Deadly Florida Jackknife Accidents
Witnessing a semi-truck skidding along the road or dumping out its cargo is sure to make your stomach drop. Whether you are behind the wheel of a semi-truck or driving alongside one, you should be aware of the dangers. Due to the mere size of these large trucks, they pose unique risks on the road. One of these risks is the risk that a semi-truck will jackknife. A jackknife incident has a high likelihood of causing property damage and injuries for anyone nearby when it happens.
Read on to understand why semi-trucks jackknife, how these accidents can be avoided, and the dangers jackknifing creates. Additionally, we will discuss possible options for recovery after suffering injury in a jackknifing accident. If you have suffered any injuries involving an accident with a commercial truck, condsider reaching out to an experienced attorney. A truck accident attorney will evaluate the specific facts of your case and help you understand your options for pursuing recovery. Schedule a free consultation with Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today to discuss your case.
Understanding Jackknife Accidents
A jackknife occurs when a towing vehicle skids and the driver is unable to correct the trajectory of the vehicle. The skidding motion causes the trailer to swing to the side. Eventually, the momentum creates a 90 degree angle between the cab and the trailer. A jackknife incident creates many dangers. For instance, the trailer might hit other vehicles as it swings out. In addition, the trailer may end up spanning across several lanes, causing accidents as vehicles try to stop or avoid it. Jackknifed trucks are also at high risk of overturning and spilling their cargo or catching fire.
Factors Contributing to a Jackknife
The factors that increase the chances a truck will end up jackknifed across a road include:
- Excessive speeds. The size and weight of commercial trucks require a significant amount of force to stop the truck. This is especially true when a truck is speeding. When a truck is traveling at high speeds, it may require slamming on the brakes to make a quick stop. Stopping quickly can cause the vehicle to skid and lose control. Driving at only 10 miles per hour above the posted speed limit increases the odds of a jackknife by 49 percent.
- Tight turns. Navigating tight turns or performing evasive maneuvers can cause the truck’s trailer to swing out. If the steering wheel is quickly turned or adjusted, swinging out is highly likely. In the event of swinging out, the driver may lose control of the truck. The likelihood of a jackknife occurring on a curved roadway is 86 percent higher than on a straight roadway.
- Poor road conditions. Anything that makes driving more difficult increases the chance that the driver of the truck will lose control. Loss of traction can result in a shift in the truck’s weight, causing the cab and trailer to slide. In fact, the odds of a jackknife accident occurring are over three times higher during inclement weather. Poor lighting conditions increase the odds of a jackknife by 43 percent.
- Driver fatigue and distraction. Commercial truck drivers spend long hours on the road. On average commercial truck drivers drive up to 3,000 miles per week and 11 hours a day. Long days and the monotonous miles can cause driver fatigue and distracted driving. Fatigue lowers reaction time and impairs judgment. Distraction means the drivers’ eyes might not always be on the road. Both may increase the likelihood that they will need to make a fast adjustment, increasing the chances of jackknifing.
- Driver inexperience. To drive a commercial truck in Florida, a driver must secure a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). To secure a CDL, the driver must pass several knowledge and skills tests. The tests cover pre-trip vehicle inspection, basic vehicle control, and on-road operations. There is not, however, any requirement for ongoing training. Lack of proper training may mean that newer drivers are more likely to panic in response to any unexpected hazard.
- Light load. The heavier the load, the less likely a jackknife will occur. Increased weight in the trailer makes the trailer less able to skid and swing a different direction. While a heavy load may make the risks of a jackknife accident go down, they increase the chance of a rollover.
No matter what the cause, a jackknife accident spells danger for anyone on the road.
How Can Truck Drivers Prevent Jackknifing?
While it may be impossible to completely avoid motor vehicle accidents, there are ways to prevent jackknifing. To avoid these types of truck accidents, truck drivers and their employers should:
- Require extensive and regular training: As mentioned above, driver inexperience is a notable cause of jackknife accidents. While additional training is not an obligation for securing a CDL, employers may choose to require training. Florida offers many training courses for commercial truck drivers. Truck drivers should seek out training that includes jackknife prevention tips. For instance, training may teach how to keep the trailer straight, how to steer in the direction of the skid, and ways to ease off the road. Ensuring that drivers have these basic skills will go a long way in reducing the number of jackknife accidents. Reducing the occurrence of accidents will reduce the number of accident-related fatalities and injuries.
- Monitor regular maintenance: Jackknife accidents can occur to even the most attentive driver. A poorly maintained truck has an increased risk of a jackknife incident. Jackknife accidents often happen when a driver has to brake suddenly. If some brakes are working harder than others, the imbalance can cause brakes to lock up. Locked up brakes may lead to skidding and jackknifing. Regularly brake maintenance is essential in avoiding jackknifing. All drivers should ensure that their truck receives scheduled maintenance and a full inspection before hitting the road.
How Dangerous Are Jackknife Accidents?
