Have you ever seen a jackknife accident in person or merely on the news? If you haven’t seen one, it makes sense considering how the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) contends that only 5% of all tractor-trailer crashes are jackknife ones.
Truck collision statistics suggest the more time a motorist puts in on the road, the more likely they are to encounter or have the misfortune of becoming involved in a jackknife accident. However, certain factors make truckers more apt to have these types of crashes, and there are a multitude of reasons passenger car operators may get hurt or killed in them. Those are some of the many topics we’ll unpack below.
We’ll also delve deeper into legal options a jackknife truck accident lawyer may advise you have if you find yourself hurt or have lost a loved one in a preventable tractor-trailer collision like this anywhere in the United States.
What Are Jackknife Truck Accidents?
A jackknife is one of the more serious accidents in which a tractor-trailer operator loses control of their truck. This often causes the semi-truck to become inverted in a “V” or “open knife” formation. A T-bone or perpendicular arrangement may also occur, which may give the jackknifed tractor-trailer an “L” shape.
The abrupt braking and inversion of the truck that defines a trucking accident like this not only often leaves a trucker hurt but can also leave a passenger car driver with a serious injury. Truck jackknifes often end up covering multiple lanes, making it possible that there will be more than one seriously injured person if multiple vehicles (other drivers) are involved.
Were you injured in a jackknifing accident? If so, you’re bound to have significant medical bills, lost wages, and other crash-related expenses. Hire a truck accident attorney at Trucking Injury Law Group to advocate for you as you seek compensation for what you’ve been through.
Which Kinds of Trucks Cause Jackknife Accidents?
As you may suspect, semi-trucks that consist of a cab that pulls a tractor are most apt to jackknife as they’re not welded together but instead connected by what amounts to a hitch system and cables. This connection allows for a lot of articulation between the two vehicles, thus making a disconnection a strong possibility under the right circumstances.
It should also be noted that tractors that are hauling empty trailers are more prone to jackknifing than cabs pulling loaded ones. However, despite this, if a large truck is carrying a loaded trailer that suffers a jackknife accident, damage done to any nearby vehicles and injuries sustained by the motorists operating them could be significant as trucks can reach around 80,000 pounds, or 20 or 30 times the weight of a passenger car when fully loaded, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Common Causes of Jackknife Truck Accidents
While we already mentioned how a trucker’s loss of control of their semi-truck generally is what’s responsible for causing jackknife accidents, we think it’s important to list the various factors that can lead to this happening. Those factors include:
- Tractor-trailers have blowouts
- If a truck driver brakes suddenly (referred to as improper braking)
- A trucker is traveling above the speed limit or too quickly given traffic patterns or inclement weather
- Distracted driving
- A truck driver’s brakes are in disrepair
- A tire’s treads are worn down, limiting their traction
- Truckers attempt to overcompensate when steering, whether while passing or making sharp turns, which causes them to lose control of their truck
- Truck driver inexperience
- The following of a poor loading protocol, including inadequately securing the freight
While many of these issues that can cause jackknife crashes can be blamed on truck drivers themselves for their own negligent actions, one of their employers, a trucking company, may also bear some responsibility for what happens. Our truck accident lawyers will delve a bit deeper into how liability is determined when these crashes occur below.
How Truck Drivers and Others Can Prevent Jackknife Accidents
A jackknife accident is completely preventable. How truck drivers react influences whether a jackknife crash will occur. All it takes is a truck driver doing one of the following to avoid causing a collision like this:
- Deaccelerating slowly: Truckers should aim to have their truck “glide” when going around a curve instead of approaching it aggressively. This can minimize the chances of them feeling the need to brake, which could cause the truck’s cab and tractor to become misaligned, resulting in a jackknife.
