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What Is A Jackknife Truck Accident?

By Butler Prather LLP on September 10, 2020

Commercial trucks are much larger and weigh much more than traditional passenger vehicles. Accidents involving large commercial vehicles are often devastating for victims. While truck drivers and trucking companies have stringent requirements they must abide by in order to remain safe on the roadway, accidents involving large trucks can and do occur. Jackknife accidents are amongst the most dangerous type of collisions that can occur involving large commercial trucks. Here, we want to discuss what a jackknife truck accident is and what a victim can do in the aftermath to recover compensation for their injuries and property damage.

jackknife truck accident

Understanding jackknife truck accidents

Jackknife truck accidents typically occur when the truck driver brakes suddenly. This results in the cab of the truck stopping without warning. However, due to the forward momentum of the vehicle, the trailer does not stop immediately. Since the trailer of the truck will continue moving forward, but the cab has stopped, the trailer will swing out to the side. This type of incident will result in the characteristic “V” shape that resembles a jackknife.

Because jackknife truck accidents usually happen without warning, and due to the size and weight of a trailer, jackknife accidents pose a tremendous threat to other motorists in the vicinity of the vehicle. When the trailer of the truck swings to the side, it can strike any passenger vehicle or bystander in the way, cause underride accidents, and cause pileup crashes behind the jackknife incident itself.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says that a fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. When comparing this to a typical 4,000-pound passenger vehicle, it is easy to see why drivers and passengers sustain severe injuries in these incidents. It is not uncommon for victims in these cases to suffer from:

  • Broken and dislocated bones
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord damage with paralysis
  • Other severe neck or back injury
  • Severe lacerations or puncture wounds
  • Crush injuries or amputations
  • Internal organ damage or internal bleeding

Why do jackknife incidents occur?

There are various causes of tractor-trailer jackknife accidents. In many cases, it will be discovered that the truck driver or trucking company played some role in contributing to, if not causing, the crash. Some of the most common causes of jackknife truck accidents include:

  • Braking the vehicle too hard
  • Braking too suddenly on wet or icy asphalt
  • Improper braking on a curve
  • Engine braking on slick curves or roadways
  • Accelerating too quickly for conditions
  • Balance or adjustment problems with the brakes

In some instances, it is discovered that a jackknifed truck accident is caused by the gross negligence of a truck driver. This can include operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs or while distracted by phones or other devices.

Determining liability in a jackknife truck accident

Determining liability in the aftermath of a jackknifed truck accident is often going to require assistance from a skilled Georgia truck accident lawyer. An attorney will have the resources necessary to conduct a complete investigation into the crash. This can include gathering evidence such as:

  • Unobtained video surveillance
  • Truck driver logs
  • Drug and alcohol test results
  • Vehicle maintenance logs
  • Statements from eyewitnesses

An attorney can handle the entire process of evidence gathering and also send a letter of spoliation to all parties involved to preserve necessary documents.

Posted in: Truck Accidents

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