Dangers of Jackknife Tractor Trailer Accidents

Dangers of Jackknife Tractor Trailer Accidents

18 wheeler truck driving toward sun

August 27, 2018

Ellis Law Corporation

Truck Accident

Large trucks are a common sight on southern California roadways. They are vital to the nation’s economy.

Unfortunately, they are also dangerous. An estimated 3,838 fatal collisions involving trucks occurred in 2015, the last year for which statistics are available. Trucks crashed on the road 317,000 times in 2012.

Jackknife Accidents Caused by Multiple Factors

One of the most common type of large truck, semi-, or tractor-trailer crashes is termed the “jackknife.” The term arises from the look of the truck after the crash. The driver stops too suddenly and may lock the brakes to avoid an obstacle, debris on the road, or another vehicle. The truck skids, turning part of it at a 90-degree angle to the other part, or an L-shape. It looks similar to an open jackknife.

Jackknife accidents can be caused by multiple factors. It might be driver error or driver inattention, causing the truck driver to try and stop too quickly given the speed and weight of the truck. But it can also be caused by another vehicle pulling out in front of a truck or changing lanes, necessitating the driver to lock the brakes. It can be caused by weather. Wet and slippery roads are a frequent source of jackknife skids.

There may have been debris in the road, leading the driver to brake to try and avoid it. It may also be that the truck was inadequately maintained, and the brakes are not working as well as they should.

One thing is clear in jackknife accidents, however. Because of the weight and size of trucks, truck collisions do much more damage than the same type of accident with a car or even a large passenger vehicle such as an SUV.

A jackknife crash has the potential of spreading the truck across multiple lanes of traffic. If this happens, the danger of ancillary accidents — people running into the truck or debris from the truck — increases.

How Is Fault Determined?

Establishing fault in a jackknife tractor-trailer accident is complex. The driver may have been inattentive, for example, but drivers are also often required to meet punishing schedules that don’t allow them sufficient sleep. Company schedules may therefore bear part of the blame.

If other vehicles, obstacles, or debris caused the driver to stop short and skid into a jackknife, the drivers of the other vehicles may be wholly or partly at fault. Obstacles and debris may have a cause, such as inadequate road maintenance. Inadequate brakes can be the fault of the people who maintained or serviced the truck.

When You Need a Truck Accident Attorney

It’s a good idea to consult an attorney if you or a loved one has been a victim of a jackknife accident.

Lawyers at The Ellis Law Firm have been successfully investigating and litigating complicated truck accidents in the Los Angeles area for more than two decades. We will fight for the rights of the injured. Please call us today for a complimentary appointment to discuss your case with an experienced truck accident attorney in southern California.

We can be reached at 310-641-3335.

Additional Resources:

  1. United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC Vital Signs, March 2015. Trucker Safety. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/truck-safety/index.html.
  2. United States Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). 2017 Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Statistics. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/truck-safety/index.html