We Won $48.5 Million in a Truck Accident Case

In this case, we took more than 60 depositions in five different states. Because of Stephenson’s tireless advocacy, shortly before the trial was to commence, the defendants settled the case for $48.5 million.

When a large truck jackknifes on a highway, it can be terrifying to watch. Wheels squeal and the semi-trailer whips around, pulling the cab in an unnatural direction and sometimes into oncoming traffic. Despite his efforts, the truck driver completely loses control of the enormous vehicle, which can crash into other cars, SUVs, and motorcycles, spelling danger and even death for other motorists. Jackknifing commercial trucks can cause several-car pileups on the interstate.

A truck crash survey by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shows that one in 20 commercial truck crashes is due to a semi-trailer jackknifing. That’s about 2,500 jackknife truck accidents annually in America.

Several things can cause a vehicle to crash – inadequate driver training, vehicle design and manufacturing, weather, driver fatigue, drinking alcohol, road conditions, and speeding are all potential contributing factors in crashes, according to FMCSA. Also, a truck may have been loaded incorrectly, causing cargo to shift during transit, resulting in a jackknife truck accident.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a truck accident, you may be entitled to financial damages. The best way to find out if you qualify for compensation is to talk to a jackknife truck accident lawyer.

What Is a Jackknife Truck Accident?

“Jackknife” refers to an accident in which a large truck’s trailer folds around and is beyond perpendicular to the truck cab – in a shape like a folding pocketknife. That’s where jackknife gets its name. When a truck cab pulling a trailer skids or loses control, the trailer can push the towing cab from behind until it spins the cab around and is facing backwards. Improper braking, speeding, or road conditions can set a series of events in motion that result in a jackknife truck accident, severely injuring or killing other motorists on the road.

Trucking Industry FAQs

A lawyer for jackknife truck accidents answers your questions.

So many factors are at play when it comes to the trucking industry, and it’s not hard to see why jackknife truck accidents happen in Indiana. Whether you’re talking about a tanker truck accident, a commercial vehicle truck accident, or anything in between, serious injury and death can occur when things go wrong. Everything from the amount of freight to the level of a driver’s training can contribute to both the safety and dangers of trucking.

  • Commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements in Indiana are stricter than any other type of driver’s license and are based on stringent FMCSA regulations. Driving a commercial vehicle requires a higher level of knowledge, experience, skills, and physical abilities than those required to drive a non-commercial vehicle, and potential truck drivers must undergo dozens of hours of classroom and on-the-road training before applying for a license, according to FMCSA. Trucker training must take place at an approved driver training school.

  • A loaded semi-tractor trailer weighs an average of 80,000 pounds. Given that a mid-size car weighs about 3,350 pounds and a motorcycle weighs roughly 700 pounds, you can see why crashes with large trucks frequently result in serious injury or death for passengers in the smaller vehicles. Trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger vehicles and are taller, with greater ground clearance, which means that cars often wedge under trucks in crashes.

  • The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) reports there were 219,112 roadway crashes in the state in 2017, with 911 fatalities, according to the Indianapolis Star. Commercial vehicles were involved in 16,910 of those accidents, which resulted in 152 fatalities and 3,297 injuries.

  • Trucking is a $792 billion industry that hauls 72.5% of all freight in America and employs 6% of all full-time workers in the U.S. Trucking far outweighs railroads when it comes to the bulk of hauling across America.

  • U.S. 41 — running 300 miles from Chicago to Evansville — is the deadliest road in Indiana. There were more than 100 deaths on this road between 2008 and 2017.

  • There can be a few or several defendants in a jackknife truck accident. Depending on the cause of a crash, defendants can include the truck driver, trucking company, truck manufacturer, shipping company that loaded the trailer, or another driver.

What Causes Jackknife Truck Accidents?

Watch for warning signs of unstable or swerving trucks in Indiana.

There are several factors that can contribute to jackknife truck accidents – some are caused by human error, while others are the result of truck defects or shoddy maintenance. Following are some common conditions that lead to truck accidents:

  • Speeding due to tight delivery deadlines
  • Truck braking problems
  • Ice, snow, and rain on the roadway
  • Driver unfamiliarity with the roadway
  • Cargo shift in trailer
  • Driver use of alcohol or drugs
  • Inadequate driver training by the trucking company
  • Truck manufacturer defects
  • Road debris, potholes, and impediments
  • Poor vehicle maintenance by the trucking company
  • Driver fatigue or distraction.

In the truck crash study conducted by FMCSA, the three major types of critical events causing large truck crashes were:

  • Running out of the travel lane, either into another lane or off the road (32%)
  • Vehicle loss of control due to traveling too fast for conditions, cargo shift, vehicle systems failure, poor road conditions, or other reasons (29%)
  • Colliding with the rear end of another vehicle in the truck’s travel lane (22%).

The study also shows that in the crashes surveyed, 87% were caused by driver error, 10% were caused by vehicle error/defect, and 3% were caused by the environment.

Shortage of Truck Drivers Nationwide

There’s a serious nationwide shortage of truck drivers in America, which means that drivers on the job are in high demand and working maximum hours. This can lead to speeding, carelessness, and jackknife truck accidents. The U.S. truck driver shortage is estimated to be 80,000 drivers, and the driver shortage is expected to get worse. The American Trucking Association estimates that 1 million new truck drivers will have to be recruited in the next 9 years. The Association reports that the trucker shortage could rise to 160,000 by 2030 if recruitment isn’t expanded dramatically. New training programs are designed to get younger people into the truck driving profession. However, young drivers also mean less experienced drivers, and this can lead to a greater number of accidents.