- Taking caution when gearing down: Truckers who encounter icy roadways are apt to experience skidding, a concept known in the industry as “trailer slide,” unless they gear down before encountering it. This is often a precursor to a jackknife accident. Tractor-trailer operators should aim to release their truck’s clutch, which will allow their wheels to keep rotating and make them more likely to self-correct if they do lose traction in an effort to minimize the chances of a jackknife occurring.
- Focusing on controlled steering: One of the worst things a trucker can do once they determine a jackknife incident is in progress is to either brake or accelerate. Instead, the goal should be on gaining control over the steering wheel as it can determine whether or not a truck driver is able to “pull out of” an early-stage jackknife that’s occurring or whether it will continue to transpire.
- Applying brakes as early as possible: It can take truckers as long as 300 feet to reach a full stop under the right conditions if traveling at 65 mph, but in some cases as much as 520 feet if roadway conditions are poor and depending on their speed. A trucker’s gradual application of their brakes not only reduces the chance that they will lock in place but also minimizes the chances of a truck and trailer becoming misaligned, which can happen with sudden braking.
- Minimizing the use of the engine brake: The use of a truck’s retarder is particularly dangerous on slick roadways, such as icy, rainy, or snowy ones. Its use makes the drive axle vulnerable to locking up. A jackknife accident can result if this happens.
Also, as cited above, since these jackknife accidents can be attributable to a lack of truck driving experience, it’s important that coursework for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) emphasize braking times at different speeds and road conditions. It can be helpful when these driving schools or even truck companies hiring inexperienced tractor-trailer operators have veteran truckers mentor newer ones to help learn the ins-and-outs of avoiding a crash that comes with practical experience on the road.
Additionally, since many jackknife accidents are caused by distractions, government innovators, technology or safety companies, and fleet company employers in the trucking industry can also continue to devise ways to minimize the chances of truck drivers becoming distracted by their phones and other devices to reduce these crashes.
What Are Common Jackknife Truck Accident Injuries?
Both truckers and passenger vehicle operators they share the road with can suffer injuries in a jackknife accident. Since it’s quite common for 18-wheelers to strike passenger cars at a high rate of speed or to crush them inside the “V” that characterizes the position a jackknifed truck finds itself in when it eventually comes to rest, motorists are the ones most likely to get seriously hurt in these accidents.
Some of the more common life-threatening, severe injuries drivers and their passengers suffer when a jackknife truck accident occurs include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Neck and head injuries
- Burn injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Bone fractures
While serious injuries often stem from a jackknifing truck wreck, fatalities may also result.
Proving Who Is at Fault for a Jackknife Truck Accident
When it comes to establishing liability for a truck accident, there’s generally an automatic assumption that only a trucker must be at fault for what happened; however, one unique detail about 18-wheeler accidents is that there may not only be one party liable for the collision but, instead, multiple parties at fault for what occurred. How can that be the case?
Any number of the following parties may be able to be held liable for your jackknife truck crash, depending on the circumstances surrounding your incident:
- The truck driver oneself: They may have become distracted, been speeding, or have otherwise been driving recklessly, which led them to apply their brakes in a delayed fashion, causing the jackknife truck accident.
- A trucking company: Fleet company employers have a responsibility to thoroughly vet the tractor-trailer operators that they hire. Trucking companies may be held liable for failing to exercise caution during the hiring process, such as allowing someone to operate their truck despite having a poor safety record. It may also be possible to sue a trucking company if they failed to adequately maintain their fleet or forced a worker to work excessive hours beyond governmental guidelines.
- Mechanics: There may also be a scenario in which the truck was recently serviced, and the mechanic failed to notice the truck’s brakes despite seeing they were in a deteriorating condition. In that case, it may be possible to hold the auto shop that failed to warn of potential crash risks or dangers and replace the brakes accountable for their actions that ultimately resulted in the truck accident.
