Tractor trailers haul goods into Vermont for sale in our stores, and they are hard to miss on our highways. Tractor trailers have two parts—the tractor in front and the trailer in back, coupled at a “fifth wheel” attachment between them. The trailer can swing out at an angle like the blade in a Swiss Army knife, which is how this type of accident got the name “jackknife.” Technically, there’s nothing wrong with jackknifing when a tractor-trailer needs to make a turn. But it’s when these vehicles are attempting to drive straight on the road that a jackknife can turn deadly.
Larson & Gallivan Law can help those hurt in jackknife accidents. You might have been driving beside a big rig when the trailer mowed you down, or you could have been parked at the side of the road when it smashed into you. Our Vermont truck accident lawyers can discuss your legal options in a free consultation.
Causes of Jackknife Accidents
Jackknife accidents should not occur when a truck is driving straight. Unfortunately, this is a fairly common accident in Vermont for a variety of reasons. Most jackknifes are caused by:
- Improperly loaded cargo. The cargo in the trailer might cause a jackknife if it is not balanced and secured. Unsecured cargo can shift, which shifts the center of gravity on the truck. As a result, the trailer might swing out and slam into other motorists.
- Sudden braking. Truckers who brake too suddenly can cause the wheels to lock up, and the trailer will swing out to the side naturally.
- Poor road conditions. Snow or ice on the road can cause the trailer to lose traction and increase the odds it swings wildly to the side. This is one reason why Vermont sees many jackknife crashes.
- Speeding. Driving too fast often means that the truck needs more room to stop. Speeding increases the risk of sudden braking when something darts in front of the truck.
- Turning uphill or downhill. Making a turn while on an incline is an easy way to cause a jackknife, and possibly even a rollover. Truckers must exercise real care when doing so.
Jackknife accidents can also lead to pile ups on the highway. These are very dangerous multi-vehicle collisions which can cause death and disability.
Negligence Causes Many Jackknife Accidents
Negligence is often the root cause of truck collisions. A trucker or some other person was not acting carefully, which is why the jackknife accident happened. Some examples of negligence include:
- Distraction. A trucker who is on a cell phone or busy eating while the truck is in motion might not be paying careful attention. Consequently, the trucker must slam on the brakes to avoid a crash. Inadequate surveillance is a leading cause of all truck accidents, including jackknifes.
- Inadequate training. Truckers who are not trained properly won’t know how to drive in complex driving environments. They also might be inexperienced in driving during winter, especially if they are hauling from Mexico or a southern state. Some truckers also do not know how to ensure that cargo is properly secured before they take off.
- Fatigue. A tired trucker is more likely tospeed, fall asleep, and drift across the center line. Sudden movements on slick roads can lead to a jackknife accident.
- Substandard truck maintenance. Problems with the vehicle itself can contribute to a jackknife. For example, the brakes might be faulty or tires could fail to grip the road properly in snow or rain. These defects can cause a jackknife even when the trucker is driving as carefully as possible.
- Chemical impairment. A trucker who is high on drugs or intoxicated could speed without knowing it or take some other risk, like sudden braking, which leads to a preventable jackknife. Many truckers use illegal substances to help them get through the week, but innocent motorists pay the price.
Bringing a Legal Claim
A jackknife accident can cause horrifying injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, fractures, whiplash, spinal column injuries, and organ damage. Fully loaded trailers carry several tons of freight, and they can destroy your car when they smash into it.
Once we identify who is to blame, we can submit a legal claim for compensation. The possible defendants we sue can include:
- Negligent truckers, who speed, make dangerous turns, or lose control of a truck
- Trucking companies that fail to train or supervise their truckers
- Mechanics for substandard repairs to the vehicle which contribute to a collision
- Loading companies for failure to balance and secure the load
- Municipalities, if road hazards contributed to a preventable wreck
You deserve meaningful compensation for this type of collision. For example, your car was probably totaled in the crash. We can seek compensation for repairs or to replace it. It is only fair that a negligent trucker or other entity pays for this damage.
Additionally, we have sought money damages for income loss, medical treatment, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Few crashes are as horrifying as a jackknife, which can land you in the hospital for months. Many truck accident victims also struggle with psychological injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
If a trucker was drunk or high, we might also pursue punitive damages. A person who drives a big rig while impaired is more than simply careless or negligent. They exhibit the type of reckless disregard for other people’s safety that warrants punitive damages as a punishment.
Call Our Vermont Truck Accident Lawyer following a Jackknife
The lawyers at Larson & Gallivan Law understand truck accidents inside and out. These are complicated events, and it is not always obvious who is responsible for the wreck. That is why you should reach out to our law firm. We can help investigate the collision, talk to witnesses, and pin down who is ultimately at fault for the jackknife. Then we can negotiate a favorable settlement for you.
The trucking company does not have your best interest at heart, but we do. Please call us today to schedule a meeting.