Any automobile accident is serious, but when semi-trucks are involved, the potential for dangerous and potentially life-threatening accidents increases exponentially. Because of their massive size and the weight of the freight they carry, trucks tend to cause more damage than ordinary passenger cars when accidents happen.
Wrecks involving trucks are not only dangerous for all parties involved, but they also are challenging to analyze for fault. Since trucks are commercial vehicles, variables like shipping companies, trucking companies, and even truck manufacturers can all influence liability in the case of a jackknife accident. These factors raise the question, “Who is actually responsible when a truck jackknifes?”
What Is a Jackknife Accident?
When a semi-truck is attached to its trailer, the joint between them has a wide degree of movement from side to side. This joint gives trucks the ability to maneuver without needing an unreasonable amount of space to turn. This connection between the trailer and cab increases maneuverability, but it also opens the possibility of jackknife accidents.
A jackknife accident occurs when the trailer folds in towards the cab—resembling the folding of a jackknife. When this happens, the truck driver has no control over the vehicle because the trailer’s weight pushes the truck in the direction of momentum. If you are in the path of a jackknifing truck on a heavily trafficked road like an interstate, the likelihood of an accident is incredibly high.
What Causes Jackknife Accidents?
Many factors could be the cause of a jackknife accident. Some of the most common reasons for a semi to jackknife include:
- Excessive Speed: When a truck is traveling at a higher rate of speed than it should, the slightest amount of over-braking can cause the cab to turn a different direction from the trailer resulting in a jackknife situation.
- Inclement Weather: Slick roads and low visibility from precipitation can cause trucks to enter into a skid which can make the trailer slide around the side of the truck—making the semi jackknife.
- Improperly or Poorly Loaded Cargo: If the freight riding in the trailer is not correctly secured or loaded off-balance, the trailer may react unpredictably. The unpredictable nature of a poorly loaded trailer paired with heavy braking may make the trailer jackknife.
- Distracted Driving: With long hours spent on the road, the potential for distraction is high for truck drivers. Possible distractions such as cell phones can cause the driver to make poor driving decisions, which could cause the truck to become uncontrollable and jackknife.
These cases and more could result in an accident that potentially threatens the life of you or your passengers. When an accident happens, it is vital to determine who is responsible for the wreck.
Who Can Be Held Liable For a Jackknife Accident?
The potential for fault lies beyond just the truck driver because of variables such as weight, how the trailer was loaded, and how the accident occurred. Even though it is easy to assume that the driver is liable for a jackknife accident, the following parties could also be at fault for the accident:
- Trucking Companies: Many trucking companies can be held “vicariously liable” for driver negligence because the driver is an employee. In other cases, the company could be directly liable when they hire unqualified drivers or push their employees to drive beyond the federally allowed amount of time.
- Shipping Companies: Even if the driver is driving responsibly, a heavy or improperly loaded trailer will swing more freely than a properly loaded trailer. If the shipping company has loaded the trailer past the recommended Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), they can be held liable for a jackknife incident.
- Truck Manufacturers: Improper vehicle design or manufacturing defects could cause a semi-truck to behave in a way that causes an accident. If the truck is poorly assembled or not designed to handle a trailer’s heavy load, the manufacturer may be responsible for the accident.
- Other Motorists: Even though driver negligence is a leading cause of jackknife accidents, other drivers could be the reason for the wreck. If another irresponsible motorist cut in front of a truck or impacted the side of the trailer, causing the driver to lose control, they can be held liable for the jackknife occurring.
When determining liability in the case of jackknife accidents, there is always a possibility that more parties could be involved. That’s why it is crucial to partner with proper representation to help understand why the accident happened.
Contact a Detroit Truck Accident Lawyer
The high mortality rate and potential for injury make truck accidents extremely difficult to handle without representation. When you partner with a reputable advocate, your potential for receiving the proper settlement is much greater.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident involving a jackknifing semi-truck in the Detroit or Michigan area, contact a Michigan truck accident attorney right away. Seasoned lawyers can help you identify and hold accountable the liable party for any injury or damage sustained during the accident. The Lee Steinberg Law Firm offers decades of experience assisting Detroit residents in receiving the money they deserve for accidents involving commercial trucks. Call our Detroit office at 313-483-8775 or click here for a free case evaluation.