- A cargo loading company: There are often scenarios in which a truck driver picks up a trailer that’s been loaded by another company and hauls it for them. Jackknife accidents happen in many cases because loads were improperly secured in the trailer and shifted with a trucker having to brake suddenly. If an investigation reveals that this was the cause of your crash, it may be possible to file a jackknife accident lawsuit against the truck’s loader.
- A truck or auto parts manufacturer: Filing truck accident claims against the manufacturer of dangerous semi-trucks or defective truck parts may be necessary if an investigation reveals that their malfunction or failure caused your crash.
How a Jackknife Truck Accident Lawyer Determines Liability for Your Crash
A truck accident lawyer may review documentation and evidence, including the following, in determining who’s liable for the jackknife crash that injured you:
- The accident report that police began at the scene of your collision
- Any data compiled by a crash reconstructionist to investigate the crash
- Black box information, showing details about speeding and more, your legal counsel preserves immediately following the accident
- Any witness statements obtained at the crash scene or thereafter
- Truck maintenance records
- Tractor-trailer operator personnel records
- Reviewing medical records for truck accident victims, which may help establish causation between how the accident occurred and the injuries suffered
This is only a preliminary list of the information experienced truck accident lawyers will look at when assessing the causes of jackknife crashes and who to hold accountable for what happened. Once liability is determined, your attorney will advise you who you might want to sue in your injury-causing or fatal jackknifing truck case among the different potentially negligent parties listed above.
Compensation You May Be Eligible To Receive in a Jackknife Truck Accident Case
If you’ve been hurt in this type of collision, then you may wonder what compensation is available to a jackknife truck accident victim. Our Super Team of truck accident attorneys at Trucking Injury Law Group has been able to secure millions in settlements on behalf of their clients from truckers, trucking companies, tractor-trailer and auto parts manufacturers, and others.
The financial compensation that each jackknife truck accident attorney on our team at Trucking Injury Law Group has been able to secure on behalf of our clients has been used by them to cover their accident-related damages, including:
- Ambulance rides
- Current medical bills associated with their serious injuries
- Future medical costs associated with treating their catastrophic injuries
- Lost wages
Also, in the case of fatal jackknife truck accidents, each experienced lawyer on our multi-state legal team has the know-how to recover damages, such as burial and funeral costs and loss of earning potential (future lost wages), in those wrongful death cases on behalf of surviving loved ones too.
Filing a Jackknife Truck Accident Claim
Recovering compensation following truck accidents like jackknifes often requires you to file a claim with the trucker or some other responsible party’s insurance company. Sorting out liability is critical, so you’ll know who to include as the defendant in your filing. It’s also critically important to have previously secured coverage limits so that it’s clear where the recovery cap may lie.
Each jurisdiction has a specific statute of limitations in place by which you must file a truck accident claim to be eligible to recover damages. A plaintiff or their insurer’s willingness to settle a claim will affect how quickly a case can be wrapped up and whether it’s necessary to proceed toward litigating the case in a courtroom.
How a Jackknife Truck Accident Lawyer at Trucking Injury Law Group Can Help You
If you’ve spent any amount of time after your jackknife truck accident trying to handle recovering compensation for your injuries and lost wages on your own, then you don’t likely need anyone to explain to you just how challenging it can be to seek justice.
For example, if liability was particularly clear in your case, then you might have already had an at-fault party’s insurance company offer you a settlement in your case. You may wonder if you should take the offer from the at-fault party’s insurance company, but you shouldn’t necessarily jump at it. A truck accident attorney on our Super Team at Trucking Injury Law Group may not only be able to recover a much fairer settlement on your behalf but also, in turn, send a message to responsible parties never to repeat their actions again.
Here at Trucking Injury Law Group, our specialty is, as our name suggests, truck accidents. We’re not all about dollar signs but instead seeking justice on behalf of our clients in all truck accident cases we take on.
Whether you’ve been seriously hurt or lost a loved one, call or email an experienced jackknife truck accident lawyer today. Every initial consultation with a Trucking Injury Law Group attorney is free.