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Steven M. Lee, PC

The Cutting Truth Behind Jackknife Truck Accidents

An out-of-control truck can damage multiple vehicles sharing the roadThe term “jackknifing” is used to describe a dangerous situation where a tractor-trailer skids and the trailer swings out to one side as a truck slows down. The 90-degree angle that is created by the truck and swinging trailer resembles a handle and blade of a jackknife—the truck is the handle and the free-swinging trailer, the blade. Much like a sharp jackknife blade, an out-of-control trailer can be extremely dangerous to anyone or anything in its way.

Although the government and the trucking industry have taken many safety measures to prevent truck accidents, thousands of innocent people are still being injured every year as a result of jackknife accidents. Due to the wide area of damage and the alarming force a 25-ton trailer can produce, victims of jackknives have been known to suffer life-altering injuries, such as:

  • Neck injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Head trauma
  • Broken bones
  • Pelvic fractures
  • Internal bleeding
  • Brain damage
  • Death by decapitation, crushing, or organ trauma

The Causes of Jackknife Crashes

Jackknife crashes are, unfortunately, among the most common truck accidents due to the fact that the trailer is not fixed to the rig. Instead, the trailer platform is connected to the cabin of the truck with a simple hitch to allow for free movement. Although helpful for turning, this free movement also causes problems when truckers are forced to apply their emergency brakes: the cabin comes to an abrupt stop, but the trailer’s momentum pushes it forward until it swings around and jackknifes.

Slippery roads, steep inclines, and poor brakes can also increase the risk of trailer instability and a jackknife.

It may seem like jackknifing is an incident that can’t be avoided—after all, if a truck driver must brake quickly he doesn’t have the luxury of slowing down for the trailer. However, an experienced truck driver will tell you otherwise.

“Braking” the Jackknife Myth

Unlike cars, a tractor-trailer has several braking options—the steering axle, the trailer axles, or the drive axles. A properly trained driver should be able to quickly apply the needed brakes to best avoid a jackknifing incident. Furthermore, an experienced trucker will tell you that, ideally, a driver should never be in a situation that requires emergency braking techniques.

A truck driver can proactively prevent an accident that could result in jackknifing by doing the following:

  • Maintaining a prudent stopping distance. Increasing the following distance between the truck and the cars ahead will create a large stopping distance in which the truck can slow down before fully braking.
  • Braking over a longer distance. By gradually slowing down, a truck driver can decrease the momentum of the trailer and keep it from pushing itself to the side.
  • Braking ahead of time. Rather than starting to brake in the middle of a turn, truckers should begin to slow down before the turn to decrease inertia and centripetal force.

Investing in a Jackknife Guard

As with many accidents, it can be very tough to determine responsibility for a truck jackknife incident. It’s not always clear whether a reasonable truck driver would have taken the same actions as the rig driver involved in the crash. Furthermore, you can’t depend on the truck driver to protect you from a disaster while he is trying to maintain control of his rig. This is why you must take matters into your own hands and invest in protecting your future following a jackknife collision.

Attorney Steve Lee has been helping victims of truck accidents get fair injury compensations for over two decades. He knows what is at stake and has the sharpened skills you need to guard against unjust settlement offers from the trucker’s insurance company. Make sure you have the quality representation when you need it by putting our number in your phone right now. Hopefully, you’ll never need it, but you’ll be glad we’re there if you do. The number is 800-232-3711 and the name is attorney Steve Lee.


Steven M. Lee
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