Jackknife Truck Accident Lawyer in California
Any car accident can cause damage, but when a large commercial truck is involved, the likelihood of that damage is much greater and issues of negligence and liability are more complex. Semi-trucks weigh about 80,000 pounds and are about 72 feet long. Add to that the weight of cargo, and the likelihood of injury and property damage increases significantly.
Because truck drivers are employees of the trucking company and the operation of transporting goods to other locations in these trucks can involve many parties, negligence and liability aren’t always clear cut. Negligence means that someone failed to act with the ordinary care that a reasonable person would under the same conditions. An example of negligence is a driver who checks his phone messages while driving. Liability means that you are legally responsible for damage caused by your negligence. Let’s say that because the trucker in our previous example checked his phone, he didn’t have time to properly engage his brakes, and slammed into a car. His negligence caused damage that he is now liable for. But the liability may not be his alone. Did his employer demand that he respond to messages while driving? Was the truck loaded in a way that made the truck more dangerous to stop? These scenarios involving truck accidents in California can require some legal untangling, and a skilled attorney can help victims of semi-truck accidents recover fairly for their damages.
The California truck accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates are dedicated to protecting your legal rights and helping you get the compensation you are entitled to. With multiple offices located in Irvine, Anaheim, Los Angeles, El Segundo, San Diego and Riverside, our lawyers represent big rig crash victims all across California. To schedule a free consultation with one of our truck accident lawyers, call 949-727-9300.
What is a Jackknife Accident?
Jackknifing is a particularly dangerous type of traffic accident in which an articulating truck skids or swerves on the highway. The trailer swings out to the side of the cab forming a shape similar to an opening jackknife, such as an “L” or a “V.” While the cab moves forward, the trailer swings out into the road on one side. Because these trucks are so big and heavy, accidents involving them can be catastrophic and involve multiple vehicles and severe injuries.
What Causes Jackknife Truck Accidents in California?
While accidents can happen in any vehicle there are many reasons that big trucks are especially susceptible to them.
- Driver Mistake
The most common cause of most semi-truck accidents in California is driver error, and large truck accidents are no exception. Like any other driver on the road, a truck driver can be reckless or careless. They can be distracted or tired. The most common cause of commercial truck accidents is improper braking by the driver. These vehicles have three different braking systems, making driving more complicated than your average passenger vehicle. If the wrong brake is applied, the front wheels can lock, while the rear wheels keep moving. This can be due to simple human error or a symptom of an improperly trained driver.
- Road Conditions
Icy and slippery roads due to weather can also cause Jackknife truck accidents in California. So can other unforeseen road hazards such as large items on the road.
- Improper Vehicle Maintenance
Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules, a trucking company must systemically inspect, repair, and maintain all of its vehicles. However, if a company does not keep up with maintenance, their negligence could cause a trucking jackknife accident.
- Improperly Loaded Trailer
Because semi-trucks are so heavy and the cargo they carry can be quite heavy as well, the weight distribution of that cargo can have a huge impact on the driver’s control over the vehicle. If trucks are not loaded properly, the driver is likely to miscalculate braking distance turning speed, and more.
While any one of these scenarios can be enough to cause a truck to jackknife in California, in many circumstances, it is a combination of two or more negligent acts.
What Should You Do If You are Involved in a Jackknifing Accident?
If you are involved in any motor vehicle accident, safety should be your priority. Check yourself and any passengers for injuries and wait for paramedics to arrive. If you have access to a phone call the police to report the accident and if necessary, request medical help. Even if the accident is relatively minor, a police report will be useful when you file a claim with insurance or against other parties.
Remain calm and stay at the accident site until the police arrive. Leaving the site could be constructed as a hit-and-run and you could be charged with a crime. If you exit your vehicle, do so on the side opposite the road and be aware of your surroundings.
If possible, take pictures of any injuries you or your passengers have sustained. Take pictures of any damage to your vehicle or property. The scene will likely not be preserved for long. Once the police arrive to make their assessments, they will assign a crew to clean up potential evidence that is obstructing traffic.
