Why Jackknife Accidents Involving Tractor-Trailers are so Severe and Cause so Much Damage

Jackknife accidents are a type of tractor-trailer accidents in which the trailer of a truck skids and swings out to go past the cab, as the truck slows down. The two still connected parts resemble a jackknife handle and blade, forming a V at a 90-degree angle. An out-of-control jackknife truck can prove to be extremely dangerous to anything or anyone in its path, with the potential to cause serious injuries and fatalities.

If you were the victim in a truck accident seeking to follow legal action to recover compensation for your injuries and damages, you must consider the type of jackknifing accident you were in. The angle of collision between the two vehicles determines the type of crash and is critical to the presentation of your case.

Typical Injuries in a Jackknife Truck Accident

When a commercial truck crashes into a small motor vehicle, the chances for serious injuries and fatalities are much higher due to the sheer difference in the size of the vehicles. In a jackknife accident, the big trailer could swing out and swipe several vehicles or trap a vehicle.

In spite of several safety measures put in place to prevent truck accidents, by the trucking industry as well as the government, jackknife accidents still lead to serious injuries and even fatalities to thousands of accident victims each year. Due to the tremendous force a big multi-axle trailer can generate, and the huge area of damage it can create, jackknife accident victims commonly suffer life-altering and grievous injuries like:

  • Head and neck injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Pelvic fractures
  • Broken bones
  • Internal bleeding
  • Death by crushing, organ trauma, or decapitation

Understanding Jackknife Truck Accidents

The cabin of the truck is connected to the trailer platform with a simple hitch, and not fixed, to facilitate free movement. This free movement is helpful for turning, but unfortunately, is also the primary cause for jackknife crashes.

When a trucker is forced to apply brakes abruptly, it forces the cabin to a sudden stop while the momentum of the trailer keeps pushing it forward, till the time it swings around to form a jackknife. In a jackknifing truck, the trailer forms a V or an L shape, as it swings to the side of the truck cab. With the tractor-trailer in the left-hand lane, cars in the right lane are at risk if the trailer swings out towards the right.

Common Causes of Jackknife Accidents

Bad Weather

Bad weather is one of the most common causes of jackknife crashes. Rain, snow, or ice, produce slick conditions that can make applying abrupt brakes very difficult for a trucker. The trailer can easily slide forward if the truck driver is unable to reduce speed in time to give the truck enough distance to brake.

Driver Error

If a jackknife accident happens in clear weather, an erring trucker is most likely the reason behind it. A reckless driver, either tailgating or distracted, may fail to brake in time and lose control of the vehicle in the process.

Mechanical Problems

Big trucks need regular inspection and maintenance to sort out any mechanical issues. The failure to do so could lead to problems with the vehicle’s brakes, transmission, or other engine parts. All such problems could potentially result in a jackknife accident.

Road Conditions

Slippery roads, potholes, or steep inclines, may also lead to a higher risk of vehicle instability and a jackknife accident.

Preventing Jackknife Accidents

It may seem almost impossible for a truck driver to avoid jackknifing in a crunch scenario if they need to brake suddenly and do not have enough time or space to slow down. However, a properly trained and experienced trucker will beg to differ.

Unlike smaller motor vehicles, big commercial rigs have multiple braking options including the steering axle, the drive axles, or the trailer axles. While ideally, an experienced trucker should be able to avoid getting into situations that might require emergency braking, they should be able to apply the right brakes if the need really arises.

Here are a few prudent tips that a truck driver needs to follow proactively, in order to prevent jackknifing incidents that could lead to a crash:

Maintaining a Proper Stopping Distance

If the trucker maintains a reasonable trailing distance from the cars ahead, it will allow the truck sufficient time to slow down before braking fully.

Applying Brakes Over a Longer Distance

By slowing down the vehicle gradually, a trucker can reduce the momentum gently and keep the trailer from swinging out.

Braking with Plenty of Time in Hand

A trucker should slow down before a turn to reduce centripetal force, instead of applying brakes in the middle of the turn.

Accomplished Virginia Truck Accident Attorneys

If you or a loved one has sustained injuries in a tractor-trailer accident, you must get in touch with an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as you can. When you work with Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, we will not only manage your claim competently but also guide you throughout the complex claim process.

Having successfully represented several truck accident victims, our able and compassionate attorneys are happy and willing to offer you their legal expertise and guidance. Call our office today at 800-752-0042 or contact us online to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation with one of our seasoned Virginia truck accident lawyers.