How many traffic reports do we hear about a California thoroughfare being blocked by a jackknifed truck? A jackknife truck accident often results in massive damage to property, serious injuries and, too often, fatalities. How do these accident occur and is the truck driver always at fault?
The Complex Triple Braking Systems of Big Rigs
The braking system of a tractor truck, hauling one or more trailers, is of a much greater complexity than any other vehicle on the road. There are actually three separate braking systems. There is one that controls the steering axle in the front, another that controls the driving wheels at the rear of the cab and a third that controls the trailer wheels. The truck driver must know exactly when, and how, to apply each braking system to slow the rig down safely. The elevated height of the cab provides the driver with better road visibility to anticipate a braking situation, providing time to slow down gradually. If the driver is abruptly forced to slow or stop, he has three options. He may lock the steering axle brakes, which will force the truck in a straightforward motion regardless of the steering angle. He might lock up the drive axles, which can often result in a jackknife. Or he may lock the trailer brakes, losing directional control of the rig. The best results in most emergency situations are gained by locking the steering axles. The steering ability will be lost but the rig will continue to slow in a straightforward motion. Any frequent driver of the interstates is familiar with an 18-wheeler locking the trailer brakes to slow down quickly, leaving a trail of smoke and rubber skid marks on straight sections of roadway
When a jackknife truck accident occurs, the truck and the trailer skid at a 90-degree angle to each other, in a position suggestive of a partially opened jackknife. This happens with greater frequency on wet surfaces or when a truck is moving too fast around a curve to handle it properly. The sliding rig may cross several lanes of traffic, striking other vehicles. The trailer may even sheer off the roof of a car. In other scenarios the tractor-trailer may turn over onto another vehicle or leave the highway and roll. The aftermath of a jackknife truck accident is rarely inconsequential.
Determining Fault in a Jackknife Accident
In many case the driver is at fault in a jackknife accident, but the blame can also be placed elsewhere in many other cases. If another vehicle cuts in front of the truck, forcing the driver to react suddenly, it is generally not the driver’s fault. If the highway in improperly maintained and a dangerous condition is devoid of warnings, the federal, state or county authority may be at least partially responsible. An overloaded or improperly loaded trailer may also be a contributing factor.
Investigating accidents involving big rigs is far more complex than those involving only passenger vehicles. Negligence must be proven in order for damages to be awarded. The negligence may be on the part of one or more parties. If you are involved in an accident with a jackknifed truck, an experienced truck accident attorney is invaluable. The attorney can have the accident reconstructed exactly the way it happened. Many factors may have played a part in the crash such as the speed and weight of the truck, the conditions of the road, and the number of hours the driver was behind the wheel. Inspection records of the truck are also critical. Accident reconstruction experts, provided by your attorney, can recreate the accident though virtual animation from evidence gathered from witnesses as well as the final resting place of all vehicles involved.
Trucking companies have powerful legal teams to defend them against claims. Vititoe Law Group has the experience and the resources to front the high cost of truck accident claims all the way though the justice system until the maximum settlement is reached. If you were injured in a truck accident or you lost a loved one, call Vititoe Law Group for a free evaluation of your case. Do not hesitate, as evidence will fade over time. Call 818 – 991-8900 today.