Watching a truck jackknife on the highway can be a terrifying experience. At that moment, you know that the truck driver has completely lost control, and you know that there is nothing that can be done to stop the truck from causing an extremely dangerous collision. Multi-vehicle pileups and severe injuries are common; and, tragically, many people lose their lives every year in commercial truck jackknife accidents.
What is the risk of a commercial truck jackknifing? According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), approximately one out of every 20 commercial truck accidents involves a jackknife. This amounts to roughly 2,500 jackknife accidents in the United States annually. These are frightening statistics; and, while trucking companies have adopted new crash avoidance technologies that are supposed to help reduce the risk of these types of accidents, jackknife accidents are still alarmingly common.
Jackknife Truck Accidents: Who is Liable?
For individuals who are injured and who lose loved ones in commercial truck accidents, determining who is liable is one of the first steps on the road toward recovering just compensation. While it is easy to assume that the driver who was behind the wheel of the truck was at fault, this may not necessarily be the case. Furthermore, even if the truck driver was at fault in the collision, it may be more viable to pursue a claim against the trucking company rather than to sue the truck driver directly.
Depending on the circumstances involved in a jackknife accident, a thorough investigation may reveal that one or more of the following parties is liable for the victims’ losses:
- The Truck Driver – While many truck drivers work as trucking company employees, some are independent contractors. If the driver either owns his or her own truck or leases it from a leasing company, then your primary option may be to file a claim against the truck driver’s insurer. However, you could still have other options as well.
- The Trucking Company – If the truck driver was at fault and he or she is employed by a trucking company, then the trucking company is likely to be “vicariously liable” for the driver’s negligence. In some cases, trucking companies can also be held liable for direct negligence, such as hiring unqualified drivers and forcing their drivers to exceed federal limits on consecutive hours spent behind the wheel.
- The Shipping Company – While driver negligence is one factor that can cause a commercial truck to jackknife, cargo loading errors can cause and contribute to jackknife accidents as well. Loading errors can make it more difficult for truck drivers to stop and increase the chances of the truck bed swinging forward under heavy braking. This includes exceeding the truck’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).
- The Truck Manufacturer – Manufacturing defects can also increase the risk of jackknife accidents. This includes both design defects (i.e. designing a truck in such a way that it is prone to jackknifing) and manufacturing defects (i.e. errors or deficiencies during the buildout process that increase the risk of a driver losing control).
- Another Driver (or Employer) – Did another driver swerve in front of the truck just before the accident? Did another vehicle hit the truck, causing the driver to lose control? In the aftermath of a truck accident, it is important not to overlook the possibility that non-truck-specific factors played a role in the collision.
Speak with a Commercial Truck Accident Lawyer for Free
This list is by no means exhaustive. From road conditions to maintenance issues, numerous other factors can lead to dangerous and deadly truck accidents. To speak with an attorney about your case in confidence, request a free consultation from Taos Injury Lawyers online today.