What Is a Jackknife Truck Accident?
Posted on: June 19, 2023
Commercial trucks are vital to the United States economy, traversing hundreds of millions of miles and distributing goods and other necessities. Over 161 million registered commercial trucks are on the roadways, significantly increasing the risk of dangerous accidents.
Accidents involving commercial tractor-trailers often have devastating consequences. The National Transportation Safety Board reports that nearly 5,000 people are killed in commercial truck accidents yearly in the United States, 70 percent of whom are occupants in passenger vehicles. According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 10 percent of all truck-related deaths are due to jackknife accidents.
Jackknife accidents occur in tractor-trailer semis with two interconnected parts – the truck and the trailer. When the truck suddenly folds where the two are connected, the trailer can swerve to one side at a 90-degree angle. This type of accident is called a “jackknife” due to the “V” shape it creates, resembling a folding pocketknife.
When jackknifing occurs, the driver often can’t steer the truck back under control due to the trailer’s weight, especially if it is loaded with cargo. The sheer weight of the trailer can pull the entire truck in the swerving direction, even if the driver attempts to brake.
These accidents happen suddenly and often cross over multiple lanes as the trailer turns broadside into traffic, resulting in severe injuries and fatalities. Jackknife accidents are hazardous because they often involve much smaller vehicles, whose occupants are much more susceptible to catastrophic injuries due to the size and weight difference.
How Common Are Jackknife Truck Accidents?
Jackknife crashes are some of the most common truck accidents because the trailer is not fixed to the truck cab and is instead connected to the truck by a hitch. This type of connection allows free movement of the truck and the trailer for turning. However, free activity can also cause problems when emergency brakes are applied, sometimes causing the trailer’s momentum to swing into the jackknife effect. When a large truck jackknifes, it can:
- Crash into other vehicles.
- Go into an uncontrolled skid.
- Run off the road.
- Wrap around another vehicle.
- Cause a rollover accident.
What Are the Main Causes of Jackknife Truck Accidents?
The size and weight of commercial trucks and the hitching connection require careful handling to avoid any type of truck accident, especially jackknife accidents. Improper training, inexperienced drivers, or poor maintenance increase the safety risk for other motorists. Some of the most common causes of jackknife accidents include:
- Dangerous weather or road conditions.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Drowsy driving.
- Loss of traction after a skid.
- Speeding or careless driving.
- Improper braking due to faulty brakes.
- Steel inclines.
- Distracted driving
- Poor road conditions
Jackknife accidents can be difficult to avoid given the suddenness of the trailer swerving, which can swing into oncoming traffic and involve vehicles behind the truck. When traveling around commercial trucks, increasing your traveling distance and staying out of the driver’s blind spots can help you maintain safety.
Who Is Liable for a Jackknife Truck Accident?
Determining fault in accidents involving tractor-trailers can be murky as there may be more than one responsible party. Independent drivers or trucking companies can own semi-trucks, and drivers may be independent operators or employees. Typical responsible parties include:
- Driver: If the driver was operating negligently, such as speeding, ignoring weather conditions, or traveling too closely, they may be liable for damages.
- Trucking company: The truck’s owner or company the driver is working for may be liable for the accident for circumstances such as insufficient training, failure to perform regular truck maintenance, or if the driver failed to maintain a duty of care.
- Manufacturer: If the accident is caused by truck equipment or parts that failed or were not manufactured properly, the manufacturer may also bear responsibility for the accident.
Identifying all responsible parties in a truck accident requires much investigation. Our lawyers are experienced and skilled at investigating and identifying all responsible parties and their level of liability.
Useful Resource: What Happens When a UPS Truck Is in an Accident?
How Can I File a Claim for a Jackknife Truck Accident?
In New Jersey, you have two years from the accident to file a claim against the truck driver or trucking company. In the case of fatalities, families have two years from the date of death to file a claim. Sometimes, this may not be the same date as the accident. To make a claim, you must meet four elements:
- You were owed a duty of care from the responsible party.
- The responsible party broke that duty of care.
- You suffered injuries as a result.
- Your damages are eligible for compensation.
Injuries and damage sustained in truck accidents are extensive and costly. A police report will likely have been filed at the truck accident scene. When filing a claim, you will need to provide evidence such as:
- Police report of the accident.
- All medical bills associated with your injuries and treatment.
- A detailed report of the damage to your vehicle, including relevant photos, repair estimate, or replacement value.
- Witness statements and contact information.
- Your identification and contact information.
- The driver’s contact information.
- The driver’s and the company’s insurance carrier information.
- Any other information or documents related to the accident.
What Compensation Can I Recover Following a Jackknife Truck Accident?
Following an accident, you may receive economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are expenses with monetary values, such as:
- Medical expenses, including the ambulance transport, emergency room treatment, hospital stays, surgeries, prescription medications, assistive equipment, rehabilitation, and physical therapy.
- Lost wages due to missed work because of the accident.
- Ongoing medical treatment expenses.
- Long-term care or personal home medical assistance.
- Partial or permanent disability if your injuries impact or prevent your ability to make a living.
- Loss of future earning capacity if the accident leaves you permanently unable to work and earn an income.
- Property damage to repair or replace your vehicle and other damaged property inside the car.
- Expenses of hiring professional help with household tasks, childcare, meal preparation, and more.
- Assistive devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, or crutches.
- Home modifications to accommodate your injuries.
- Expenses for medical-related travel.
Non-economic damages include losses with no firm monetary value, such as:
- Physical and psychological pain and suffering for what you have endured.
- Disfigurement if suffering permanent scarring or burns.
- Loss of enjoyment of life if you cannot perform previously enjoyed activities or hobbies.
- Loss of consortium for your spouse or partner, such as loss of support, affection, and companionship.
- Pain and suffering.
- Scarring and disfigurement.
Non-economic damages are difficult to calculate and obtain without working with a skilled lawyer.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me After a Jackknife Truck Accident?
Truck accidents have many complex components and usually result in much higher damages than accidents involving passenger cars. With so much money at stake, insurance companies can be more aggressive in trying to avoid paying, making representing yourself difficult.
Additionally, truck accidents often result in serious injuries, which may require an extensive hospital stay and prolonged recovery. Hiring a lawyer to represent you also gives you the time needed to heal without the additional stress of working on your claim. Your lawyer can:
- Investigate the accident scene or photos and examine police reports, medical records, the truck’s black box data, the trucking company, and other documents or parties related to the accident.
- Interview and collect statements from witnesses.
- Handle the paperwork and filing deadlines.
- Negotiate with insurance companies or opposing counsel.
- File a lawsuit and represent you in court if negotiations fail.
New Jersey Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Represent Clients Injured in Jackknife Crashes
Jackknife truck accidents are frightening and can result in life-altering injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured in a jackknife accident, our New Jersey truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law can fight for the compensation you deserve so you can focus on your recovery. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients in Asbury Park, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Long Branch, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York City.