Semi trucks and other large vehicles pose serious hazards to everyone on the road. Any type of collision involving a big rig can have serious consequences and cause fatalities, including jackknife accidents.
It’s important for motorists to understand the risks of jackknife accidents, especially on large highways and exit ramps. By understanding how and where these accidents typically occur, drivers may be able to avoid and prevent them.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a jackknife crash, you may be entitled to financial compensation. In these situations, you need a knowledgeable and aggressive jackknife accident attorney who has experience handling these unique cases. The trucking accident lawyers at Nadrich & Cohen is ready to fight for your family to restore justice after a jackknife truck accident.
What Are Jackknife Accidents?
A jackknife accident is a type of collision where a truck with two separate parts — a cab and a trailer — folds in on itself. Essentially, the cab and the trailer swivel towards each other at the point where they’re joined, creating a ‘V’ shape.
When a truck jackknifes in the middle of a road, its trailer swings to the left or right, crossing other lanes of traffic or colliding with other objects in and along the road. In these situations, the driver loses control of the truck, and the truck may even turn over.
Causes of Jackknife Accidents
Jackknife accidents often occur on high-speed freeways, curved roads, and exit ramps. Jackknifing may also be more common on slick or icy roads.
Common causes of truck jackknife accidents include:
- Braking too hard: If a driver slams on the brakes, the truck’s trailer could get pushed forward, causing the cab to spin around and slam into the trailer.
- Speeding: Driving too fast for the weather, traffic, or road conditions increases the risk of jackknifing because the driver may have to brake suddenly — and the trailer may not slow down as quickly as the tractor.
- Overloading: An overloaded trailer can leave the truck unbalanced, which increases the likelihood of a jackknife accident.
- Poor road conditions: Drivers may struggle to maintain control of their trucks on slippery or icy roads.
- Poor brake maintenance: Every tractor trailer needs to have its brakes inspected regularly, with routine maintenance performed often. If the brakes aren’t functioning properly, there’s a much higher risk of a jackknife crash.
- Sudden turns or lane changes: Sharp turns and sudden lane changes can cause the trailer to swing out and jackknife.
- Driver error: If the truck driver is inexperienced or hasn’t undergone proper training, they may be more likely to cause a jackknife accident. Distracted driving, such as texting while driving, is also a common cause.
- Mechanical failure: It’s not just the brakes that could fail — other components of the truck could also experience mechanical failure and cause a jackknife accident. Equipment failures often occur due to negligent maintenance and manufacturing defects.
Preventing Truck Jackknife Accidents
It’s a trucking company’s duty to keep their vehicles in good condition, and it’s a truck driver’s responsibility to drive safely.
Some ways to help prevent jackknife accidents include:
- Anti-lock brakes: Improper braking causes many jackknife collisions. Safer anti-lock brakes may prevent the truck’s wheels from locking up while braking.
- Proper loading: Trucks that are overloaded or too empty are more likely to jackknife.
- Load-sensing regulators: This technology reduces brake pressure when the truck’s load is particularly light.
- Frequent and proper inspections: Routine inspections and maintenance work are crucial to keep trucks in good working order and prevent accidents.
California Jackknife Accidents Statistics
According to the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), there were 247 jackknife truck accidents in California in 2019. Out of these 247 accidents, 10 resulted in fatalities and 98 caused injuries. However, it should be noted that these statistics only include accidents that were reported to law enforcement.
In 2019, there were 385 total fatal truck crashes in California alone, according to the FMCSA.
The majority of large truck crashes occur in Los Angeles County, and most incidents state-wide occur on highways I-5, I-10 and I-715.
Nationwide Jackknife Accident Statistics
According to a report published by the FMCSA, there were 188 fatal jackknife crashes nationwide in 2018, accounting for 3.9% of all fatal large truck crashes in the country that year. Of the large truck crashes that caused injury but not death, 2,000 (or 1.4%) were jackknife accidents. There were also 7,000 jackknife accidents that caused property damage only in 2018.
Data for 2020 indicates that fatal jackknife accident rates dropped slightly over two years. There were 169 jackknife collisions that caused death in the U.S. in 2020, accounting for 3.5% of all deadly truck accidents that year.
According to data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the biggest factors that increase the risk of jackknifing are:
- Poor weather conditions: In a single-vehicle fatal crash, the odds of a jackknife are 3.22 times higher during adverse weather conditions. Additionally, poor lighting conditions increase the chances of a jackknife by 43%.
- Curved roads: The odds of jackknifing on curved roads are 86% higher than on straight roads.
- Truck length: As the length of a large truck increases, the odds of jackknifing increase.
NHTSA data also reveals that between 1996 and 1999, approximately 10% of combination truck occupant fatalities were associated with a jackknife. However, only 4% of combination truck non-occupant fatalities are associated with a jackknife.
Who is Liable in a Jackknife Accident?
Liability in a truck jackknife accident depends on the circumstances and cause of the collision. For example, if the driver was looking at his phone at the time of the crash, he or she will likely be found liable. Alternatively, if the truck’s brakes malfunctioned while the driver was safely operating the vehicle, the manufacturer, the trucking company or even the truck’s mechanic could be held responsible.
If you or someone you love was involved in a jackknife accident, reach out to a trusted truck accident attorney. The jackknife accident lawyers at Nadrich & Cohen have decades of experience fighting for injured victims in jackknifing cases. We will work tirelessly to investigate the collision and determine liability. In fact, we have worked with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is the U.S. agency responsible for overseeing and enforcing safe driving practices.