North Dakota Jackknife Truck Accident Attorneys

Trucks on a stop at a light during inclement weather

If you have traveled near semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, and other oversized trucks, you have some idea of the sheer size and force these large vehicles carry with them. After all, you can feel their force of them by simply driving alongside them for mere seconds. Did you know, however, that a fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh over 80,000 pounds? This can spell disaster and devastation for other vehicles that are involved in accidents with these behemoths. 

The jackknife accident is one type of accident that is specific to semi-trucks and tractor-trailers and can leave a wake of destruction in its path. In a jackknife accident, the cab and trailer swing out in different directions so that the truck ends up positioned in an L or V shape. As the truck swings out in different directions, everyone on the roadway is at risk. In jackknife accidents, it is not uncommon to have several vehicles impacted. Roadways can shut down for several hours in the aftermath of a jackknife accident.

The terror that can be felt when you are driving and you see a tractor-trailer swing out into your path or into your vehicle really cannot be understated. The pain and severity of the resulting injuries also cannot be understated. Involvement in such an accident can be devastating. Unfortunately, claims involving these oversized trucks can be quite complicated. Get the benefit of experienced legal counsel that is well-versed in handling truck accident claims. The team at Pringle & Herigstad, P.C. is here to help during what is likely one of the most difficult times of your life.

Dangers of a Jackknife Accident

When a truck weighing thousands of pounds loses control so that its front and back ends end up pointing in different directions, you will likely be able to imagine some of the dangers associated with such a situation. For starters, trucks are more likely to flip over when they have jackknifed. This could crush nearby cars. The truck cargo could fly across the roadway causing further damage and accidents. The truck cargo could also be a hazardous material and thus create a whole other level of danger for those in the area.

A jackknifing truck does not leave nearby vehicles very much time to react if any at all. The truck can sprawl across the roadway, through several lanes of traffic going in different directions. The truck can strike other vehicles as it spreads out. It can also enter the direct pathway of other vehicles and only give them milliseconds to react, the result being that they end up colliding with the jackknifing truck.

Cars can be crushed. Vehicles on the roadway can crumple on impact or otherwise sustain serious damage. Drivers can be forced to make dangerous driving maneuvers like swerving off-road or into other lanes of traffic in an attempt to avoid the jackknifing truck. In any of these scenarios, those involved stand to sustain potentially devastating injuries as a result.

Top Causes of Jackknife Accidents

A truck jackknifes when there is a sudden and pronounced change in its speed. The breaks in the cab engage and it slows, but the momentum of the trailer behind keeps moving ahead. As a result, the truck’s trailer is forced out sideways at the point where it is connected to the cab. There are certain factors that can increase the risk of a truck jackknifing, including:

  • Curvy roads: Curvy roads not only require continuous changes in steering directions but also necessitate consistent braking and accelerating. These actions can increase the risk of a truck jackknifing as the trailer may swing out if the driver loses control.
  • Inclement weather: Inclement weather conditions, such as snow and rain, can significantly reduce visibility and make roadways slippery, which can increase the likelihood of trucks needing to brake quickly. This sudden change in speed, along with the reduced traction, can lead to a truck jackknifing.
  • Speeding: Speeding increases the risk that a truck may need to decelerate or stop suddenly to avoid hazards on the roadway or slowed traffic. This abrupt braking can easily cause the truck to jackknife, especially if the road conditions are less than ideal or if the load is unevenly distributed.
  • Distracted driving: Distracted driving takes the driver’s attention away from the road, increasing the likelihood of not reacting in time to slow down or steer correctly in response to road conditions or traffic. This delayed response can lead to situations where sudden braking or evasive maneuvers might cause the truck to jackknife.
  • Fatigued driving: Fatigue can significantly impair a driver’s reaction time, judgment, and ability to maintain focus on the driving task. A fatigued driver is more likely to make mistakes or fail to respond in time to changing road conditions or traffic patterns, increasing the risk of jackknifing during emergency braking or steering.
  • Overloading: An overloaded truck or one with an improperly secured load can be more difficult to control, particularly when braking or making sharp turns. The excess weight can lead to increased momentum, making it harder to stop the truck quickly without jackknifing. Additionally, if the load shifts unexpectedly, it can cause the trailer to swing out and potentially lead to a jackknife situation.

Who is Liable in a Jackknife Accident?

When large, commercial trucks are involved in an accident, the liability analysis can be a little more complex. When a jackknife accident occurs, it would be easy to say that the truck driver is to blame. Many times, this is the case and the truck driver can be held legally responsible for the damage they have caused. In addition to reckless driving maneuvers, truck drivers may have been driving while fatigued, driving in violation of federal regulation limits on driving hours, or may have been driving while intoxicated. These are all factors that can point to the truck driver being at fault for causing an accident.

In some cases, a trucking company may be held liable for a jackknifing accident. After all, trucking companies have a number of legal responsibilities when it comes to their drivers. For starters, truck drivers must receive proper training. Driving such a large vehicle can be complicated, not to mention the fact that there are a number of federal regulations drivers need to know about in order to remain in compliance with them. Additionally, a truck company has an obligation to maintain their trucks and document the hours a driver works. If a truck company has failed to properly maintain its fleet and retain the requisite records, it could be deemed liable for a jackknife accident.

North Dakota Personal Injury Attorneys Representing Jackknifing Truck Accident Victims

A jackknifing accident can cause devastation to the point where entire roadways must be shut down. If you have been injured in a jackknifing truck accident, you have been through enough. Let the dedicated personal injury team at Pringle & Herigstad take on the fight against the big insurance carriers and truck companies. We will fight to see you get the compensation you deserve for the harm you have suffered. Contact us today.