Every day, tractor-trailers and other large trucks travel our nation’s highways. For the most part, these vehicles operate safely and without incident. However, there are times when something goes wrong and a truck accident occurs. One of the most dangerous types of truck accidents is a jackknife accident. This blog post discusses what causes jackknife accidents and what you should do if you’re in one.
What Is a Jackknifing Truck Accident?
A jackknife accident occurs when the trailer of a tractor-trailer swings out from behind the cab (where the driver sits), forming a 90-angle degree. This can happen for various reasons, but it’s commonly caused by sudden braking or other evasive maneuvers. When a jackknifing truck accident occurs, it can be very dangerous for both the truck driver and other motorists on the road.
How Many Jackknife Truck Accidents Happen?
Sadly, truck accidents are not uncommon. These can include semi-truck accidents, rollover accidents, and more, but jackknife accidents, in particular, are becoming more and more frequent. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Traffic Safety Facts report, there were 221 thousand total jackknife truck accidents across the US in 2019. Of those, 2,756 truck accidents were fatal, and 45 thousand resulted in minor or catastrophic injuries. Compare that to the same report from 2017, when there were 183 thousand accidents involving a jackknifing vehicle, and these accidents are clearly on the up.
What Makes a Jackknife Accident So Dangerous?
A jackknife accident can only happen when a truck has two separate parts: the cab and a trailer. Trailers often carry heavy cargo loads, making it difficult for truck drivers to steer the vehicle safely. If an accident happens, it can cause catastrophic — if not fatal — injuries.
When a Jackknife Truck Strikes Passenger Vehicles
Because of the sheer size and weight of commercial trucks, especially compared to passenger vehicles such as cars, a collision can cause severe damage. The jackknifing trailer may strike oncoming traffic, causing a chain reaction of crashes, a car may flip, or drivers may swerve to avoid the trailer and collide with other vehicles or crash into a barrier. Even at low speeds, truck accidents can cause life-changing injuries. At high speeds, drivers may be killed.
What Causes Jackknifing Accidents?
There are several reasons why this type of truck accident may occur. One common reason is taking a turn too quickly or sharply. Like when a car oversteers and a driver loses control of the rear of their vehicle, an oversteering truck causes the back to give out. However, because a trailer truck has a large, heavy trailer filled with cargo at its back, it can be far more dangerous. Because of this imbalance, the truck can not only jackknife, but it might also tip over.
Other common causes of jackknife truck accidents include:
If a truck driver needs to stop quickly and suddenly brakes, the trailer’s weight can cause it to swing out from behind the cab — and potentially hit other vehicles.
Sometimes, trucks jackknife due to an auto defect or equipment failure. Brake failures can cause the driver to easily lose control of their vehicle, leading to sudden maneuvers that throw a truck off balance, but that’s not the only type of failure that can happen.
The hitch, which secures the truck’s trailer to the cab, can deteriorate due to overuse or attaching heavier loads than it can support. When this breaks, it can cause jackknifing if the trailer doesn’t detach from the cab entirely.
Another leading cause of jackknife accidents is driving in poor weather conditions such as rain, sleet, or snow. This can make it hard to see the road ahead and brake to avoid hazards.
Speeding is also a major factor that contributes to jackknife accidents. When a truck goes too fast, it can be difficult to stop in time or take a turn without tipping over.
A large truck like a tractor-trailer takes 525 feet to come to a full stop when driving at 65mph — within the legal limit for Texas roads. If a trucker is speeding to reach their destination faster, it can have an even bigger impact, causing devastating injuries to truck accident victims.
Unqualified Truck Drivers
Large commercial vehicles like trailer trucks, semi-trucks, and 18-wheelers require extensive knowledge, training, and experience to operate safely. The trucking company a driver works for is responsible for ensuring their employees have a commercial driver’s license for the type of truck they’re driving and up-to-date training, so they know how to prevent motor vehicle accidents.
If a truck company allows an inexperienced or unqualified truck driver on the road, the trucker might not be familiar with the proper way to brake or turn, which can lead to them losing control of the vehicle and causing a jackknifing truck accident.
Who Is Liable for Jackknifing Accidents?
If you’re in a jackknife accident that wasn’t your fault and wish to claim compensation, you need to know who is liable for the crash. Often, the truck driver is at fault, as they directly caused the collision. However, the buck rarely stops there. Truck accidents are complex, and multiple parties may be responsible, including the trucking company, a cargo company, a truck manufacturer, or a third party.
This makes it vital for you to seek advice from an experienced truck accident attorney. They can advise you on your legal options, help you determine how the accident happened and all potentially liable parties, and fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
What to Do If You’re in an Accident with a Jackknifing Truck
A jackknife accident can result in you sustaining severe injuries. Here’s what to do if you’re in an accident.
Report the Accident
Providing you’re safe and able, your first step should always be to phone 911 and tell the police about your accident — even if you think someone else may have already made the call.
During this time, documenting the scene yourself can also be helpful. If possible, take photographs of your injuries and note the contact details of any other drivers involved or witnesses to the accident. When the police arrive, they’ll secure the scene and ask you questions about what happened. Remember that this will go into a crash report, which forms a vital piece of evidence you can rely on in a compensation claim. If you were not at fault, be careful about making statements that the other party could interpret as guilt, such as “I didn’t see…” or “I should have…”.
Seek Medical Attention
Your next step should be going to the hospital or doctor to get your injuries seen to. Even seemingly minor injuries can get worse over time, so it’s crucial to start treatment for any visible injuries and have scans and tests to determine if you’ve sustained any invisible injuries, such as internal damage or brain trauma. Your medical records provide valuable evidence for a personal injury claim, as they show the extent of your injuries and when they occurred. This prevents the other party from claiming you sustained the injuries after your accident.
If you’re worried about paying your medical bills, a truck accident lawyer can recover these costs as part of your compensation payout and arrange to delay payment until your claim is resolved.
How a Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help after a Jackknife Truck Accident
If you or a family member has been involved in a jackknife truck accident, it is vital to seek legal help as soon as possible. You could be entitled to a significant sum to cover your medical expenses and lost wages and compensate you for your pain and suffering. Truck accident cases can be very complex, but an experienced attorney will navigate the legal system and fight for the compensation you deserve.
This includes investigating the accident, gathering evidence to support your claim and prove who was responsible for your accident, and negotiating with insurance adjusters (representatives of the other party’s insurance company) to secure a fair settlement.
This type of truck accident can cause catastrophic injuries, but you don’t need to suffer alone. Our truck accident attorneys in San Antonio and McAllen can file a personal injury claim on your behalf, negotiate with the liable party’s insurance company, and get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today by calling 855-LAW-NINJA for a free consultation.