Truck Jackknifing: Causes and Dangers
When a semitruck jackknifes, it can put everyone around it in serious danger. But what is jackknifing, and what causes it to happen?
If you’ve suffered injuries in a truck jackknifing accident, do not hesitate to discuss your case with a qualified truck accident attorney. A lawyer can provide personalized guidance and assist in your pursuit of monetary recovery.
Truck Accidents Are Among the Most Dangerous Types of Collisions
Countless vehicular accidents happen every day. Among these, truck accidents are some of the most dangerous.
Commercial trucks are large and heavy. The average semitruck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, while a regular passenger vehicle weighs about 3,000 pounds. It’s easy to imagine the destruction and harm a truck can cause in an accident.
Additionally, trucks that are improperly loaded or top-heavy have the potential to roll over. Rollover truck accidents often cause injury to several victims, as there is a greater chance of multi-vehicle collisions.
Finally, accidents increase the likelihood of cargo spillage. This is especially risky when trucks are transporting hazardous materials, which could contribute to additional wrecks and even have environmental consequences.
Truck accidents can happen quickly with little to no warning. Unfortunately, colliding with a semitruck can have dire repercussions for everyone involved.
Truck Jackknifing Is a Common Cause of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents can happen for numerous reasons. One situation that most often causes trucking collisions is jackknifing.
Semitrucks are composed of the cab and the attached trailer(s). When the truck operates as intended, the cab and the trailer move in sync with each other. But should something go wrong with the truck, the cab and the trailer are at risk of operating independently of each other. When this happens, it can have devastating results.
There are two common truck jackknife situations. In one, the cab’s tires lock up while the trailer’s tires continue to move. In the second, the trailer’s tires lock while the cab’s tires continue to roll forward.
This scenario is referred to as “jackknifing” because the truck looks like a jackknife. It essentially folds in on itself where the cab and trailer connect. When this happens, collisions can easily occur as the truck driver loses control and the truck runs into other vehicles.
What Contributes to Semi-Truck Jackknifing?
Jackknife accidents may or may not be avoidable, depending on the circumstances. In some situations, a conscientious truck driver has the opportunity to prevent jackknifing, while in others, jackknifing is a result of issues outside of a driver’s control.
The following are just some of the most common causes of truck jackknifing.
Speeding is a significant issue on the road, and every driver is prone to speeding, including truck drivers. Trucks should not travel at particularly high speeds, especially considering their size and weight.
Truck drivers driving at increased speeds can significantly heighten the chances of a collision. Larger vehicles like commercial trucks require more time and space to come to a complete stop. When a speeding driver needs to make a sudden stop, they don’t have enough time or space, and this can result in a rear-end collision.
Additionally, speeding intensifies the severity of a crash. This makes it more likely for victims of trucking collisions to suffer more serious injuries, and sometimes even death.
Speeding also contributes to jackknifing, as it can be easier for speeding truck drivers to lose control of their vehicles. Speed limits are set at a certain number for a reason, and when truck drivers don’t adhere to them, it could mean danger.
Along the same lines, speeding on curved roads can surely contribute to jackknifing. This is especially the case when curved roads are narrow and difficult to navigate.
Curves are hazardous for large semitrucks as it is. When truck drivers speed along tight, winding roads, the trailer is more likely to swing to the side, causing the driver to lose control. Along with jackknifing, this could also result in rollovers.
Braking Too Quickly
Truck drivers should always be careful when braking, as braking too fast can cause a loss of control. This is especially true when drivers are on curved roads; braking should only happen when the cab and trailer are in alignment. Sudden braking when the cab and trailer are not in alignment can cause jackknifing.
Trucks are known to have substantial blind spots — these are referred to as “no zones.” Other drivers should be familiar with these blind spots and aim to stay out of them for their own safety.
There are four large blind spots on a semitruck: on the front, back, and sides of the vehicle. Truck drivers are responsible for using their mirrors and checking these spots regularly, especially when attempting to switch lanes or turn.
When truck drivers fail to pay attention to these blind spots, they may miss vehicles, and they run the risk of causing collisions. In the event a driver attempts to switch lanes, they may notice the other vehicle too late, quickly try to jump back into their original lane, and lose control of their trailer.
Truck drivers are fully aware that they have dangerous blind spots, and they should therefore pay close attention before making any moves. When truck drivers pay little to no attention to their blind spots, they contribute to the chance of a jackknife accident.