Truck Accident Statistics

A total of 5,005 people were killed in large truck accidents in 2019, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). An estimated 159,000 people were injured in truck accidents that same year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) data shows that deaths were distributed in the following way:

  • 16% were truck occupants
  • 67% were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles
  • 15% were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.

An estimated 538,000 large trucks were involved in police-reported traffic crashes nationwide during 2019. According to NHTSA, other truck crash statistics include:

  • 77% of the fatal crashes involving large trucks in 2019 occurred on weekdays (6 a.m. Monday to 5:59 p.m. Friday).
  • Large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2019 had a higher percentage (22.9%) of previously recorded crashes compared to drivers of other vehicle types (motorcycles, 22.0%; passenger cars, 18.9%; and light trucks, 17.8%).

What If You’re in a Jackknife Truck Accident?

If you’ve been involved in a jackknife truck accident, ensure your own safety and follow these steps:

  • 01

    Call 911 and ask for police and emergency personnel to respond to the scene of the crash.

  • 02

    Accept medical treatment by EMTs, including transport to a hospital if needed.

  • 03

    Get the truck driver’s license and insurance information and write down the vehicle number or truck license plate number.

  • 04

    Get the names and contact info of any witnesses or bystanders.

  • 05

    If you are able, use your cell phone to take pictures of your injuries and the accident scene.

  • 06

    Answer police questions succinctly, but DO NOT overexplain or acknowledge fault for the accident.

  • 07

    Hire a jackknife truck accident lawyer to represent you.

Common Injuries in Indiana Truck Accidents

Large truck crashes can cause severe injuries and even death. Common injuries in these accidents can include:

  • Neck and spinal cord injuries
  • Back injuries
  • Brain injuries
  • Concussions and TBI
  • Internal bleeding
  • Broken bones
  • Burns
  • Organ damage
  • Cuts, lacerations, and road rash
  • Puncture wounds
  • Paralysis
  • Wrongful death

Stephenson Rife has been enormously successful in winning truck accident cases. We recently recovered $48 million in damages for one of our clients.

Stephenson Rife Gets Results

The jackknife truck accident lawyers at Stephenson Rife have won large settlements on behalf of injured clients who have suffered after being hit by a truck. Some of our most notable settlements include:

  • $48.5 million in a case that involved 60 depositions in 5 different states
  • $6.5 million for a victim with brain injury in a garbage truck accident
  • $3.97 million for a family of a man killed in a tractor trailer crash
  • $2 million in a case where a passenger in a vehicle was injured when struck by a delivery truck
  • $250,000 in a case where a young woman sustained severe injuries when a semi-truck pulled out in front of her vehicle.

The highly skilled and experienced Indianapolis truck accident lawyers at Stephenson Rife know how to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and build a powerful case on our client’s behalf.

Damages You May Be Entitled To

If you’ve been injured in a jackknife truck accident in Indianapolis, you may be entitled to a variety of compensation, including economic and non-economic damages. Some of these include:

  • Lost wages and future lost earnings
  • Medical and rehabilitative costs (current and future)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Mental anguish and emotional distress
  • Disability
  • Loss of enjoyment of life.

If the disregard for your safety was particularly egregious, a court can also award punitive damages in addition to the other damages. This financial compensation is meant to punish the trucking company, driver, or truck manufacturer for their conduct and to prevent future similar jackknife accidents from being caused by other truckers and companies.

How Do You Prove Negligence in a Jackknife Truck Accident?

There are certain elements that a plaintiff must prove to establish “negligence” in a jackknife truck accident lawsuit in Indiana. Your attorney must prove the following four elements:

  • Duty
  • Breach
  • Causation
  • Damages.

In a jackknife truck accident case, “negligence” refers to one party’s careless or reckless behavior that resulted in harm to the other person. That means the careless person is legally liable for the injuries inflicted on the other party.


The defendant owes the plaintiff a legal “duty of care,” which means, for example, that a trucking company must ensure that its trucks are well maintained and its drivers are adequately trained.


A plaintiff must show that the defendant breached this duty by doing, or failing to do, something that a reasonably prudent person would have done in a similar situation.


It’s not enough for a driver or trucking company to be acting negligently, but you must show that their negligence caused the jackknife truck accident that resulted in your injury.


Damages means that a plaintiff suffered costs – medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage – and there’s a way to compensate a plaintiff with money for their injuries and expenses.

Statute of Limitations on Large Truck Accidents in Indiana

Indiana has a statute of limitations (Indiana Code §34-11-2-4) of two years after the date of the jackknife truck accident to file a lawsuit in court. If you miss this deadline, a judge will likely dismiss your case. Time is of the essence, so don’t put things off. Make a call to a jackknife truck accident lawyer in Indianapolis to find out about your legal rights.

Contact Stephenson Rife Today

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a truck crash, you may be entitled to financial compensation. This is especially true if the accident was caused by someone else’s negligence. A jackknife truck accident lawyer at Stephenson Rife will fight hard to get the justice you deserve. To find out more about how we can help, call us for a free consultation at (317) 680-2350.

Attorney Mike Stephenson

Attorney Mike Stephenson has 40 years of experience and is a trusted advisor to many individuals and companies. His current practice is dominated by civil litigation in state and federal courts. He focuses much of his time on handling catastrophic injuries caused by all types of accidents, including motor vehicle, trucking, workplace injuries, product liability, just to name a few. Mike is a proven advocate and trial attorney. He has served as lead trial counsel in more than 100 civil jury trials, and has handled litigation in 18 states. [ Attorney Bio ]