Jackknife Accidents

Jackknife Accidents

Jackknife accidents involving tractor-trailers are serious concerns for anyone who spends time on the road. Despite being uncommon, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that around 5% of all truck crashes are jackknife incidents.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a jackknife truck accident, you may have legal options. Trucking Injury Law Group can assist with your case.

Whether you’re located in a major city or a smaller town, our experienced lawyers throughout the country are ready to discuss your case.

What Is a Jackknife Truck Accident?

jackknife truck accidents

A jackknife accident is a dangerous situation that can occur when a truck’s trailer folds toward its cab at a 90-degree angle. This folding action can cause the truck to lose control and lead to multi-vehicle road accidents. The name “jackknife” comes from the way the trailer swings out like a folded pocket knife.

When a trailer skids, it can create a hazard on the road, covering several highway lanes. Jackknife truck accidents can result in serious injuries or fatalities for drivers, passengers, and other road users.

Common Causes of Jackknife Truck Accidents

There are many reasons why a truck would jackknife on the road. Some of these most common ones include:

Brake Failure and Mechanical Malfunction

In many cases, jackknifing is directly caused by a failure of the brakes. If the truck’s brakes malfunction or do not engage properly, the driver could lose control over the vehicle. As a result, there is an imbalance between the tractor cab in the front and the trailer in the back. These situations cause the trailer to swing out from the rest of the vehicle, leading to a jackknife.

Other mechanical faults can also lead to these incidents. If there are problems with steering or suspension components, that can also lead to jackknifing. With regular maintenance and inspection, these accidents may be prevented.

Speeding and Sudden Maneuvers

Speeding is a major factor in many accidents, especially jackknifing incidents. When a truck travels too fast around a curve or slippery road, the trailer can skid. As a result, the truck can push the trailer sideways. With an abrupt shift in momentum, the trailer will fold towards the cab.

Along with that, any sharp turns or lane change can also lead to a jackknife. Once again, a sudden maneuver is just enough to overpower the tractor and cause the trailer to fold.

Trailer Load Distribution

If the cargo is not properly loaded, it can affect the vehicle’s stability. Unevenly distributed cargo often causes the trailer to skid or sway during braking, becoming unbalanced and jackknifing on the road.

Driver Training and Experience

All drivers need to be properly trained to handle these massive vehicles on the road. If they don’t have the skills, training, or experience to drive on various road conditions, it can lead to an accident. These drivers must also have the skills to anticipate hazards and apply defensive driving techniques. Unfortunately, new drivers or those without the right training can contribute to jackknifing situations.

Weather Conditions

Rain, snow, ice, or strong winds reduce traction between the tires and the road surface. Slippery conditions make it challenging to maintain control, especially during braking. On icy roads, a truck’s wheels can lock up during braking, leading to a skid. If the trailer skids while the tractor continues moving forward, jackknifing occurs.

Why Are Jackknife Accidents So Dangerous?

Jackknife accidents are one of the most dangerous types of accidents that can occur on the roadways. This sudden and unpredictable movement can cause the driver to lose control of the entire vehicle, making steering and braking extremely challenging.

One of the primary reasons why jackknife accidents are so dangerous is because they can happen very quickly and without warning. When a truck jackknifes, the driver may have only seconds to react and attempt to regain control of the vehicle. Unfortunately, due to the size and weight of the truck, it can be very difficult to avoid a collision once the trailer begins to swing out of control.

Let’s look at a few more reasons why these accidents are so hazardous to other drivers.

Loss of Control

Another reason why jackknife accidents are so dangerous is because they often result in a complete loss of control over the entire vehicle. Once the trailer folds sharply towards the cab, the tractor and the trailer are no longer aligned. With that, it is nearly impossible to steer or brake effectively. This loss of control can put the lives of the driver and other motorists at risk.

Multi-Vehicle Collisions

A jackknifed vehicle can lead to multi-vehicle accidents. Many times, this can block multiple lanes of traffic, causing chaos on highways or busy roads. The obstruction can lead to other vehicles colliding with the truck or each other while trying to avoid the obstacle. This chain reaction causes a domino effect of collisions since drivers near a jackknifed truck have limited escape routes. They may be trapped between the truck and other vehicles, barriers, or guardrails. These types of accidents can be particularly dangerous. Often, these result in severe injuries or even fatalities.

Increased Risk of Rollovers

If the truck’s wheels lose traction with the road surface, it may flip over. Rollovers can cause severe injuries and fatalities to the driver, passengers, and other road users. They can also result in property damage and traffic congestion.

Cargo Spillage

When a truck jackknifes, it can cause the cargo it’s carrying to spill onto the road. In these cases, the spillage can pose additional risks to other drivers and emergency responders who may be called to the scene. The cleanup process can also be time-consuming and require specialized equipment and personnel.

Liability Challenges for These Accidents

Several individuals or entities can potentially be held liable for causing or contributing to the incident. One of the primary parties that may be held accountable is the driver of the semi-truck. The driver may be liable if their negligence or improper braking caused the accident. Along with that, speeding, sudden evasive maneuvers, or impaired driving due to alcohol, drugs, fatigue, or distractions can play a major role in these accidents.

Another party that can be held responsible for the jackknife accident is the trucking company or employer. If the trailer was overloaded or loaded improperly, or if the company failed to maintain the vehicle adequately, they may share liability for the accident. The owner of the semi-truck or trailer may also be liable if they neglected proper maintenance or failed to address mechanical issues that contributed to the jackknife accident.

Other drivers on the road who caused the semi-truck driver to make sudden evasive maneuvers could also share liability. For example, if another vehicle cuts off the truck abruptly, leading to the jackknife, that driver may be accountable for the accident.

Additionally, government entities responsible for road maintenance or design could be liable if inadequate signage, poor road surface, or lack of proper drainage led to the accident.

In some cases, the owner of the cargo being transported may share liability. Improperly secured or unevenly distributed cargo can affect stability and contribute to jackknifing.

Finally, if a defect in the truck or its parts, such as brakes, tires, or steering components, directly caused the jackknife, the manufacturer could be liable.

Determining liability in a jackknife accident can be complex. It often involves investigations, legal proceedings, and expert analysis. If you’ve been injured in a jackknife accident, you will want to reach out to an experienced team of legal professionals, like those at Trucking Injury Law Group, to assess your case.

How the Trucking Injury Law Group Can Assist

When dealing with jackknife incidents or other trucking accidents, having an experienced legal team like the Trucking Injury Law Group can make a difference.

We understand that these accidents are often the result of reckless, negligent, and wrongful actions. For that reason, we are committed to holding these responsible parties accountable for their actions. Our team will work to help you get the maximum compensation for your case.

At Trucking Injury Law Group, our legal pedigree comes from the most prestigious law firms on the West Coast. We were founded by three top lawyers in the trucking accident industry with the experience and skills to take on these negligent trucking companies and their insurance companies.

With our expertise, dedication, and proven success, Trucking Injury Law Group is a reliable choice for those seeking justice and compensation after a truck crash. If you would like to learn more about how we can help, contact us today for a free consultation.