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Jackknife Truck Accidents Cause Thousands of Injuries Annually

Who pays for medical expenses in a Texas jackknife?

In a heart-stopping moment, you might see it unfold: An 18-wheeler ahead begins to fishtail. In an instant, the truck skids and its trailer swings wildly to one side, mimicking a giant pocket knife folding. Suddenly, the semi sprawls across all highway lanes, leaving no room to maneuver – resulting in a dangerous jackknife truck accident.

A little over 9,000 serious jackknife large truck accidents occur every year in the U.S. including over 175 fatal crashes and 2,000 injury-causing collisions, according to the FMCSA.

Truck accidents, especially jackknife ones, are among the most disastrous on our roads. Commercial trucks can weigh tons and often tow double trailers stretching 28 feet each. But what leads to these terrifying jackknife scenarios?

What is a jackknife truck accident?

In a jackknife crash, the two parts of a big rig – the cab and the trailer – fold in on each other. Scenarios that are associated with jackknifes include braking-in-a-curve maneuvers, in which the tractor with more powerful foundation brakes experiences a loss of control, while the tractor with standard drum brakes remains stable. Various factors contribute to jackknife accidents. Common causes include:

  • Improper brake adjustment and maintenance. If a truck’s brakes are not well-adjusted or maintained, it can cause the trailer axles to lock up before the tractor axles during abrupt braking, dragging the trailer sideways.
  • High speeds. The immense force required to stop a speeding commercial truck means any sudden braking at high speeds can disrupt the balance, particularly if the brakes are not properly calibrated.
  • Sharp curves and evasive maneuvers. Tight maneuvers at high speeds and sharp angles can swing the trailer out, causing the truck to spiral out of control.
  • Driver fatigue and inexperience. Fatigued driving significantly lowers reaction time and impairs judgment. Coupled with the pressure from trucking companies to hurry and bypass service limits, and often insufficient driver training, the risk of an accident increases drastically.

Jackknife truck accidents often result in multi-vehicle collisions, rollovers, or the truck blocking lanes and creating pile-ups. The massive size and weight of the truck and trailer combination contribute to the severity of the crash.

Common types of jackknife truck accident injuries

People are injured in jackknife truck accidents when the folding action of the trailer causes sudden and uncontrollable movements of the truck and trailer, resulting in a crash. The injuries can have a profound impact on a victim's life, requiring long periods of recovery and possibly resulting in permanent disability. Common injuries from jackknife truck accidents include:

  • Head injuries. These can range from mild concussions to severe traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), depending on the impact. Head injuries are particularly dangerous and can result in long-term cognitive, physical, and emotional impairments.
  • Spinal cord injuries. These injuries can result in partial or complete paralysis, long-term disability, and other serious neurological and physical complications.
  • Broken bones. The force exerted in a jackknife accident can easily break bones. Common fractures in these accidents include broken arms, legs, ribs, and pelvises.
  • Lacerations and abrasions. Shattered glass, metal fragments, and torn plastic can cause severe cuts and wounds, which may lead to significant blood loss or infections.
  • Internal injuries. These include injuries to organs such as the lungs, liver, spleen, and kidneys. Internal bleeding can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Whiplash and soft tissue injuries. The sudden and violent jerking movements in a crash can cause neck and back injuries, including whiplash, which may not show symptoms immediately.
  • Burns. If the accident leads to a fire, occupants of any vehicle involved can suffer burns, which can be not only physically debilitating but also emotionally scarring.

The massive size and weight of the truck and trailer combination contribute to the severity of the crash. Immediate and comprehensive medical treatment is crucial, followed by legal advice to secure compensation for damages and long-term care needs.

How to determine fault in a jackknife truck accident

Determining fault in an accident involves a thorough investigation to identify the factors and parties responsible for the incident. Common liable parties in jackknife accidents include the truck driver, the trucking company, other drivers (if their actions contributed to the accident), the truck manufacturer (if a defect caused the accident), or government entities responsible for road maintenance. Here’s how fault is generally determined.

  • Investigation of the accident scene. This includes examining skid marks, vehicle damages, final resting positions of the vehicles involved, and any environmental factors that might have contributed to the accident.
  • Review of vehicle maintenance records. Fault can often be traced back to improper maintenance of the truck, especially the braking system. Maintenance logs are scrutinized to see if the trucking company or the driver neglected necessary upkeep.
  • Analysis of the truck’s black box data. Modern trucks are equipped with event data recorders (EDR), or "black boxes," which capture data on speed, braking, and steering at the time of the accident. This information can be critical in determining whether the truck driver acted negligently.
  • Inspection of driver logs. Driver logs provide details on how long the driver had been on the road. Investigators look for violations of federal Hours of Service regulations, which could indicate driver fatigue—a common cause of jackknife accidents.
  • Driver behavior and eyewitness testimonies. The behavior of the truck driver before the accident, as witnessed by others and possibly captured on dash cams or other surveillance, is also examined. Testimonies from other drivers, pedestrians, and witnesses provide crucial details about the accident.
  • Expert reconstruction of the accident. Accident reconstruction experts may be called upon to recreate the scenario using all collected data. This helps to understand the dynamics of the accident better and determine fault.
  • Review of traffic camera footage. If available, footage from nearby traffic cameras can be invaluable in showing what happened in the moments leading up to the accident.

Legal professionals and insurance companies use this information to negotiate settlements or, if necessary, to present the case in court. After gathering and analyzing all these pieces of evidence, fault can be attributed to one or more parties.

What does a jackknife truck accident settlement pay for

In Texas, victims of jackknife truck accidents can pursue compensation for a variety of damages. The average settlement for a jackknife truck accident varies widely depending on the severity of injuries, the clarity of liability, the amount of insurance coverage available, and the victim's legal representation. Minor injuries with clear liability may settle for tens of thousands of dollars, while severe injuries with contentious liability issues can reach settlements in the millions. These damages fall into two main categories. economic and non-economic.

Economic damages are quantifiable costs directly associated with the accident.

  • Medical expenses. Includes costs for emergency treatment, hospitalization, surgery, medication, rehabilitation, and ongoing care.
  • Lost wages. Compensation for income lost due to time taken off work for recovery.
  • Loss of earning capacity. If the injury impacts the victim’s ability to earn money in the future.
  • Property damage. Compensation for repair or replacement of any personal property damaged in the accident, such as a vehicle.

Non-economic damages cover losses that are not easily quantified in monetary terms.

  • Pain and suffering. Compensation for physical pain and emotional distress resulting from the accident.
  • Emotional distress. Includes anxiety, depression, and other psychological effects.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life. Compensation for the loss of enjoyment in day-to-day activities.
  • Loss of consortium. If the accident impacts the victim’s relationship with their spouse.

Victims of such accidents should consult with a personal injury lawyer experienced in truck accidents to ensure that they receive comprehensive legal advice and to maximize their compensation based on the specifics of their case.

Contact us for a free case evaluation

After a jackknife truck accident, contacting an experienced Houston truck accident lawyer quickly is important for getting maximum compensation and swift justice. At Smith & Hassler, Attorneys At Law, our attorneys have the knowledge, resources, and experience with jackknife truck accidents to put you in the best position to fight for what is rightfully yours.

We will gather necessary evidence, assess your injuries, and handle negotiations with insurance companies to ensure you get the full compensation you deserve. If the insurance companies won’t make you a significant settlement offer, we prepare to take them to court. Our truck accident attorneys will manage all legal aspects, allowing you to focus on recovery.

If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a Texas jackknife truck accident, contact us to schedule a free case evaluation. We can explain how to protect your rights and start building a strong case for you right away.

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