Truck Jackknife Accidents

Jackknife Accidents

All accidents involving a tractor-trailer have the potential to be very dangerous or even deadly. Few are as scary as a jackknife accident, in which the cab and trailer face different directions and the truck is prone to flipping over.

When a truck is suddenly sprawled across the roadway in front of you, you have very little time to react. Jackknife accidents can cause multi-vehicle crashes that can shatter the lives of the many people involved.

If this has happened you or your family, you know the terrible suffering that follows a truck accident. You need to know that there is help. It is essential that you speak with an experienced lawyer.

The truck accident lawyers at Fried Rogers Goldberg devote at least three-quarters of our practice to truck accident cases. We know from experience that jackknife accidents can be devastating, and we also know how to help victims and their families.


What is a Jackknife Accident?

A jackknife occurs when the trailer portion of the truck swings to the side, eventually pointing at a 90-degree angle from the cab. Think of it as a capital L, with the longer side as the trailer. The trailer is often loaded with tens of thousands of pounds of cargo.

There are many obvious dangers. The trailer can hit other vehicles as it swings out. The vehicle becomes wider than a single lane, potentially causing numerous accidents as it barrels down the road before stopping. Half of all truck accident deaths occur on non-divided, two-lane roads, meaning an oncoming car may hit the trailer head on.

Lastly, a jackknifing truck is at a serious risk of overturning, creating a huge hazard on the highway, potentially spilling dangerous cargo and risking catching fire.

What Causes a Truck to Jackknife?

Jackknife accidents occur due to a drastic, sudden change in speed, such as slamming on the brakes. When the cab stops, the trailer’s momentum keeps moving forward, and it has no place to go but to pivot sideways where it connects with the cab.

Certain factors increase the risk of a jackknife accident. They include:

      • Curvy roads
      • Bad weather
      • Speeding

Common Jackknife Accident Injuries

Truck accidents can cause a wide range of injuries, including:

      • Broken bones
      • Burns
      • Concussion
      • Traumatic brain injuries
      • Back/Spine injuries
      • Internal injuries
      • Contusions

Treating the injuries that can follow a jackknife accident is costly and painful. As medical bills pile up, your family may face an uncertain future.

Jackknife accidents can pose a serious risk of death. A report by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis concluded that jackknife accidents account for 10 percent of all truck-related occupant fatalities. In nearly all cases, the truck was a single trailer, not a double.

The study also found that trucks carrying a lighter load appear to be more likely to jackknife.

Jackknife Accident Injuries

How Truck Drivers Can Avoid Jackknifing

When you’re driving a vehicle that can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, it’s impossible to be too cautious. Driving safely and following all traffic laws is the first and foremost way a trucker can avoid any accident.

Additionally, a driver should:

      • Keep ample distance from other vehicles
      • Drive appropriately for weather conditions
      • Keep eyes on the road at all times to ensure maximum response time
      • Use brakes lightly and/or gradually

Because jackknifes most often occur when the brakes are suddenly engaged, a driver can limit the risk of a jackknife by applying the brakes, then letting off, then applying them again. Taking evasive action without using the brakes can also reduce the risk of jackknifing.

Of course, this is not always possible if the driver is responding to a sudden hazard. But driving prudently will ensure maximum time to respond to any sudden emergency. This is not just true of truck drivers – it’s a tip the rest of us on the road should follow, too.

Who is Liable in a Jackknife Accident?

Liability in truck accidents is different from regular car accidents. The first potentially liable person is, of course, the driver of the truck that hit you. The driver may have been violating traffic laws or on the road more hours than allowed. It is particularly egregious if he or she was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But liability may run deeper.

Trucking companies have extensive legal responsibilities when it comes to training drivers. They must document the hours drivers work and rigorously maintain the company’s vehicle fleet, among other things. Trucking companies have detailed records that they keep to comply with the law, and a prudent attorney will seek this documentation after an accident.

It’s not always simple. Maybe the truck driver was actually not at fault. Perhaps a defective part failed, or perhaps the trucking company documented repairs that they never performed, and the driver ended up in a situation that there was no way around.

When you hire a truck accident attorney, your lawyer will closely investigate all aspects of the crash to determine who may be held liable. We will then pursue the case rigorously. We will seek to hold every person or company that played a role in causing your crash liable.

Filing a Jackknife Accident Lawsuit

The law limits the amount of time accident victims have to seek compensation for their injuries and suffering. You need to speak with an attorney as soon as possible if a jackknife accident has hurt you or a loved one.

An attorney can seek compensation for:

      • Ambulance rides, hospital stays, medical procedures
      • Physical rehabilitation
      • Follow-up care
      • Lost wages, past and future
      • Pain and suffering

The lawyers at Fried Rogers Goldberg are known as the Truck Accident Attorneys for a reason. Trucking cases make up the bulk of our caseload. We’ve seen jackknife accidents and their resulting harm before. We have a lengthy record of successfully helping families harmed by truck accidents.

Let us tell you what we can do to help. Call us today at (404) 591-1800 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation.