What is jackknifing? Things to know about jackknifed truck accidents

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The term “jackknife” refers to the angle at which a tractor and trailer come to rest. It closely resembles the shape of a pocket knife with a folding blade that is partially closed. Semi-trucks have a massive weight advantage over passenger vehicles. When a tractor-trailer is fully loaded, it can weigh as much as 40 tons or 80,000 lbs. 

semi truck

With this in mind, it’s easy to see how a jackknifed tractor-trailer can pose a significant hazard to other vehicles on the road. If you’ve been involved in an accident with a jackknifed semi-trailer, you should be aware of your rights. Here we will discuss what to do and not do after a jackknife accident.

What Causes a Jackknife Accident?

Jackknife accidents are typically caused by the following:

  • Weather conditions creating slippery road conditions.
  • Fatigue, distraction, or driving under the influence.
  • Trying to avoid hazards in the road and over-correcting.
  • Speeding or taking a curve too quickly.
  • The semi-truck hits an object head-on and the force of the impact skews the trailer.
  • Mechanical failure of the truck or trailer, such as the steering or braking systems.

What Should I do After a Jackknife Truck Accident?

There are some things that should be done in the aftermath of a jackknife trailer accident to protect your rights and make sure that you get the justice that you deserve. Here are some tips on what to do after a mishap like this.

  • Immediately call 911 to report the accident. It is very important to seek medical attention immediately, even if you don’t feel like you are seriously injured. 
  • If possible, document the scene of the accident by taking photos and videos. Also, look for witnesses to the accident and get their statements.
  • Remember, any statements you give could be used in court, so you must be careful. As soon as possible, get in contact with a jackknife accident attorney.
  • When you are taken to the hospital, do not sign anything or say anything until your attorney arrives. This evidence is crucial in helping your claim against the other driver.
  • Be sure to hang on to any evidence you have. This includes photos, videos, medical records, repair records, etc.

Are Jackknife Trailer Accidents Fatal?

It depends on many different factors. According to the FMCSA statistics, less than 1% of all accidents involving semi-trucks are fatal. This may not sound like a significant percentage, but it translates to nearly 4,000 deaths annually, mostly consisting of the occupants of passenger vehicles. 

What are the Common Injuries that Happen in a Jackknife Accident?

For occupants of passenger vehicles, the injuries are often much more severe than for the driver of the big rig. This is because this type of accident can lead to a smaller vehicle getting trapped in the carriage underride of the trailer. Common injuries include:

  • Head and neck injuries — They can be caused due to a sudden jolt, twist, or blunt force.
  • Bruising, lacerations, and swelling — Most often in the upper extremities and torso.
  • Spinal injuries — Herniated discs, broken vertebrae, and nerve damage.
  • Amputations — Most commonly of upper extremities.
  • Fractured and broken bones — Most commonly in the upper extremities.
  • Punctured organs — Lungs, kidneys, and stomach.

How Can a Jackknife Accident be Prevented?

There are numerous safety regulations in place that mandate trucks have certain features to help prevent truck accidents. Since 1991, Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) have been a requirement of all tractor-trailers. This regulation has helped reduce the number of jackknife accidents, but they do still happen from time to time. Similarly, all trailers are mandated to have ABS features that automatically activate if the trailer comes loose from the tractor. 

However, these safety precautions only work if they have been properly maintained. If the truck has mechanical issues, these systems can fail in catastrophic ways. While all trucks on the highway are subject to routine checks by law enforcement, sometimes issues are not detected before they cause an accident.

As the driver of a passenger vehicle, the best way you can avoid being involved in a jackknife accident is to drive safely. This means never driving too close to semi-trucks and keeping a watchful eye for hazards.

How Will an Attorney Determine Compensation for the Accident?

A jackknife accident lawyer is going to examine the details of the case. Using the information provided, they will calculate the damages you suffered to determine the compensation you are entitled to. Common areas the lawyer will look at are:

  • The cost of medical bills and repairs to your vehicle.
  • How much (if any) insurance payouts are covered.
  • How long you have been or plan to be out of work.
  • The severity of your injuries and the time it will take to recover.
  • If there were other passengers in the vehicle, their information may be taken into account, as well.
  • If the case warrants a wrongful death claim in the case of fatalities. 

What are the Benefits of Hiring a Jackknife Accident Lawyer?

The insurance companies fight these claims aggressively and have a team of lawyers working for them. The truck driver’s insurance company may be willing to settle out of court or at least bargain down the settlement amount. This is not something most people can handle on their own. In fact, you could end up losing a lot of money you are entitled to for trying.

At Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd, we are committed to providing you with the best legal support and guidance possible. We proudly serve the Treasure Coast area, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, Ft. Pierce, and Okeechobee. Start working with a knowledgeable, experienced semi-truck jackknife accident lawyer in Florida by scheduling your free virtual consultation or call us toll-free at (866) 460-1990.

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