareholders, so it might delay, dispute, or deny your claim if it’s an expensive one, as truck crash claims usually are. When this happens, you will likely need the services of an experienced truck accident attorney who will know how to counter the insurer’s 3-D tactics, demand a fair settlement, negotiate a reasonable award, and file a lawsuit if necessary.

More Than One Defendant

Another reason it’s important to have an attorney in a truck accident case is the possibility that multiple defendants share liability for your damages. While the victim in a car crash generally demands compensation from one at-fault driver, a truck crash victim could suffer damages for which more than one party is responsible:

  • The trucker who negligently caused the accident
  • The trucking company that employs the driver
  • The truck owner or a leasing company if the trucking company does not own the truck
  • The truck manufacturer or a replacement parts manufacturer if equipment failure played a role in the crash
  • A truck repair service if the truck was not properly repaired and maintained
  • Loading dock personnel if improper loading and shifting cargo caused the crash

Your lawyer can investigate the crash thoroughly to identify liable parties and determine their respective percentages of fault. Your attorney can also access vital data from the truck’s black box recorder and electronic logging devices, demand adequate settlements from all defendants, negotiate fair awards, and file multiple lawsuits to take your case to court if necessary.

Have You Been Injured in a Florence, South Carolina Truck Accident?

If you've been hurt in a truck accident you should speak with an experienced South Carolina truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Florence office directly at 843.488.7540 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our ConwayMyrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. PleasantNorth Myrtle Beach, Charleston or North Charleston office locations.

Dirk J. Derrick
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South Carolina Lawyer Dirk Derrick helps victims recover from car accidents, personal injury & wrongful death.