If you or a loved one were injured in a jackknife truck wreck, you may be wondering how to get medical treatment and how you can hold the responsible person or business accountable. Our South Carolina personal injury attorney team is here to help answer your questions and ensure you are treated fairly.
Trucking cases are often more complicated than the average car accident because they commonly cause life-changing injuries and are vigorously defended by the trucking company’s insurance carrier. At the Law Office of Kenneth Berger, we work to take everything off our clients’ shoulders so they can focus on healing.
From finding qualified medical treatment to handling insurance negotiations, our experienced legal team is dedicated to walking beside our clients through the legal process to ensure they get the help they need and that full justice is served. You can schedule a free consultation by calling our office at 803-790-2800 (Columbia, SC) / 843-427-2800 (Myrtle Beach, SC) to see how we can help you.
What is a Jackknife Truck Wreck?
A study by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) found that 87% of truck crashes included in the study are caused by driver error. One of the most common types of truck accidents involve a vehicle that “jackknifed.”
A jackknifed semi truck is a situation where the tractor (the front part of the truck that pulls the trailer) and the trailer (the part of the truck that carries the cargo) fold in on each other, creating an angle that resembles the shape of a jackknife.
This usually happens when the tractor and trailer are moving at different speeds or when the driver makes a sudden maneuver, causing the trailer to swing out of control.
These types of truck wrecks can be extremely dangerous, as it can spill dangerous cargo into the road or block entire highways. Some cars may not be able to stop in time to avoid the truck or the debris spilled onto the road, resulting in a wreck.
Causes of a Truck Jackknifing
A jackknife truck wreck happens when the driver of the truck loses control of their vehicle and some part of the truck loses traction. This can happen for a variety of reasons including:
- Improper training,
- Equipment failure,
- Inexperienced truck drivers,
- Driving at unsafe speeds and taking turns too quickly, or
- Distracted, fatigued, or impaired driving.
Who Can Be Held Responsible in a Truck Crash?
Wrecks involving semi trucks can be extremely complex, and there may be multiple parties that can be held accountable for any harm you may have suffered.
1. The Truck Driver
If the driver of the truck was negligent and not practicing safe driving, they can be held accountable for their reckless actions.
If the driver was speeding, for example, and had to suddenly stop or slow down, a jackknife truck wreck could certainly happen as a result. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that truck drivers driving just 10 miles over the speed limit in an 18-wheeler that is fully loaded significantly increases the risk of a jackknife wreck by 49 percent.
Jackknife truck wrecks also commonly happen when the driver is impaired, fatigued, or distracted. When a truck driver disregards the safety of other drivers and chooses to drive while they are impaired, distracted, or fatigued, they can be held accountable for the harm they cause.
2. The Trucking Company
If the driver of the truck was an employee of a trucking company, South Carolina law says the trucking company can also be held responsible for any harm the driver caused. Therefore, if a jackknife truck wreck was a result of the negligent actions of the driver, the trucking company can be held responsible as well.
Additionally, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has regulations that require trucking companies to ensure that all of their trucks are roadworthy before they are driven on our roads. This includes:
- Trucking companies having regular inspections on their trucks,
- Making immediate repairs when there is an issue, and
- Taking preventative maintenance measures.
If a trucking company does not take proper care of their trucks and fails to have the necessary policies in place for maintenance of their truck, they can be held liable for any accidents that happen as a result.
3. Cargo Personnel or Maintenance Services
When cargo personnel are loading a trailer on a semi-truck, the FMCSA requires them to make sure it is properly secured and does not shift while the truck is moving. Shifting cargo can throw off the balance of a semi-truck and can cause it to jackknife, especially on curves or when the semi is passing another vehicle. The FMCSA has specific requirements of weight and balance for each truck and trailer, and if these are not followed by loaders of the semi-truck, they can be held responsible.
Maintenance companies hired by the trucking company can also be held responsible if a maintenance issue with the truck causes a crash. Substandard maintenance practices or the failure of the mechanics to properly inspect, identify, and repair any issues with the truck can be held liable for a crash due to improper maintenance.
Compensation After Being Injured in a South Carolina Jackknife Truck Wreck
If you were injured in a jackknife truck wreck, you have the right to seek compensation for all your losses. In truck wreck cases, damages are often broken down into economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are documented and confirmed monetary losses that may have followed your accident. There can be a wide variety of economic damages, but common types of economic damages are:
- Medical bills,
- Lost wages or earnings,
- Property damage, or
- Future medical treatment.
Noneconomic damages are not awarded because of any loss of money or revenue. Instead, they are based on other types of harm that you may have suffered, such as:
- Pain and suffering, physical or mental,
- Loss of companionship, or
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Non-economic damages are more abstract and are connected to how your life has been impacted by the crash. Our legal team takes time to get to know our clients so that we can better understand how the crash and the harm it caused changed your life, so that we can better communicate it to the insurance companies.
Why You Should Hire a Truck Wreck Attorney
Not every case of a car accident will require an attorney, but when people are injured in truck crashes, it is wise to at least consult with a qualified truck wreck attorney. Semi truck wrecks can involve multiple defendants, and they are fiercely defended by insurance companies, who will want to pay out as little as possible.
An injury attorney can help make sure that your rights are protected against insurance companies, and can help you seek a full, fair result. Below are some of the ways an attorney can help make a difference in your case:
Request and Review Crash Data
Truck wreck attorneys can work to access data from the truck, such as a truck’s event data recorder, which tracks the truck’s speed, braking patterns, and drive time. This black box data can help paint the picture of what exactly caused the wreck by creating a timeline of the minutes leading up to the crash.
Data from the truck itself can be difficult to obtain, because the trucking company is not legally obligated to give it to you or they may try and destroy evidence before someone is able to investigate. An attorney can send a preservation letter to all involved to make sure that all relevant evidence is preserved so we can further investigate what happened.
A trusted trucking attorney can also:
- Identify and speak to eyewitnesses,
- Track down any video footage from business or highway surveillance cameras,
- Work with private investigators,
- Determine how many parties played a role in the wreck, and
- Investigate driver training history and maintenance and repair records
When looking to hire an attorney, it’s important to make sure that you hire an attorney with experience in complicated cases like crashes involving semi trucks. At the Law Office of Kenneth Berger, our team has handled numerous 18-wheeler crash cases. We know how to communicate your harm to the insurance company and will work tirelessly to investigate every aspect of your case to ensure all responsible parties are held accountable.
The client experience is also a top priority for every member of our team. We keep our clients informed every step of the way, so you feel empowered when making decisions for you and your family. To speak with a member of our team, contact us for a free consultation at our Columbia or Myrtle Beach Offices at 803-790-2800 (Columbia, SC) / 843-427-2800 (Myrtle Beach, SC). We look forward to speaking with you to see how we can help.