Certainly, jackknife accidents are highly dangerous. According to an analysis of fatalities in large car crashes performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 10 percent of fatalities are associated with a jackknife. This is particularly noteworthy given that, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) only 5 percent of large truck accidents are due to jackknifing. The frequency of fatalities in jackknife accidents is double the rate of their occurrence.
Common Injuries From a Jackknife Accident
Jackknife accidents are particularly dangerous because they have the potential to injure the driver of the truck and also nearby vehicles. As the truck spins out of control and blocks the roadway, chances are high that other drivers will crash into the truck. Often, other vehicles may crash into each other as they attempt to avoid the jackknife.
Given the size of a commercial truck and the likelihood that high speeds are involved, injuries can be severe. Common injuries suffered as a result of a jackknife accident include:
- Traumatic head and brain injuries. Any car that is traveling at a high speed when it impacts with another car increases the chance of head injury. Often, occupants strike their heads on objects in the car or are ejected from the vehicle. As such, head injuries are common, including skull fractures, lacerations, and brain injuries. Traumatic brain injuries are likely to have lifelong impacts.
- Spinal cord injuries: Given the force exerted on the vehicle and the body, serious spinal cord injuries often result from rollover accidents.
- Neck injuries: Occupants may experience whiplash, herniated discs, slipped discs, and nerve damage during a truck accident.
- Broken bones: As occupants brace themselves, or if they are thrown around the vehicle, they may suffer broken bones. Depending on the severity of the break, it may require surgical procedures and extensive physical therapy to properly heal.
- Cuts, bruises, and soft tissue injuries: The body is likely to take a beating during a jackknife accident, including significant bruising, torn ligaments, and pulled muscles.
If you have suffered any form of injury from involvement in a jackknife accident, seek medical treatment immediately. Even if you don’t believe you are injured, have a medical professional evaluate you. Adrenaline may mask serious injuries. Additionally, failure to seek prompt medical attention may limit your ability to seek insurance coverage. A medical evaluation following an accident may be critical to your ability to recover complete damages for your injuries.
Seeking Recovery for Injuries
After you have taken care of your immediate health needs, you may be wondering what options you have for recovery. First, you will need to determine whether another party was at fault for the accident. Because fault is necessary for successful recovery, be sure to get a police report documenting the accident.
Having the police on the scene can result in citations for violations of driving laws. Citations can be valuable evidence when proving fault. Also be sure to collect the names and contact information of any witnesses.
If you were the driver or an occupant in the commercial truck during a jackknife incident, you should consider whether:
- The actions of another vehicle created an environment that caused you to jackknife;
- Your employer required you to drive more hours or miles than allowed under federal law;
- Your employer failed to perform or limited your ability to perform routine or required maintenance on the truck; or
- The city failed to properly maintain the roads.
If you were in another vehicle that crashed due to the jackknife, it will be important to understand the underlying cause of the accident. You will also want to ensure that your vehicle and all its safety features performed appropriately, including the deployment of airbags. Failures in safety technologies in your car may have contributed to your injuries. If that is the case, the car manufacturer may be held responsible for the failure of the vehicle’s safety features.
Even if you are struggling to establish fault, you can likely recover under your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage. Florida is one of ten states that requires PIP auto insurance when registering a vehicle. PIP insurance allows the recovery of medical bills, lost wages, and death benefits by an injured driver. Recovery is permitted even if you are unable to establish that the driver was at fault. In Florida, PIP coverage is required for all owners of registered vehicles in an amount of $10,000. PIP insurance is meant to reduce delays in payment for injuries and decrease litigation of personal injury claims.
If you can establish fault, you will want to seek recovery for your damages, which can include:
- Medical bills;
- Future medical costs, such as continued care;
- Property damages;
- Loss of earnings and loss of future earning potential;
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of enjoyment of prior activities.
Some of these damages are straightforward, such as medical bills. On the other hand, loss of future earning potential or future medical costs require complicated calculations and predictions. These damages may require the use of an economist or testimony from a medical expert.
Once you have determined fault and calculated the damages you are owed, you can formulate a strategy for pursuing recovery. This may require filing claims and communicating with multiple insurance companies. It also may necessitate filing a lawsuit for recovery or negotiating for a settlement outside of court. No matter which path you choose, it is likely to be a complicated and stressful process.
Still Have Questions? Contact an Attorney for Answers
If you have experienced any injuries or are otherwise suffering after involvement in a jackknife accident, an attorney can help. An experienced attorney can help you understand your options for recovery. Because commercial trucks are federally regulated, a lawsuit after an accident can be particularly complicated. In addition, the process will require interactions with insurance companies.
You need an attorney who understands the complexity of truck maintenance and operation and the potential parties who might be responsible. An attorney will act as the trusted advisor by your side through every step of the process. An attorney can assist in establishing fault, understanding possible damages, and strategizing for a successful recovery.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765