When an accident is caused by a truck jackknifing, most people understand what that term means. Much like the mechanism of a pocketknife, trucks that have a cab and a trailer fold in on themselves at the point where the parts separate. The trailer and cab then swivel at that point, forming a 90-degree angle. As your personal injury attorney can explain, accidents involving trucks that jackknife can be pretty serious.
Why a truck that jackknifes causes so much damage
All truck accidents can result in catastrophic damage simply because of the sheer size and weight of commercial trucks. Those particular types of vehicles weigh 80,000 pounds or more and often pull 28-foot trailers. When a truck jackknifes, all of the dangerous weight could be swinging toward your vehicle. When this causes an accident, the result is often severe personal injury or death, as well as significant destruction of property.
Common reasons that trucks jackknife
There are at least four common causes for trucks jackknifing. If you are familiar with these causes you have a better chance of avoiding these types of accidents with trucks. The most common causes are curves, high speed, weather conditions and malfunction or negligence in operating the truck.
Although a slight curve doesn’t normally pose a problem for commercial trucks, the sharper the curve and the longer the trailer, the greater the chance the trailer end will swing and cause the truck driver to lose control and jackknife.
Traveling at a high speed
When a large commercial truck is traveling more than 55 miles per hour, it is much more difficult to suddenly stop. If the truck doesn’t have time to slowly come to a stop, and the driver has to slam on his brakes at 55 miles per hour, the risk of losing control of the trailer increases dramatically.
Weather or road conditions
When a road becomes slippery, due to weather or spills on the roadway, the truck’s loss of traction with the road can make the weight of the truck to shift. If that happens, both the cab and trailer will slide. Because of the enormous weight and excessive length of commercial trucks, even a minor slide can cause the truck to jackknife.
Malfunction or negligence in operating the truck
Whether the cause is hydraulic failure, brake failure, or driver error, even the smallest malfunction with the vehicle can cause a truck to lose control and sway back and forth. If the driver is unable to regain control quickly, the trailer could tip over or sway resulting in a dangerous situation.
Why truck accidents are generally more serious
If you think all motor vehicle accidents are the same, you would be mistaken. Accidents involving commercial trucks can be far more devastating, more complicated to litigate and more difficult to prove. If you have been injured in a truck accident, consulting with a personal injury attorney, who has experience and success in handling truck accident cases, is the wisest decision you can make.
How are truck accidents different?
There are so many ways that litigating a truck accident case is different from a simple auto accident case. First, the laws that apply to trucks are different from those that apply to cars and other personal motor vehicles operating on the roadways. Likewise, the rules and regulations governing truck drivers and trucking companies are very different.
The parties that are involved in truck accident litigation are very different and there are typically more parties involved than just the drivers. Driving a semi is completely different from driving a car, as trucks are more sophisticated vehicles. The physical dynamics of what happens during a truck accident are different from automobile accidents, and the resulting injuries are more often catastrophic.
The need for truck accident investigations
In order for a truck accident investigation to be thorough, evidence needs to be gathered regarding every aspect of the truck accident. This would involve pictures of the accident scene and the damages to each vehicle involved. The vehicles also need to be inspected as well as photographed to determine if there were any defects or lack of maintenance which could have contributed to the accident.
The importance of witness interviews regarding the accident
A primary component of every truck accident investigation is witness testimony. Witnesses can provide their observations of the accident scene, how the accident occurred and any contact or communications with individuals immediately after the accident. It is better to obtain this testimony as soon after the accident as you can, while the information is fresh for the witness. Therefore, one of the most important things to do immediately following a truck accident is obtaining the contract information for potential witnesses.
If you have questions or concerns regarding trucking accidents, or any other personal injury concerns, contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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