If you’re injured in a truck jackknife accident, there are specific steps you can take to strengthen and protect your insurance claim for damages. A jackknife accident generally occurs when a tractor-trailer rounds a curve, slows down suddenly, stops, or skids. The trailer’s momentum can cause it to swing out to the right or left and form an angle with the cab that looks like a gigantic open pocketknife, possibly striking nearby vehicles and/or causing multiple wrecks by dumping dangerous debris onto the highway.
Truck jackknife accidents are infrequent but deadly. While they account for only five percent of all semi-truck crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that they lead to 10% of all semi-truck fatalities.
Causes of Jackknife Truck Crashes
Truck jackknife wrecks can result from a variety of different causes and conditions, including:
Slippery road surfaces reduce tire traction, tripling the chances of a jackknife accident. Fog also reduces visibility, especially on roads with insufficient lighting, and increases the chances of a jackknife crash by nearly 50%.
NHTSA reports that driving just 10 miles per hour over the limit in a fully loaded 18-wheeler increases the risk of a jackknife mishap significantly if the truck has to stop or slow down suddenly.
Cargo that’s unbalanced or improperly secured can shift and cause a jackknife wreck, especially when the truck is negotiating a curve or passing another vehicle. An empty or very lightly loaded trailer is also more apt to swing to the side when the truck’s cab slows down.
Truckers and trucking companies are required to inspect every truck’s steering and brake systems to be sure they’re operating at maximum efficiency. If those systems are defective, the chances of a jackknife crash are increased.
Distracted, fatigued, or impaired driving
Talking or texting on a cell phone, eating, drinking, smoking, adjusting a radio, or looking at a GPS device can take the driver’s attention away from the road. Driving longer hours than permitted by law to meet delivery deadlines can leave a trucker fatigued and drowsy. Drug or alcohol use inhibits vision, slows reaction time, and affects decision-making. A trucker who is distracted, fatigued, or impaired increases the chances of a jackknife wreck by negligently breaching the duty of care every driver on the road owes every other driver.
What to Do After a Jackknife Accident
If you’re the victim of a jackknife accident caused by a trucker, your first priority is your well-being and that of any passengers in your vehicle. You should call 9-1-1 right away (or ask someone else to do so if you cannot) to report the crash and any injuries. While waiting for law enforcement or EMTs to arrive, move to a safe area and take the following steps, if you can, to protect and strengthen your insurance claim for damages:
- Take photographs of vehicles involved in the crash, focusing on license plate numbers and property damage, as well as the accident scene and your injuries.
- Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver(s), but do not discuss the accident or argue.
- Get contact information from any witnesses to the crash.
- Note the presence of security or red-light cameras that might have footage of the accident.
- When police arrive, answer their questions with basic information only. Do not admit any fault for the accident to anyone.
- If you’re not transported to an emergency room, seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel you’re seriously injured. Your symptoms could be masked by the adrenaline resulting from the experience of the accident. An immediate medical exam both increases the chance of a full recovery and documents the injuries you’ve suffered in the wreck.
- Notify your own insurer of the accident.
- Consult a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.
- Refer any calls from the at-fault party’s insurer to your attorney.
In most jackknife accidents, the truck driver is liable for the victim’s damages: medical bills, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering. You could also have claims against the trucking company, truck owner, a mechanic or repair service, a parts manufacturer, and/or cargo handling personnel if their negligence was partially responsible for your accident. When multiple defendants are involved, and medical expenses are high—as they’re likely to be in any truck accident—the services of a Florence, SC, truck accident attorney are highly recommended to help you file your insurance claims and take your case to court if a fair settlement is not offered.
Have You Been Injured In A South Carolina Area Truck Accident?
If you or a loved one was injured in a commercial truck accident in South Carolina, you should speak with a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.