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What is a Jackknife Truck Accident?

Posted on: March 30, 2021

There is no doubt that the trucking industry is vital to the U.S. economy and Americans’ quality of life. From food to appliances to cars, truckers bring people the goods they need year-round. Unfortunately, because trucks are on the road every minute of the day, the chance of a big rig causing or being involved in an accident is relatively high. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS):

  • In 2019, 4,119 people died in large truck crashes.
    • Sixteen percent were truck occupants.
    • Sixty-seven percent were occupants of cars/passenger vehicles.
    • Fifteen percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.
  • Fatalities from commercial truck accidents were 31 percent higher in 2019 than in 2009, when the lowest number of deaths was recorded.

These statistics suggest that truck-involved accidents are steadily increasing. For those involved in a truck accident, a seasoned truck accident lawyer can help victims get compensation for injuries and other costs in accidents, particularly jackknife truck accidents.

What Causes a Truck to Jackknife?

Jackknife accidents occur when the truck’s cab moves in one direction and the trailer skids in the opposite direction, resembling a jackknife. Most of the time, the truck will overturn when this happens because the driver loses all control. A jackknife accident will often involve several vehicles, or a pile-up, given the sheer size and spread of a jackknifed truck. Jackknife accidents happen for many reasons:

  • Brake problems. When brakes are not inspected and maintained correctly, the chance for accidents skyrockets. Malfunctioning brakes cause the axles to lock, especially when braking hard. When this happens, the cab drags the trailer with locked brakes, often causing the trailer to skid in the opposite direction from the cab.
  • Speed. Commercial trucks such as 18-wheelers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when loaded. Braking suddenly while speeding can cause the cab to slow or stop at a different rate than the trailer, often resulting in a jackknife.
  • Weather conditions. Truckers can conceivably go from warmth and sunshine to ice and snow in a single trip. If they do not adjust their driving for changing road conditions, a jackknife accident can quickly happen because of slippery or wet road surfaces.
  • Taking curves too quickly. A truck driver may misjudge a bend in the road, causing them to drive too fast around it or not steer correctly for the curve’s sharpness.
  • Road conditions. Debris in the roadway, potholes, suddenly stopped traffic, an accident, lane closures, yields, and merges can all cause a truck to jackknife if the driver is traveling too fast or is distracted and tries to stop or swerve quickly.
  • Driver distraction. Cell phones, in-cab radios, talking, or eating can cause a truck driver not to pay full attention to the road and traffic flow. A jackknife can easily be the result when a driver is distracted.
  • Drowsy driving. Despite federal laws that require truck drivers to take breaks and not drive for extended hours, drowsy driving still happens. Fatigued truck drivers are often not alert to all the road’s potential hazards and may not operate as safely as they should.
  • Driver inexperience. It takes a lot of training to drive a large truck safely, especially in unexpected or challenging road conditions. Jackknife accidents can happen when the driver simply is not able to safely control the rig because of lack of experience or training.
  • Drunk or drugged driving. As with drivers of passenger vehicles, some truck drivers will operate the truck under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs that may alter their thinking or reaction time.
  • Improperly loaded cargo. When cargo is not loaded correctly or is not secured adequately, it can cause the cargo to shift. This shifting can then cause the truck’s trailer to swerve or slide in the opposite direction from the cab, causing a jackknife accident.
  • Following too closely to other vehicles. It takes a fair amount of distance for a truck to stop or slow down, approximately 40 percent more than a passenger vehicle needs. If truck drivers follow the vehicle ahead of them too closely, abrupt braking can cause the trailer to skid opposite the cab.

Anyone involved in an accident with a truck should contact a truck accident lawyer for a consultation. Truck accidents are complex and can involve several potentially liable parties.

What Injuries can a Jackknife Truck Accident Cause?

Trucks are powerful, heavy, and carry a lot of momentum, especially in an accident. In addition to causing extreme damage to other vehicles, they can also lead to serious personal injury to those involved. Common jackknife truck accident injuries include the following:

  • Whiplash
  • Internal organ injuries
  • Neck and back damages
  • Broken and fractured bones, pelvic fracture
  • Brain injuries, concussions, skull fractures
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Lacerations and other skin or tissue wounds
  • Loss of limbs

A person who is injured in an accident involving a jackknifed truck should seek medical care at once. During their recovery, they should keep detailed records of medical visits and costs and seek a truck accident lawyer’s advice.

How can a Lawyer Help in My Jackknife Truck Accident?

 In an accident involving a commercial truck, various parties could be at fault, including the following:

  • Truck driver
  • Truck or trailer owner
  • Person or company that leased the truck or trailer
  • Truck manufacturer or the manufacturer or assembler of truck parts, including tires
  • Shipping company or cargo loader

An experienced truck accident lawyer will do the following to help victims receive just and fair settlements:

  • Gather evidence. Evidence will help prove who caused the accident, which party should be held liable, and the costs associated with injuries and property damage.
  • Negotiate a settlement. Truck accident cases are often settled out of court. A settlement means that the victim has agreed to receive a monetary amount from the legally liable party in exchange for a promise not to sue. Negotiations most often take place with the insurer of the responsible party.
  • Take the claim to court. Sometimes the parties cannot reach a fair and just settlement. At this point, the truck accident lawyer will build a strong case and see it through to the end, appealing if necessary.

What Damages can I Recover in a Jackknife Truck Accident?

Depending on the circumstances, the victim of a truck accident can sue to recover the following:

  • Current and future medical expenses. This includes doctor visits, specialist visits, medications, medical equipment, hospital and nursing home care stays, home medical care, and rehabilitation services, among other costs.
  • Lost wages and future earning ability. Includes wages lost while the victim recovers as well as future wages lost because of inability to work either at their regular job or other jobs.
  • Pain and suffering. Victims should be fairly compensated for their physical and emotional suffering after an injury and accident.
  • Replacement services. Truck accident victims who are unable to live as they did before the accident can receive compensation for costs related to hiring replacement help such as drivers, errand runners, caregivers for children, and housekeepers.

Freehold Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Advocate for Victims of Jackknife Truck Accidents

The Freehold truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law are ready to pursue compensation for your injuries and damages caused by a jackknife truck accident. Our team will guide you through the often-complex process of filing, negotiating, and litigating a claim. Call 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.

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