A jackknife accident occurs when the trailer of a semi skids out of control, causing the cab and trailer to face different directions. These types of truck accidents, can result in a rollover and often cause serious and fatal injuries. In 2012, there were over 5,000 jackknife accident in the U.S. 1,000 of which led to injuries and 163 of which caused fatalities, reports the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Because the damages can be so substantial in jackknife accidents, victims (or their family members in fatal cases) should speak to a jackknife truck accident lawyer in Pittsburgh for help. Call the accident attorneys at Berger and Green to request a free consultation today: 412-661-1400.
What does it mean when a truck jackknifes?
Jackknife accidents often occur when a truck hits a slippery patch on the road and the brakes lock up. When the trailer begins to skid, if the truck driver steers into the skid, he can usually correct it, straighten the vehicle, and continue driving.
However, if the driver does not correct the skid in time, the trailer will continue swinging out to one side, causing the truck to fold into a right or acute angle that resembles the blade and handle of an open jackknife.
What causes jackknife accidents?
It is typically when there is a drastic and sudden change in speed that a jackknife accident occurs. Factors that can contribute to jackknife accidents include:
- Wet roads and black ice
- Inexperienced truck drivers
- Driving aggressively or recklessly
- Improper braking
- Auto defects
- Improper cargo loading (throws off the balance of the trailer, causing instability)
- Curvy roads
- Speeding and travelling too fast for conditions, especially around curves
Are truck drivers able to avoid jackknife accidents?
There are several things a truck driver can do to avoid a jackknife, the most important of which is to brake prudently. In fact, proper braking (for which commercial truck drivers should have received proper training) can prevent most jackknife accidents from occurring.
Another precaution that truck drivers can take to decrease the risk of a jackknife is to ensure their cargo is properly loaded. Unbalanced and unsecured loads and trailers with very light loads pose more of a risk of a jackknife accident.
Other things truck drivers can do to avoid jackknifing include:
- Avoiding the soft shoulder of the roadway
- Keeping a safe distance (at least five seconds) from other vehicles
- Avoiding braking or even decelerating on turns and bends in the road
- Braking slowly and evenly
- Avoiding skids
- Releasing brakes and steering into the skid rather than braking when the tractor begins to skid
- Avoiding braking and swerving simultaneously (If they need to swerve to avoid something, the proper technique drivers should follow is to brake, release, swerve, then reapply the brakes.)
Who is liable for a jackknife accident?
In most cases, the trucking company is the party that will be liable for accident victims’ damages. Even though the driver’s actions may have caused the accident, victims usually do not need to hold the truck driver personally liable because of a legal doctrine referred to as respondeat superior, which provides that employers are vicariously liable for their employees’ actions.
But liability may lie with other parties, as well. For instance, if an unaffiliated loading company improperly loaded the cargo, then that company may be liable for damages, not the trucking company. Similarly, if the accident occurred because the truck’s brakes were defective, then the brake manufacturer might be liable in a product liability case.
To correctly ascertain liability and know which company(ies) to file a claim or suit against, jackknife accident victims will want to have a Berger and Green truck accident attorney review their case and investigate causation.
Our legal team will first evaluate all of the evidence, which can include items such as the accident report, physical evidence, eyewitness testimonies, the truck’s black box, maintenance records, and the truck driver’s employment record.
If necessary, we can also speak to experts in the trucking field to get additional input about what caused the accident to occur. This will help us determine which party was negligent and therefore responsible for victims’ losses.
How do I pursue compensation for my injuries?
The first step in pursuing compensation for your injuries is to enlist in the help of a qualified jackknife truck accident lawyer. (For an attorney with an excellent track record of representing truck accident victims in Pittsburgh, call 412-661-1400.) Your attorney will then send a spoliation letter to the truck company to preserve important evidence that we can use to support your case.
From there, the legal process involves the collection of evidence, drafting and filing documents, calculating the value of your claim and sending out a demand letter, and negotiating with insurers for a fair settlement. You can collect current and future medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, plus various additional injury-related damages. Mediation may be helpful if the initial negotiations are not sufficient. If you cannot reach an agreeable settlement, then your attorney can litigate the case in court and present your case to the judge and jury.
Can Berger and Green help with my jackknife accident claim?
Our firm gladly accepts all types of personal injury cases in Pittsburgh, including jackknife accident cases. Berger and Green attorneys, skilled negotiators and litigators, are very familiar with the complexities of truck accident cases, such as federal trucking laws, violations, and common tactics trucking companies use to divert liability. We work tirelessly for each of our clients to recover the maximum amount of money possible, so that their futures and families are well-provided for.
Contact our office today at 412-661-1400for a free, no-obligation consultation.