A tire blowout can happen to any vehicle, big or small. Multiple factors can contribute to a tire blowout, including a lack of proper tire inflation, damaged tread, or excess wear.
Tire blowouts often result in the loss of control over a vehicle, semitrucks included. Although commercial trucks have several tires, just one blowout can cause major commotion, leading to jackknifing and accidents.
Improperly Loaded Trailers
Semitrucks play a vital role in the economy, as they are constantly transporting necessary goods, including everything from groceries to construction equipment. Regardless of what a commercial truck is towing, the trailers must be meticulously loaded in order to keep them upright and operating smoothly.
When loading a trailer, responsible parties must consider weight, balance, and proper security of the loaded materials. When trucks are improperly loaded, they are more likely to sway during transport. A moving trailer could be risky, as it increases the possibility of the driver losing control of their trailer and jackknifing.
Drivers should always strive to maintain their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. But when drivers give in to distractions, accidents happen.
Truck drivers are especially prone to distracted driving. Drivers are on the job quite often, and trucking can be boring and lonely. Additionally, fatigue is a widespread issue with truck drivers, which could make it easier for a driver to become distracted while on the road.
Eating, texting, and changing the song on the radio are only some of the common kinds of road distractions. It’s much harder to drive responsibly while distracted, and this makes it more probable that a truck driver will lose control and jackknife.
A trucker’s drive can be seriously affected by poor road conditions, including:
- Cracked and broken asphalt
- Uneven lanes
- Poor road maintenance
- Road obstructions
- Low shoulders
- Shoulder drop-offs
The city and governmental entities are in charge of keeping roads safe and clean, but sometimes they neglect to do so. Unfavorable road conditions can contribute to loss of control and jackknifing.
Weather is not in anyone’s control. However, adapting your driving to weather conditions is a basic driving skill regardless of the type of vehicle you’re in. Driving negligently through bad weather conditions can be deadly, and this is particularly the case for truck drivers.
Rain storms, snow and ice, and strong winds all affect roads differently. For example, a buildup of oil and grease makes roads extremely slick when it rains. When it snows, black ice — a thin, transparent layer of ice — forms on streets, making the surface slippery and hazardous.
When truck drivers fail to modify their driving to weather conditions, it puts others on the road at risk. Speeding, distracted driving, and other dangerous driving behaviors can all contribute to the occurrence of jackknifing and collisions.
Insufficient Training or Experience
There is a considerable difference between driving a car and driving a commercial truck. Therefore, truck drivers must go through extensive training and get a special commercial driver’s license (CDL). In addition, truck drivers are usually required to gain a certain level of driving experience before they can work.
When drivers do not get the training and experience they need, they are not well-equipped to drive commercial vehicles. A truck driver with insufficient experience is more likely to drive unsafely, lose control of their vehicle, and cause accidents.
When hiring commercial drivers, trucking companies must ensure potential drivers have the right training, licensure, and experience. They must also take special note of a driver’s driving record to look for any past mishaps that could affect their driving careers.
When companies fail to ensure that drivers are safe to take to the roads, they are negligent. Negligent hiring practices not only put unsafe drivers on the streets but also can result in serious accidents and civil liability.
Malfunctions and Defects
There are many moving parts on a truck that must all be in safe, working order to protect drivers and others on the roads. When a truck part suffers a malfunction or is defective, it could make it more difficult for drivers to maintain control of their vehicles. Brake failure, oil leaks, electrical issues, and many other problems can cause collisions.
Trucks are complicated machines that require regular care and maintenance. When a malfunction or defect causes a jackknife accident, the party responsible for the truck’s maintenance, the trucking company, or the owner of the truck could be responsible, as these issues are rarely ever the driver’s fault.
Injuries That Often Result From Truck Jackknifing Accidents
In some cases, the only party involved in a jackknifing incident is the truck driver. More often than not, though, jackknifing causes accidents with other drivers, especially on busy highways and interstates. When others are victims of truck jackknifing accidents, serious injuries are common.
Truck accidents can lead to a wide variety of injuries but regularly cause:
- Cuts and lacerations
- Broken bones
- Head and neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Internal injuries
- Crush injuries
The significant problem with injuries from truck jackknifing accidents is not only the long recovery but also the potential for severe, long-term consequences. It is not uncommon for victims of truck accidents to suffer lasting effects of their injuries, including:
- Brain damage
- Cognitive issues
- Nerve damage
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of limbs
- Chronic pain
These injuries typically require extensive medical care, including surgeries, rehabilitation, and hospital stays. Medical treatment is expensive, and bills quickly pile up. Dealing with your injuries is hard enough without having to deal with the financial burdens and stress.
