Semi-trucks are among the largest and heaviest vehicles that you share the road with. While all truck accidents are dangerous, a jackknife accident often has devastating results. They often result in catastrophic injuries and sometimes fatalities.
Semi-trucks are a vital part of the country’s transportation and logistics system, moving goods from manufacturers to distributors. Nearly every product sold in the U.S. is transported by the trucking industry. While there are rules and regulations to help keep the highway safe, trucks are involved in roughly 5,000 fatalities and over 100,000 accidents resulting in injury each year.
What Is a Jackknife Truck Accident?
The term “jackknife” refers to the way a tractor and trailer fold when this type of collision occurs. When the rig’s cab folds so it is facing in the opposite direction of the trailer, it looks like a folding blade or a jackknife.
Typically, motor vehicle accidents are preventable and result from driver error. This includes jackknife truck accidents. Trucks are more likely to jackknife when the road conditions are slick, such as when they’re icy or wet. Under these conditions, experienced truck drivers understand they must use extreme caution to ensure the safety of other vehicles on the road.
These types of accidents are often complex, and it can be difficult to ascertain who is liable for the accident. Depending on the details, liable parties can include:
- Truck driver
- Truck manufacturer
- Trucking company
- Truck maintenance company
- Manufacture of a defective part
- Company loading the truck
What Causes a Jackknife Accident?
Typically, a jackknife happens when the cab slows suddenly, but the forward motion of the trailer carries it further. Instead of stopping, the trailer swings to the side and continues moving forward. In some cases, the trailer and rig may turn over completely. Several situations increase the risk that a jackknife accident will occur. These include:
Braking: When the brakes on a semi-truck are not properly maintained, the axles may lock. If a truck is dragging a trailer with locked brakes, the trailer can swing to the side and cause a jackknife crash.
Braking is also the trigger when the driver is traveling at excessive speed. The average loaded semi-truck weighs around 80,000 pounds. The average length of a trailer is from 70 to 80 feet. It takes most trucks 40 percent more time to stop as compared to a car. When a driver is traveling at excessive speed and forced to stop quickly, the trailer can slide sideways.
Poor weather/road conditions: When the weather conditions are poor, and the roads are slick, the distance needed to safely brake and stop a semi-truck increases. Properly trained drivers also know techniques that can help reduce the risk of a jackknife accident, such as driving in the direction of a skid.
Driver fatigue: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict rules about the number of hours drivers can work. These regulations are designed to help reduce driver fatigue. However, some drivers work longer hours to meet deadlines. This leads to dangerous situations when drivers are overly fatigued and unable to react appropriately to conditions.
Inadequate training or qualification: Trucking companies have a duty to ensure their drivers are adequately trained before they work independently. Poor training can increase the risk of an accident. This is a case where the company can also be held liable for damages.
Unbalanced load: How the trailer is packed can also affect the tendency to jackknife. When the cargo is improperly secured, it can force the trailer to swing sideways and lead to an accident. Weight distribution in the trailer impacts how the truck responds.
Improper following distance: In heavy traffic and highway conditions, truck drivers may not provide adequate distance between themselves and the vehicle in front. When a driver must stop suddenly, the trailer can jackknife.
Watch for Secondary Crashes
A jackknife accident usually spreads the trailer and tractor across multiple lanes of traffic. This increases the risk that there will be secondary crashes in the following traffic because vehicles are unable to stop in time. Additionally, the trailer can spread debris across the road, also increasing the risk of an accident.
How BREIT LAW PC Could Help
If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be entitled to compensation. This can help pay for your medical bills and lost wages while you’re recovering from injuries. It’s important to contact an experienced Virginia truck accident lawyer to get the qualified legal help you need and deserve.
Trucking companies have lawyers and insurance adjusters who are in the business of protecting their clients. When you contact BREIT LAW PC at 757-456-0333, we’ll schedule an initial free consultation to discuss your case. You will learn how an immediate investigation will help preserve valuable evidence to support your case. Contact us today for a free consultation at 757-456-0333 or use our online contact form.