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Personal Injuries
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Jackknife Accident: Liability, Prevention & More

Written By:
Tor Hoerman
Tor Hoerman

Attorney Tor Hoerman, admitted to the Illinois State Bar Association since 1995 and The Missouri Bar since 2009, specializes nationally in mass tort litigations. Locally, Tor specializes in auto accidents and a wide variety of personal injury incidents occuring in Illinois and Missouri.

This article has been written and reviewed for legal accuracy and clarity by the team of writers and attorneys at TorHoerman Law and is as accurate as possible. This content should not be taken as legal advice from an attorney. If you would like to learn more about our owner and experienced injury lawyer, Tor Hoerman, you can do so here.

TorHoerman Law does everything possible to make sure the information in this article is up to date and accurate. If you need specific legal advice about your case, contact us. This article should not be taken as advice from an attorney.

Truck Accidents: What is a Jackknife Accident?

Question: What is a Jackknife Accident, and who is liable?

Answer: A jackknife accident is a dangerous type of crash that involves a semi-truck trailer swinging too far out to the side, into the cab that is hauling them, causing it to fold in on itself at a 90-degree angle in the process.

Types of Jackknife Accidents: Liability, Prevention & More

On this page, we’ll provide an overview of jackknife accidents, determining liability in a jackknife accident, damages in a jackknife accident, and much more.

Jackknife Accident Liability Prevention and More

This typically happens when a vehicle towing a trailer skids, causing the trailer to push the towing vehicle from behind until it spins the vehicle around and faces backward.

When it comes to identifying the party at fault in a jackknife accident, several parties could potentially be responsible:

  • The driver of the semi-truck, especially if their negligence or improper braking caused the accident.
  • The semi-truck company, particularly if the trailer was overloaded or loaded improperly.
  • The owner of the semi-truck or trailer if they failed to maintain the vehicle properly.
  • Another driver who caused the semi-truck driver to make sudden evasive maneuvers.

If you’ve been involved in a jackknife accident and suffered injuries as a result, contact TorHoerman Law using the chat on this page to receive an instant case evaluation.

We’re here to assist you every step of the way in pursuing justice and compensation.

Table of Contents

Defining a Jackknife Accident

A jackknife accident involves large trucks like semi trucks or 8-wheelers.

This type of accident is named after the way a folding pocket knife looks when opened at an angle, similar to the angle formed by the truck and its trailer during such an incident​.

Damages in a Jackknife Accident

Causes of Damage in a Jackknife Accident

Several factors can lead to a jackknife accident:

  1. Brake Failure: Large trucks can lose control, have a malfunctioning brake, or fail to apply the brake correctly, leading to jackknife accidents.
  2. Mechanical Malfunctions: Internal mechanical issues within the truck can cause it to jackknife.
  3. Speeding: Excessive speed increases the risk of jackknifing, endangering both the truck driver and other road users.
  4. Extreme Weather Conditions: Harsh weather can trigger violent jackknife incidents.
  5. High Speeds: Speeding even slightly above the limit significantly raises the chance of a jackknife.
  6. Light Loads: Lightly or partially loaded trailers are prone to jackknifing, whereas overly loaded trailers risk rollovers.
  7. Curving Roads: The risk of jackknifing is higher on winding roads.
  8. Inexperience and Lack of Training: Inexperienced drivers or those lacking proper training are more likely to be involved in such accidents.
  9. Poor Truck Maintenance: Neglecting maintenance, like worn tires and brake failures, increases the risk.
  10. Driver Fatigue: Similar to the effects of drunk driving, fatigue impairs decision-making and reaction times, elevating the risk of accidents​​​.

Importance of Jackknife Accident Awareness

Jackknife truck accidents are among the deadliest, with 10% of all fatal truck wrecks involving a jackknife.

Their unique dangers are often not well understood by most drivers.

Awareness of these accidents is crucial because of their severity and the complex interplay of factors like vehicle speed, load, road conditions, and driver competence that can lead to such catastrophic outcomes.

Who is at Fault in a Jackknife Accident?

Many jackknife semi-truck accidents are often caused by negligent drivers.

One of the most common causes is improper braking, especially when the driver is distracted.

Preventing Jackknife Accidents

To minimize the risk of a jackknife accident, truck drivers should follow these key prevention strategies:

  • Practice Patience: Truck drivers should stay calm and patient to respond effectively to road conditions.
  • Ensure Tire Grip: Using tires with good traction improves friction and stability, reducing jackknife risks.
  • Avoid Slippery Roads: If possible, truck drivers should avoid driving in conditions that increase the likelihood of slipping, such as wet or icy roads.
  • Regular Maintenance: Keeping the truck well-maintained, especially the braking system, is crucial for preventing jackknife scenarios.

Frequently Reported Injuries in a Jackknife Accident

Jackknife accidents, typically involving trucks, often lead to severe injuries due to their catastrophic nature.

The most frequently reported injuries from these incidents include broken bones, burns, brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries.

To provide a clear understanding of the common injuries in a jackknife accident, let’s dive into the following details:

  • The nature of the injuries
  • The causes of injuries
  • The impact on the victims’ lives

The Nature of the Injuries

Jackknife accidents are usually severe and result in various injuries.

The impact of these accidents can cause different types of harm to the body, which are generally categorized under major injuries.

Here is a brief overview of the nature of these injuries:

  • Brain injuries: These can result from a direct blow to the head or a sudden jolt during the accident, leading to short-term or permanent cognitive impairment.
  • Broken bones: Bones can be fractured or completely broken due to the high impact of the collision.
  • Burns: These injuries can occur due to fires that erupt in the aftermath of the collision.