Pursuing compensation after a trucking collision can help you lessen your monetary troubles. This is one of the main reasons it’s essential to take action as quickly as possible after an accident.
Seeking Compensation for a SemiTruck Jackknife Collision
Damages compensate you for your injuries and accident-related financial losses. The type of damages you’re entitled to, and the total of your damages, depends on your specific case and circumstances.
Economic damages represent your tangible losses. These damages are usually easier to prove, as evidence is readily available. They include:
- Past and future medical bills
- Rehabilitation and therapy expenses
- Diminished or lost earning capacity
- Lost wages
- Property damage
Non-economic damages represent your intangible losses. Because of this, they are a little more challenging to prove. They could include:
- Mental and emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Permanent scarring
In special cases, you may have the opportunity to pursue punitive damages. These damages are available only in cases where a defendant’s actions are not negligent but instead malicious or intentional. When a judge imposes these damages, they aim to punish the defendant for their actions and deter potential future actors.
Many factors contribute to the value of your case. In order to figure out how much your case is worth, your lawyer must review various details of your situation, including:
- The type of injuries you suffer and their severity
- How your injuries affect your quality of life
- Whether your injuries have required you to take time away from work, and if so, the total of your lost earnings
- How your injuries have affected your mental and emotional health
- The total cost of your medical treatment
- Whether you’ll require medical care for your accident injuries in the future
Determining the value of your case can significantly help ensure you get the fairest possible settlement. You can rely on your truck accident attorney to calculate your damages and do everything possible to get you the outcome you deserve.
Next Steps for Victims of Truck Jackknifing Accidents
After a trucking collision, you’ll likely feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the steps you take after an accident can have an impact on your future case and compensation.
At the Scene
Calling 911 and reporting your accident should be the very first step. Call 911 and request law enforcement assistance. Once officers arrive, they can survey the scene, talk to involved parties and witnesses, and gather information. They can later use these details to create your accident report, which serves as vital evidence.
Also, make sure to request emergency medical services on your call to 911. Regardless of whether you feel hurt, you should always get medical attention. Traumatic incidents like accidents cause the body to react in a certain way that could mask any pain you may feel otherwise. This reaction could be deceiving and make you think you’re uninjured.
If you’re able, take photos and videos at the scene and speak to any potential witnesses to get their contact information. Additionally, gather details concerning the truck and driver, if possible.
In the Days Following Your Collision
In the days after your accident, follow up with a physician regarding your injuries if you didn’t on the day of your collision. Getting a full medical examination can help you understand the extent of your injuries and allow you to start treatment and recovery.
Report your collision to your auto insurance company. While car insurers don’t need to know about an accident immediately after the fact, they do expect to hear from their insured within a reasonable time. Once you’ve reported your accident, follow the instructions the insurance company provides, if any.
Start looking for a truck accident attorney as soon as you’re able and schedule a consultation. During your initial meeting, you’ll discuss your accident and your potential lawyer will ask questions. With this information, the attorney can provide qualified advice and direction for your case.
The Importance of Working With a Truck Accident Attorney
After truck jackknifing accidents, you are free to pursue your compensation claim alone. Still, if you want to give yourself the best chance of obtaining beneficial financial recovery, you should get legal assistance with your claim.
Trucking cases can be quite complicated. Because of a truck’s capacity to cause extensive damage and injury, these cases often involve a greater need for compensation. Insurance policies on trucks are large, and insurance companies want to hold on to their money; they’ll do everything possible to achieve that.
A truck accident attorney knows how insurance companies work and how to effectively communicate with them. Additionally, when you have a lawyer handling your case, insurers are unable to take advantage of you as they could if you went unrepresented.
When you allow a truck accident lawyer to handle your case, you can feel confident knowing your claim is in the most capable hands. Your attorney will stop at nothing to get you the compensation you need and deserve.
Time Is Limited — Consult With a Truck Accident Lawyer
If you wish to pursue compensation for your truck jackknifing accident, time is limited. Depending on your state, the law usually allows only about one to three years to file your claim. Therefore, you should take action as soon as possible to avoid any potential issues.
The legal team at The Joel Bieber Firm has 400 years of collective experience representing clients injured in collisions. We’re ready to fight for your right to financial compensation. Contact our firm today to get started.