If you’ve been injured in a jackknife accident in the greater Austin area, you could be entitled to compensation from the driver, their employer, and their insurance companies. A settlement or judgment for a jackknife accident case could cover expenses such as related medical costs, lost income due to the inability to work, and an amount to represent pain and suffering caused by the accident. Contact one of our experienced Austin jackknife accident lawyers at Loewy Law Firm to discuss your legal options in a free consultation.
Few crashes are more frightening than jackknife accidents. Jackknife accidents occur when the trailer of any tractor-trailer or semi-truck vehicle swings and “folds” into the cab, forming the shape of a pocket knife. When a truck jackknifes, the driver usually loses all control of the vehicle. That makes them especially dangerous. Jackknife accidents can cause catastrophic injuries to other drivers since collisions are exacerbated by the size and weight of large trucks.
What is a Jackknife Truck Accident?
A jackknife accident occurs when a large truck or tractor-trailer skids across a roadway. Often, a truck driver can correct a skid before the truck jackknifes, but sometimes the driver loses control of the truck. Then the trailer can swing at a 90-degree angle to the cab. This can cause severe collisions with other motorists on the road.
These types of accidents often occur because of sudden, rapid deceleration when a truck driver slams on the brakes. The cab begins to slow, but the trailer, which can carry tens of thousands of pounds of cargo, has too much forward momentum to slow at the same rate. The trailer’s momentum pushes it sideways, jackknifing with the cab.
Compensation for a Jackknife Truck Accident Claim
If you were injured in a jackknife truck accident due to the driver’s or another party’s negligence, you might be entitled to claim compensation for your injuries and other damages. These could include:
- Medical expenses, including emergency services, procedures, physical therapy, prescription medications, hospital stays, and any follow-up treatment
- The income you lost because you were unable to work after the accident
- Property damage, such as the cost of repair or replacement for your vehicle
- Pain and suffering
The state of Texas has a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases. That means it’s crucial to start your claim with the help of an Austin accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Is the Truck Driver or Trucking Company Liable for a Jackknife Accident?
A truck driver and a trucking company can be held accountable if a jackknife accident is caused by an improperly maintained truck or by driver negligence in operating the vehicle. A driver, for example, may suddenly be forced to slam on the brakes or downshift due to:
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Drunk driving
- Speeding or going too fast for the conditions on the road
Truck drivers are liable for their own careless and unsafe actions behind the wheel. Trucking companies can also be held responsible for negligent behavior in the line of duty. Depending upon whether the truck transports hazardous materials, the trucking company may be required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to have a minimum of $750,000 to $5 million in liability insurance. Crash victims may be able to recover significant monetary damages from insurers after a jackknife accident.
What are the Causes of Jackknife Accidents?
A jackknife accident happens when the trailer on the back of a tractor-trailer spins out at a 90-degree angle from the tractor. Typically, this occurs because:
- The truck accelerates on a surface that has low friction
- The truck driver goes around a curve too fast
- The truck driver suddenly downshifts
- The truck driver hit the brakes too hard. Trucks generally have steering axle brakes; trailer axle brakes; and drive axle brakes. When a truck driver suddenly slams on the steering axle brakes, the truck can continue to barrel forward but the driver will lose control of steering. The rear wheels don’t lock although the front wheels do, causing the trailer to spin out.
When the trailer spins out, it can cause serious damage by striking other vehicles and property in its path. Vehicles and people can be hit as the trailer swings out. The truck may also roll over to its side, crushing people and vehicles below it. An Austin truck accident lawyer can provide assistance if you are one of the victims of these devastating accidents.
Why Are These Particular Crashes So Dangerous?
Commercial trucks can weigh up to 40 tons, or 80,000 pounds. While any crash with a commercial truck can be extremely dangerous, a jackknife collision, in particular, is especially dangerous because cars impacted by the trailer can be crushed by its size and weight.
Jackknife accidents are often fatal for motorists and passengers. In fact, most deaths resulting from these jackknife accidents are passengers in other vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported 4,119 deaths in traffic-related accidents involving large trucks in 2019 alone. Just 16 percent of those fatalities were truck drivers themselves, while 67 percent of fatalities were motorists and their passengers.
Common Injuries Caused by Jackknife Truck Crashes
Being hit by a fully loaded trailer can cause catastrophic damage. The types of injuries caused by jackknife accidents can be severe and often fatal. Some of the most common injuries caused by truck accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injury – TBIs, or traumatic brain injuries, often occur due to a violent jolt or blow to the head. They’re often serious in nature and can cause concussions, skull fractures, torn tissues, brain bleeding, and other physical damage to the brain. In addition, TBIs can cause issues with memory, reasoning, emotions, and even personality.
- Spinal damage and paralysis – When the spinal cord is severed or injured, it can cause changes in sensation, strength, and mobility below the site of the injury. This can affect every area of a person’s life. Some spinal damage results in paralysis, which can render a person immobile, often permanently.
- Soft-tissue damage – This type of injury occurs when the soft tissue—including muscles, ligaments, and tendons—below the skin is damaged. Whiplash is a common type of soft-tissue injury. Such an injury may not be immediately obvious but appears the days and weeks after an accident.
- Burns – Exposed to fire or toxic chemicals in the course of an accident causes burns, which can lead to permanent disfigurement.
- Broken/fractured bones – Broken and fractured bones are common injuries in jackknife truck accidents. Broken and fractured bones often require surgeries to repair. The recovery period can take many months.
- Internal injuries – Internal injuries can easily occur in truck accidents. Damage to vital organs and internal bleeding are often life-threatening, even though some internal injuries are not immediately apparent. It’s always important to get checked out by a medical professional right away.
Who Is Responsible for Causing the Crash?
Liability for a jackknife accident is not always straightforward the way it is for typical car crashes. The most obvious liable party could be the truck driver. If they were speeding, driving aggressively, breaking traffic laws, operating the vehicle while distracted or intoxicated, or otherwise behaving in a negligent manner, they may have caused the jackknife accident and could be liable for any resulting injuries.
In some cases, trucking companies can also be held liable. If they failed to properly train their driver or failed to inspect and maintain their truck correctly, then they could be at least partly responsible for a crash. If they contracted another maintenance company and improper maintenance caused the accident, then that entity could be held liable. If a defective truck part caused the crash, then the manufacturer of that part could be liable. Finally, if the accident was caused by shifting cargo, then the cargo loaders could be found liable for the collision.
Truck accidents can be complex, which is why working with a seasoned attorney who has experience investigating jackknife truck accidents is essential.
How Loewy Law Firm Can Help
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident in or near Austin, the experienced and skilled Austin jackknife truck accident attorneys at Loewy Law Firm are here to help. We can investigate your case, determine the at-fault party or parties, and work tirelessly to negotiate a full and fair settlement on your behalf. In the case that the insurance companies won’t agree to a fair settlement, we can fight for your rights in court. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.