The Causes Behind These Injuries

The causes behind these injuries are largely due to the nature of jackknife accidents themselves.

In a jackknife accident, the truck folds onto itself, leading to a high-impact collision.

Some of the causes leading to these injuries include:

  • High-speed impact: The speed of the truck at the time of the accident can contribute significantly to the severity of the injuries.
  • Size and weight of the truck: As trucks are larger and heavier than most other vehicles, collisions can result in more severe injuries.
  • Sudden braking or swerving: Sudden braking can cause the truck to jackknife, leading to a high-impact collision.

Tips to Prevent & Avoid Jackknife Accidents

These tips can help both truck drivers and passenger vehicles prevent and respond effectively to potential truck jackknifes, reducing the risk of serious accidents on the road.

  • Practice Patience: Speeding and sudden maneuvers increase the risk of truck jackknife. Maintaining a steady pace and practicing patience.
  • Regular Maintenance: Ensure the truck, especially the brakes and semi-trailer, are regularly maintained. An empty trailer can be more prone to a serious accident.
  • Avoid Sudden Braking: Apply brakes gradually to prevent jackknife accidents. Sudden braking can cause the trailer to swing out of control in one direction, leading to a jackknife.

For Drivers of Passenger Cars and Other Vehicles:

  • Keep a Safe Distance: Always maintain a safe distance from trucks, especially big rigs and semi-trailers. This gives you more time to react if a truck starts to jackknife.
  • Be Aware of Truck Movements: Pay attention to the movements of trucks around you. If a truck appears to be losing control, slow down and move to a safe distance.
  • Avoid Blind Spots: Stay out of a truck’s blind spots. If a truck driver can’t see you, they might not be aware of your presence in an emergency situation.
  • Seek Professional Advice: If you’re involved in a trucking accident, especially one involving a truck jackknife, consider contacting a law office for a free case evaluation. They can provide guidance and help you understand your legal rights.

Legal Assistance and Compensation for Jackknife Accident Victims

Victims of jackknife truck accidents often face a complex legal battle.

These accidents, where a truck trailer swings towards the truck cab, can result in severe injuries or even death.

  • Role of Trucking and Insurance Companies: In a jackknifing truck accident, the trucking company and their insurance company play a significant role. They may be held liable, especially if driver errors, like improper braking or driving at unsafe speeds, led to the crash.
  • Compensation for Serious Injuries: Victims, including other drivers and passengers in involved vehicles, can seek compensation for serious or severe injuries sustained in the accident. This can cover medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.
  • Legal Representation: Law offices specializing in truck accidents offer free case evaluations to victims. They provide essential guidance, especially when the accident involves commercial truck drivers or big rigs.
  • Investigating Jackknifing Accidents: Legal teams investigate the causes of jackknifing, such as overloaded trailers, mechanical failures, or slippery roads. To determine liability, they assess the entire truck, including the semi-truck, tractor-trailer, and the trailer attached.
  • Supporting Victims’ Claims: Attorneys work to ensure victims receive fair compensation. This includes negotiating with insurance companies and, if necessary, taking legal action against the trucking company or other responsible parties.

Victims of jackknife accidents face a challenging road to recovery.

Negotiating With Insurance Companies in Jackknife Truck Accidents

Negotiating with insurance companies after a jackknife truck accident requires understanding and strategy.

These accidents, where a truck’s trailer swings sharply towards the cab, often involve complex legal considerations, especially when multiple vehicles are affected.

  • Insurance Challenges for Truck Accident Victims: Victims, often in passenger vehicles, face challenges dealing with commercial truck driver insurance policies. These policies are typically more complex than standard passenger car insurance.
  • Role of Law Offices: TorHoerman Law assists victims in understanding their rights and navigating the complexities of insurance claims. They are critical in accidents involving big rigs and semi-trailers where multiple parties, like other motorists, might be involved.
  • Static Friction and Liability: Insurance companies may investigate aspects like the truck’s brakes, static friction, and whether the driver was practicing patience or driving at high speed. These factors can determine the direction of liability in a jackknifing accident.
  • Complications with Empty Trailers: Accidents involving trucks with empty trailers can add another layer of complexity. Insurers assess if the lack of heavyweight contributed to the accident, influencing claim outcomes.

Legal assistance can provide the necessary support in negotiating with insurance companies to achieve a just outcome.

TorHoerman Law: The #1 Jackknife Accident Attorney

Our attorneys specialize in all types of trucking accidents to assist you with the challenges of gathering evidence, negotiating with insurance companies, and fighting in court.

  1. Experience – We have a deep understanding of truck wide right turn accident cases and the legal intricacies involved.
  2. Personal Approach – Every case is unique. We give each client personalized attention, focusing on their specific needs.
  3. No-Win, No-Fee – You only pay if we win. This shows our commitment to getting you the best outcome.

For personalized guidance in any of these types of truck accidents, use our chat feature on this page to connect with an experienced Truck Accident Attorney at Torhoerman Law.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do a jackknifed truck's "folding blades" affect the accident?

    In a jackknifed semi truck accident, the folding blades effect, where the trailer swings sharply towards the cab, can increase the risk of multi-vehicle collisions and severe damages, complicating the accident’s aftermath and legal implications.

  • What should I do if my passenger vehicle is involved in a jackknife truck accident?

    If your passenger vehicle is involved in a jackknife truck accident, it’s crucial to prioritize your safety first.

    Contact emergency services immediately for medical assistance if needed.

    Then, document the scene by taking photos and gathering witness statements.

    It’s essential to seek legal guidance from a specialized truck accident attorney who can help navigate the complexities of such accidents and assist in determining liability.

Written By:
Tor Hoerman

Tor Hoerman

Owner & Attorney - TorHoerman Law

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