The term "jackknife" accident refers to a commercial truck accident in which the cab and trailer fold so that they form a 90-degree angle instead of a straight line on the road. In other words, the truck resembles a pocketknife blade unfolded from its handle. It has the potential to cause catastrophic or fatal injuries to many other drivers and passengers with which it shares the road. It may be around 80,000 pounds and carry 28 feet of trailers. If you are a victim of a jackknife accident, an experienced Syracuse truck accident attorney at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano may be able to provide knowledgeable representation.Pursuing a Claim Based on a Jackknife Accident
Sometimes jackknife accidents are the fault of a commercial truck driver. They can be a result of excessive speed, curves, slippery roads, or heavy, imbalanced, or overloaded cargo. If a truck driver travels more than 55 mph, it becomes difficult for them to control the vehicle, and if they need to hit the brakes at this speed, there is an increased chance that the trailer will swing out. While most minor curves will not create a problem, when there is a steep angle, there is a higher probability that the trailer end may swing out, particularly at higher speeds. Similarly, a loss of traction can cause the cab and the trailer to slide and jackknife.
If you are seriously injured by a truck driver, you will likely need to establish their negligence in failing to drive safely. It may be helpful in showing that the jackknife accident was a result of the trucker’s unsafe actions to retain an accident reconstructionist to testify about what a reasonable truck driver would have done and how the defendant's actions deviated from that standard. For example, if a reasonable truck driver would not have sharply braked in a particular situation, and the driver’s braking was what caused the truck to jackknife and hit you, it may be possible to establish a breach of the duty to use reasonable care.
Often, an injury attorney will pursue damages from the truck driver's employer as well. When a truck driver was in the scope of employment at the time of the accident, it may be possible to hold their employer vicariously liable. An employee is acting in the scope of employment when they are doing something to further the obligations that they owe to the employer, and the employer could be exercising indirect or direct control over their activities. If a truck driver were running a personal errand at the time of the accident, it would not be possible to hold the employer vicariously liable.
In some cases, a trucking company is on notice of a truck driver's propensity to commit certain acts, such as drinking excessively or abusing drugs. If a truck driver's drunk driving during a rest break causes them to drive such that the truck jackknifes, we can look at whether there were any signs that should have put the employer on notice of the driver’s propensity for drunk driving. It may be possible to hold an employer liable under a theory of negligent hiring or retention, or negligent supervision, if it ignores red flags indicating an employee's unfitness for the job.
Sometimes trucking companies hire truck drivers as independent contractors specifically to avoid liability because employers are not liable for an independent contractor's negligent acts. However, even if an employer has designated the driver as an independent contractor, there may be an employer-employee relationship under the law that would allow us to hold the trucking company liable for the driver's negligence. Determining whether an employer-employee relationship exists depends on whether an employer exercises control over the work or the means used to get results. Factors to be considered include whether a worker works at their own convenience, is free to work in other employment, gets fringe benefits, is on the employer's payroll, or has a fixed schedule.
It is unusual, but sometimes trucks malfunction due to hydraulic or brake failure. In some cases, it may be possible to recover damages from a manufacturer due to a defective component of the truck.Hire an Experienced Syracuse Attorney Following a Jackknife Accident
If you are harmed in a jackknife accident, our law firm may be able to help you recover damages from responsible parties. DeFrancisco & Falgiatano represents people injured in truck accidents in Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton, Auburn, Elmira, Norwich, Cortland, Delhi, Herkimer, Watertown, Lowville, Oneida, Wampsville, Utica, Canandaigua, Oswego, Cooperstown, Ithaca, and Lyons. Call us at 315-479-9000 or contact us via our online form to discuss what caused your truck accident with an attorney.