We all have to pick up groceries, and businesses need to receive supplies to keep running, which means semi-trucks are a necessary part of everyday life in Virginia. While they typically reach their destination safely and drivers follow the law, negligent behavior sometimes causes accidents like a “jackknife.” This serious type of tractor-trailer crash can cause devastating injuries or deaths —whether it takes place at high speed on the highway or in slower traffic on a typical Richmond street.
How Jackknife Truck Accidents Occur
Trucks usually jackknife due to an abrupt change in speed, such as if the vehicle skids on ice and the driver overcorrects or if the brakes are hit suddenly. The “jackknife” part of the accident occurs when the cab and trailer begin moving in different directions and point away from each other at an angle like a partially opened folding knife.
During this type of accident, the trailer and cab can tip over or they may remain upright while skidding across the road. The truck may crash into other drivers on its own while skidding, but if the trailer ends up perpendicular to the road, multiple vehicles may collide with the truck on either lane before they can stop.
Regardless of how the vehicle ends up in its final position, the jackknife may have been caused by:
- Automotive part defects, like faulty brakes
- Cargo loading issues such as improperly stored cargo that shifts during transit, or overloaded trailers burdened by too much weight
- Distracted or drowsy driving, often involving logbook violations
- Poor weather conditions including ice, snow, and rain
- Negligence in trucking company hiring, training, and maintenance practices
- Reckless or aggressive driving
What to Do If You’ve Been in a Virginia Jackknife Truck Accident
Unlike a minor fender bender, jackknife accidents often result in a severe financial burden for victims—from medical debts to out-of-pocket costs not covered by insurance and mounting bills if you aren’t able to immediately return to work. You may need to seek compensation covering:
- Amputations or disfigurement
- Broken bones
- Cuts and lacerations
- Economic damages like the inability to work during your hospital stay or loss of future earning capacity
- Mental health issues like PTSD, anxiety, and depression
- Ongoing expenses if you require therapy or future surgeries
- Spinal cord injuries and possible paralysis
- Traumatic brain injury, which may be either “open” if your skull is penetrated or “closed” if your brain is damaged by a sudden shift in movement and speed during the collision
After experiencing a jackknife accident, make sure to document the scene with photographs if possible and gather eyewitness contact info. You may not always be able to take these steps on your own depending on the extent of your injuries, however. No matter how hurt you feel or even if you lack any visible wounds, always visit a medical professional as soon as possible after a jackknife truck accident. You need a doctor to check for internal injuries and establish that any wounds you sustained were caused by the collision.
After seeking medical attention, it is then critical to contact an attorney with experience in accidents involving trucks, tractor-trailers, and other large vehicles. Due to the size of the cargo trucks in a jackknife accident, there are often more than just two vehicles damaged in the collision. Unfortunately, a multiple-vehicle collision can complicate recovering damages, whether you are seeking a settlement from insurance or taking the at-fault driver or trucking company to court.
A skilled truck accident attorney can help on that front by investigating the crash and determining who is specifically at fault and how the accident occurred. The at-fault party responsible for your injury may be the crew that loaded the cargo, the trucking company who hired and trained the driver, a maintenance team, the manufacturer of a faulty part, or even another driver altogether who first hit the truck and caused the jackknife.