A large truck jackknifes when the tractor and trailer fold in toward one another, resembling the shape of a jackknife. When this happens, the truck can skid down a hill and strike one or more other vehicles, causing a series of accidents and numerous injuries.
Truck jackknife accidents typically happen when truck drivers are negligent, such as by speeding in wet weather or driving around a curve too fast.
If you suffered injuries in a jackknife accident, you should seek prompt medical treatment immediately. In addition, you should talk with a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer in your area about your legal options. Your lawyer can investigate how the accident happened and determine if you are eligible to file a personal injury claim seeking monetary damages.
If you are, your lawyer can initiate the claims-filing process on your behalf and pursue the total amount of damages you deserve. If the insurance company handling your claim will not take it seriously, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in court and pursue the damages you deserve there.
Recoverable Damages in Truck Jackknife Accident Cases
When a truck jackknifes and collides with another vehicle, drivers and passengers may suffer serious injuries. This is especially true if the truck is traveling at a high rate of speed—and the collision is forcefaul. The impact force may cause an accident victim’s body to move forward and backward, or from side to side, in a very abrupt manner, bringing about various injuries.
If some part of the accident victim’s body strikes something in the vehicle, like the steering wheel, headrest, window, or dashboard, the accident victim can suffer a broken bone or traumatic brain injury. Other potential injuries include soft tissue contusions, internal organ damage, spinal cord injuries, paralysis injuries, and death.
The damages that truck jackknife accident victims may recover will vary from case to case. The types and amounts of recoverable damages typically depend upon the severity of the accident victim’s injuries, their pain and suffering, and their lost income.
First, if the accident victim misses work time to attend medical appointments and recover from their injuries, they can make a lost wage claim. To prove their entitlement to lost wages, the accident victim must typically introduce documentation from their employer. This documentation must state the number of days they missed from work and the amount of money they lost. If the accident victim cannot perform their former job duties because of their injuries, they can bring a claim for loss of earning capacity.
In addition to a wage loss claim, truck jackknife accident victims can pursue monetary damages for their pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional anguish, mental distress, loss of the ability to use a body part, loss of life enjoyment, loss of spousal companionship, and loss of family support.
Your lawyer can review your accident circumstances with you and determine which of these damages you are eligible to pursue and recover in your personal injury claim. Your lawyer can help you recover total and fair monetary compensation through settlement or litigation. Suppose the insurance company places a settlement offer on the table. In that case, your lawyer can then help you decide whether to accept the pending settlement offer or file suit and take your case to court or binding arbitration.
How do Truck Jackknife Accidents Occur in the First Place?
Truck jackknife accidents typically happen when truck drivers behave negligently in some way. In a truck collision, a driver is negligent when they fail to act reasonably under the circumstances.
For example, they might drive while tired and cause a severe jackknife accident. Or they may violate a traffic law, motor carrier regulation, drive while distracted or intoxicated.
These negligent behaviors can cause trucks to jackknife:
- Speeding. One of the most common causes of truck jackknife accidents is speeding. In some instances, slower speed limits apply to large trucks. When drivers operate these large and heavy vehicles too fast, it can offset the vehicle’s center of balance, causing the driver to lose control and bring about a collision. Jackknife accidents are prevalent when drivers speed in wet weather. This may cause the tractor-trailer to hydroplane and fold in on itself, leading to severe accidents and injuries.
- Taking curves too sharply. Many highways and roadways have sharp curves with lower speed limits. When a truck driver negligently takes a turn too fast, the driver may lose control, causing a jackknife accident and a series of collisions. When the tractor and trailer jackknife, they may skid downhill, impacting several vehicles and causing numerous injuries.
- Violating motor carrier regulations. Motor carrier regulations ensure the safe truck operation and prevent accidents. These regulations typically pertain to truck weight limits, cargo loading procedures, and over-carriage and undercarriage lighting on both tractors and trailers. When a truck driver or trucking company does not load cargo onto the truck properly, the truck’s center of balance can become offset, causing it to jackknife while out on the road at high speeds. The same holds true when truck drivers fail to properly secure their cargo.
- Distracted driving. Truck drivers become distracted when they fail to watch the road sufficiently. Negligent drivers often divert their attention away from the road and onto a cellular phone, tablet, or GPS navigation device. Alternatively, they might listen to loud music in their vehicle or turn their head for one reason or another. Even a brief diversion may cause the driver to lose focus and fail to see an upcoming sharp turn. In short, when a truck driver becomes distracted, it may be too late for them to slow down and prevent a jackknife accident from occurring.
