Seeing a 30-ton semi-truck loss control on the highway is a scary sight for any driver. It’s an unpredictable and incredibly dangerous situation. The situation is made even more terrifying if the truck enters what’s known as the “jackknife” position.
The jackknife accident occurs when the trailer of a semi-truck swings outward causing the truck to fold. In this state, the truck becomes nearly impossible to control, and the trailer may continuously swing back and forth, leaving mayhem and destruction in its path. Jackknifes are notorious for causing serious traffic accidents, often involving multiple cars and injuries.
Their danger is exacerbated by the general public’s lack of knowledge regarding why they occur and how to avoid them. To help you stay safe next time you’re on the road, our truck accident attorneys are here to discuss truck jackknifing and you.
How Are They Defined?
There is no universally accepted definition of a jackknife accident, but any instance of a semi-truck turning horizontally with the truck and trailer facing opposite directions is recognized as a jackknife.
A jackknifing truck rarely stays in the same position: The trailer and the truck frequently swing back and forth multiple times—making it difficult for the driver to regain control—until the rig comes to a stop.
Why Do They Happen?
Jackknife truck accidents occur for many reasons.
A common cause, especially in northern states, is the weather. Poor road conditions as a result of ice, snow, or rain, are a frequent source of jackknifes. A slick road can make it difficult for a large truck to gain traction, which can cause the truck to slip and slide. If the driver tries to stop too suddenly, the truck may turn and a jackknife may ensue.
Additionally, the mechanical failure of a truck’s braking system is the origin of many jackknife accidents. Even with inspection, many brake defects go unnoticed until the truck is skidding along the highway. The situation can be made worse by the driver slamming on the brakes harder than usual; this could cause the wheel axles to lock up and the truck to enter jackknife position.
Other causes include the truck driver turning too quickly, worn-out tires, an overloaded trailer, and other kinds of mechanical failure.
How to Avoid Them
Having a jackknife occur in front of you while traveling 70+ mph on the highway is a terrifying experience. Although your heart is likely in your throat, remaining calm and responding in a deliberate, careful manner can prevent an even worse accident.
The best way to avoid a jackknife accident is to take the appropriate measures before they happen. Firstly, always keep a safe distance away from a semi-truck. A good rule is that you should always see the trucks’ side mirrors; if you can’t, you’re too close. Relatedly, try to stay at least one lane over from the truck.
To reiterate, if you see a truck starting to jackknife in front of you, don’t panic—remain calm, try to evaluate the situation, and proceed accordingly. Do not attempt to speed past the truck, and try to avoid braking suddenly; after all, if the truck lost control because of road conditions, you could also lose control for the same reason. In all likelihood, the best course of action is to pull over to the side of the road and stop until the situation gets under control.
3 Steps to Do if You’re in a Jackknife Accident
Sometimes an accident is impossible to avoid. Knowing what to do after a jackknife accident can save you considerable time and money.
- First, call the police immediately. The scene of an accident, especially a multi-car accident, is often chaotic. The police can stabilize the situation and evaluate the aftermath. Furthermore, if people are injured, emergency medical personnel can provide care at the scene and transport the injured to a medical facility if need be.
- Secondly, seek medical attention right away. Even if you don’t think your injuries are serious, you’re in no position to diagnose yourself. Many injuries, even severe injuries, can go unnoticed until weeks after the accident. A doctor can detect latent injuries and commence treatment immediately. Seeing a doctor is important for another reason. If you decide to pursue legal action, a doctor’s diagnosis could be very important in your case. The extent of your injuries, and the cost of treatment, can greatly influence the amount of compensation you receive. A doctor’s diagnosis and, if necessary, testimony is a critical component of any truck accident case.
- Finally, schedule an initial consultation with an experienced truck accident lawyer. Meeting with a lawyer is important even if you don’t plan on filing a lawsuit. A lawyer can give you options and help you chart a path forward. Truck accident lawsuits can be complex and time-consuming. Meeting with a lawyer earlier ensures you’re prepared and ahead of schedule in case you decide to pursue legal action.
A jackknifing truck is one of the scariest things you can encounter on the road; the unpredictability of the situation is almost unrivaled, as is the potential for damage. Colliding with a jackknifing truck often means severe injuries and a totaled car. It may take years to recover mentally and physically, even in the best of circumstances. Furthermore, some people cannot work while owing enormous medical debt. Life’s certainties now seem unattainable.
Although returning to normal may seem impossible, you don’t have to be in this fight alone. The law creates rights for the wrongfully injured. If you believe your accident was the result of negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.
The first step is speaking with an experienced auto accident attorney who’s handled jackknife cases. Initial consultations are free, and are a great way to get a sense of your options. Start preparing for legal action right away. Most jurisdictions impose statutes of limitations on jackknife cases; failure to file suit promptly could mean forfeiting your right to legal recourse.