What Does It Mean for a Truck to Jackknife?

A fully loaded semi-truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds – a recipe for disaster if it loses control on the road. One of the most terrifying things you can see in front of you on a highway is a truck jackknifing. Often resulting from speeding and/or improper braking, a jackknifing truck can quickly cause a multi-vehicle accident that’s hard to avoid. 

But what does it really mean for a truck to jackknife, and how do jackknife accidents happen? Here’s what’s behind these often-deadly crashes. 

How Does a Truck Jackknife?

A truck jackknife occurs when the trailer of a large truck skids, usually due to the cab braking faster than road conditions allow. The result is the truck essentially folding in on itself at the link connecting the trailer and the cab, forming a “V” shape. The term “jackknife” derives from how the truck momentarily resembles the folding of a jackknife or pocket knife.

A jackknifing truck is a terrifying sight for any driver as the trailer swings into multiple lanes. 

What makes a jackknife particularly hazardous is the loss of control for the truck driver and the unpredictability of where the arms of the “V” end up. Sometimes, the momentum forces the truck to roll over. In most cases, the trailer tires are locked up while the cab keeps moving forward, leaving the tail of the trailer swinging sideways into traffic. The cab tires can also lock up, which allows the trailer to continue moving, pushing the truck forward. 

Common Causes of Jackknifing Accidents

A truck can jackknife for many reasons. These truck accidents are often related to driver error, but they can also be caused by improper loading of the trailer, mechanical failure, and road conditions. 

The following are major factors contributing to jackknife accidents: 

  • Driving too fast, especially around curves 
  • Braking too hard, especially while turning
  • An unbalanced or unsecured trailer load, which causes the trailer to sway as speed increases
  • Driving with an empty trailer (deadheading), which reduces traction
  • Slippery roads, which cause a loss of traction 

A jackknife accident can be caused by a combination of factors. The most basic cause is mismatched momentum between the trailer and cab due to a combination of speed and braking behavior.

How Common Are Jackknife Accidents?

According to the FMCSA, there were more than 5,000 jackknife accidents in 2020. This included about 1,000 accidents that caused injury and 169 fatal jackknife crashes. 

According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, jackknifing was a critical factor in 5% of large truck accidents. It’s classified as a driver-associated factor, not a vehicle-associated factor. Of the 141,000 trucks in the study involved in a crash, 7,000 crashes involved jackknifing. 

Who Could Be At Fault For a Jackknife Accident?

Truck accidents are complex and require a careful investigation to determine how they happened and who was at fault. Depending on the circumstances, multiple parties may share liability for a jackknifing accident. 

A trucking company is generally responsible for the truck’s maintenance and regular inspections. If improper maintenance or failure to perform inspections caused issues like failing brakes to contribute to the crash, the company could be liable. A company can also be liable for failing to ensure cargo was properly loaded and that drivers are qualified and trained. 

Even manufacturers may share liability for a crash caused by a defective part. 

Parties that may be held liable for their share of fault in a crash include: 

  • The truck driver
  • The trucking company that maintains the vehicle
  • The company responsible for loading cargo
  • Negligent inspectors or mechanics
  • Manufacturers of defective parts
  • Other drivers who contributed to the crash

Given the complexity of jackknife accidents, it’s important to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer to investigate your crash. Your lawyer will identify any parties who may share liability to pursue the fair compensation you deserve. 

If you have been injured in a jackknife accident, contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a Dallas truck accident lawyer. We will help you explore your legal options for pursuing compensation from the at-fault parties.

Contact Our Truck Accident Law Firm in Dallas, TX

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Dallas, Texas, and need legal help, contact our Dallas truck accident lawyers at Jay Murray Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation today.

Jay Murray Personal Injury Lawyers
2512 State St,
Dallas, TX 75201
(214) 855-1420