- Intoxicated driving. Alcohol can severely impair a truck driver’s brain by slowing down their nervous system’s ability to process information. Consequently, an impaired truck driver may be unable to stop their vehicle quickly enough to avoid a jackknife accident. Moreover, alcohol can impair the driver’s thinking and perception, causing them to speed and drive erratically. If they drive too fast in bad weather or around a sharp curve, they may inadvertently cause a jackknife accident which leads to multiple collisions. Truck drivers are legally intoxicated if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 percent or higher. Alberta imposes administrative sanctions if a driver’s BAC is 0.05 percent or higher. They may be subject to criminal penalties if they ultimately sustain a DUI conviction. They and their insurance companies can also incur civil penalties if they cause an accident that leads to injuries.
- Fatigued driving. Truck drivers often receive financial incentives to operate their vehicles for long hours on end without taking breaks. In some instances, employer trucking companies will even offer them bonuses if they deliver their cargo to its final destination ahead of schedule. When truck drivers do not stop regularly—and when they resort to drugs to keep themselves awake for long hours—they often become sleepy. As a result, they may experience impaired judgment and make poor decisions while driving. Moreover, when a truck driver speeds excessively to get to their final destination ahead of schedule, they significantly increase their chances of causing an accident—including a jackknife accident.
If you suffered injuries in a jackknife accident that resulted from a truck driver or trucking company negligence, you should talk to a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer in your area as soon as possible. In addition to investigating the circumstances of your accident and filing a claim for you, your lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company adjuster and, if necessary, file a lawsuit in court.
Can I Hold a Trucking Company Responsible for an Injury Caused by a Truck Jackknife Accident?
In addition to negligent truck drivers, the trucking companies that employ these drivers may also share in the responsibility for an accident. This is because trucking companies are often responsible for the negligent acts of their drivers when drivers are performing a job duty or otherwise acting within the scope of their employment. This might not be true if the truck driver was taking a detour or was off the clock at the time the jackknife accident happened.
Trucking companies are also responsible for hiring, supervising, and retaining only capable drivers. Some trucking companies hire and retain drivers who have a record of moving violations and DUIs. If one of these drivers causes a jackknife accident, the accident victim can bring a claim against the employer trucking company for negligent hiring or retention.
A truck accident lawyer in your area can help you identify potentially responsible parties for your truck jackknife accident and file the appropriate claim or lawsuit on your behalf.
Filing a Claim for Damages With the Insurance Company
After seeking medical treatment for your injuries, your next step after a truck jackknife accident should be filing a claim with the insurance company. In most instances, your lawyer will deal with the insurance company for the responsible truck driver or trucking company, who typically have the same insurer.
The claims-filing process begins when your lawyer gathers up your medical records, wage loss documents, injury photographs, and impact statement and forwards them to the insurance company adjuster. Your lawyer will also include a demand letter which makes a monetary demand for settlement. Once the adjuster studies all of these documents, they will decide whether to accept or reject fault for your accident. If the insurance company accepts fault, they might make an initial offer to resolve your case through settlement.
Usually, these initial settlement offers are low and do not reasonably compensate accident victims for their injuries. Insurance companies are large institutions and will do anything and everything to save themselves money. In many instances, they are hoping that the accident victim is in a hurry to settle their claim. Consequently, they offer very little money at the outset.
Your lawyer must typically negotiate with the insurance company adjuster several times before they make a significant settlement offer increase. If the parties reach an impasse, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in court and continue settlement negotiations with the adjuster. However, once the case is in litigation, it will go on the court’s calendar.
The majority of truck accident claims do not proceed to trial. In most instances, they resolve at some point along the way. If that happens, the case ends. However, if the parties cannot resolve the dispute amicably, the case will typically proceed to a jury trial. At trial, the jury will decide the outcome of all disputed issues, including the amount of monetary compensation to award the truck accident victim.
The parties may consider mediation or binding arbitration as an alternative to trial. At mediation, a neutral mediator guides the parties through several rounds of settlement discussions. In binding arbitration, a neutral arbitrator—rather than a judge or jury—listens to the evidence that the parties present and decides how much compensation to award the accident victim.
A truck accident lawyer in your area can help you decide whether to litigate your case at trial, consider alternative dispute resolution, or simply resolve the case via settlement. If your case goes to court or arbitration, your lawyer will strongly advocate for you and pursue the monetary compensation you deserve.
Call a Truck Accident Lawyer Near You Today
Truck jackknife accident victims only have two years from their accident date to file a claim or lawsuit for damages. If the accident victim fails to file a timely claim, they will not be eligible for monetary damages later. Therefore, if you suffered injuries because of a truck driver or trucking company’s negligence, it is in your best interest to retain a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer to represent you as soon as possible.
Your lawyer will advocate for you during every step of the process and help you maximize the damages you recover. Your lawyer can investigate the circumstances of your accident, negotiate with the insurance company, and file a lawsuit if litigation becomes necessary. Your lawyer will do everything possible to recover the most possible monetary compensation for you.
Contact a lawyer today to receive your consultation.