Once the police arrive, they will start their investigation and interview you. Be honest and direct in your answers, but do not admit any fault. Even seemingly innocent phrases like “I’m sorry,” are open to misinterpretation, and the police could see such phrasing as admissions of fault. The report will be very important if you decide to pursue a legal claim in a jackknifing accident so include as many details as possible.
If for some reason the police do not arrive at the crash site, exchange information with the other drivers involved, including insurance information.
If your injuries are not severe enough to be hospitalized, consider following up at an urgent care center or with your primary physician. Sometimes injuries are not immediately apparent. Any medical records confirming the accident and injuries suffered will be helpful if you decide to pursue legal action.
Report the accident to your insurance company and contact an attorney. An attorney can help you decide the best course of action moving forward.
Determining Fault in a Jackknife Accident
In a typical California car accident, liability is fairly easy to determine. People usually drive a personal vehicle they own and have insured. Determining liability in an accident involving a commercial truck in Southern California is more complicated. The truck drivers are not usually the vehicle owners, and there are other parties responsible for car safety and sometimes other parties who dictate a driver’s behavior. These are some of the parties who may be liable in a commercial truck accident:
The Truck Driver
Most truck accidents are caused by driver error, which means in most cases, the truck driver will bear some responsibility. Truck drivers receive extensive training and carry a special commercial driver’s license in California, but, like all people, they are still capable of committing errors in judgment. Often, truck driver error can be attributed to various other factors, one or more of which may point to a secondary liable party. A truck driver will be liable if he or she failed to adhere to traffic laws, drove under the influence of alcohol or drugs, drove fatigued or recklessly, failed to take his or her required breaks, or any other negligent behaviors. It is also possible that demands from employers led to some of his or her negligent behavior and therefore, the liability stemming from driver negligence may also extend to his or her employer.
If a company contributed to the driver’s negligent behavior, through their own negligence, through expectations or policies set for drivers, or in any other way, they can also be held liable for damages.
Commercial Truck companies have a duty to make sure their drivers are qualified and competent. They must make sure their drivers are properly licensed and schedule random drug and alcohol screenings. If a trucking company in the United States did not perform due diligence to make sure their drivers meet company and legal standards, they will share in liability. In other cases, a driver’s fatigue could be a result of unreasonable expectations set by the company. Commercial trucking companies must follow the regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as well as state regulations. The FMCSA determines a cap on how many hours a driver can drive before taking a break. If s company disregards these rules and puts a driver’s, and by extension all motorist’s, safety in danger by demanding long hours, they might be liable for damages
Federal regulations also dictate truck maintenance requirements. Without proper maintenance, these big trucks can become a danger on the road. Most companies hire maintenance crews who are responsible for performing routine truck maintenance and fixing any problems before trucks go back out on the road. If a company fails to maintain trucks properly, they might be liable for damages.
If the loading company was negligent in the way it loaded a truck, they can also be liable for damages caused by a jackknife accident in California. Cargo that is not loaded properly can lead to an imbalance in the weight distribution, making it more likely for a truck to jackknife.
Overloading cargo can also be dangerous because it can cause a truck to tip over in motion or tax the braking system. Cargo that is not properly secured can also lead to accidents. These are a few examples where the loading company will bear some liability for damages caused by their negligence.
Truck Part Manufacturers
Even small defects in truck parts design can cause catastrophic accidents. Commercial trucks are large, complex vehicles which means there are a lot of parts that all need to function correctly to keep drivers safe. Manufacturers have a duty to make sure all parts they make are in safe, working order. If a manufacturer has issued a recall, liability may fall back to the trucking company for failure to update. An attorney can help you determine which situation, if any, applies to your case.
Trucking accidents can lead to substantial injuries and massive damages. Claims can be made even more complicated by the issue of liability, which is rarely straightforward. Our skilled jackknife accident attorneys in California can help you navigate all your legal options. Contact us today for a consultation.
Contact an Experienced California Jackknife Truck Accident Attorney
The Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates have the most experienced truck accident lawyers who are dedicated to protecting your legal rights and helping you get the compensation you deserve.
We have multiple offices in Southern California including Irvine, Los Angeles, El Segundo, San Diego, and Riverside. Our attorneys represent big rig crash victims in California. Schedule a free consultation with an experienced jackknife truck accident lawyer by calling 949-727-9300.