The abrupt impact of a truck striking a passenger car may cause whiplash, in which the neck and head of a person in the passenger car may suddenly move forward and backward. Whiplash may occur even in relatively low-speed accidents, and it causes lasting symptoms in some cases. These may include neck pain, recurring headaches, and numbness or other neurological problems. Whiplash may affect the joints, muscles, and nerves in the neck, and it may even cause a herniated disc. If a victim already suffers from neck or back problems, they may face a greater risk of ongoing symptoms.
While many people do not take whiplash seriously, prompt diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference in treating the condition. Sometimes a victim may not know immediately that they have suffered from whiplash, since symptoms may not arise for a few days afterward. This makes it important to get medical attention as a precaution. A doctor may diagnose whiplash through imaging tools such as MRIs and CT scans, although an X-ray usually will not reveal this condition. A victim with this diagnosis may receive medication to relieve their pain and may undergo rehabilitation to help prevent complications. Even if they are promptly diagnosed and treated, though, a victim may suffer significant discomfort. They also may miss time from work and incur costs for treatment that they cannot easily afford.
Pursuing Compensation for Whiplash in Truck Accidents
Although whiplash is less devastating than some truck accident injuries, a victim still may experience serious disruptions to their life. They can seek damages for economic and non-economic harm resulting from the accident that caused their symptoms. Damages for whiplash may cover:
Past, present, and future medical costs
Pain and suffering and emotional distress
To get damages, a victim usually needs to prove that another person or entity caused the accident because they were “negligent,” or failed to use reasonable care under the circumstances. A majority of truck accidents result from errors by truck drivers, but trucking companies sometimes contribute to accidents as well. For example, a company may hire an unqualified driver or fail to supervise its drivers.
Sometimes the fault lies with the truck rather than the driver. A victim can sue a trucking company for failing to maintain its vehicles, or a truck maintenance company for performing inadequate repairs. If the truck or one of its components contained a defect, the manufacturer may bear fault for an accident. Rather than proving negligence, a victim might bring a strict liability claim against a manufacturer. They would need to show that the truck or component contained a design or manufacturing defect, which led to the accident.
Joint and Several Liability
If multiple defendants shared fault for an accident, a victim normally will recover damages from each of them in proportion to their percentage of fault. However, some states apply a rule of joint and several liability. This may allow a victim to recover all of their damages from any defendant if other defendants cannot pay their proportionate share.
Truck accident cases may be complex, and the large entities in the trucking industry rarely admit fault readily. A victim thus should consider retaining an attorney to bring a lawsuit on their behalf. Most truck accident lawyers handle cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that they do not charge clients upfront fees for their services. The representation agreement will provide that the attorney will collect their fee as a certain percentage of the compensation recovered for the client. This percentage may depend on how far the case progresses before it is resolved.