Jackknife Truck Accident Attorney
The term jackknife truck accident describes several similar, but distinct, truck crash types.. The name arises because the movement is similar to that of a pocket knife being folded. According to Federal data in 2017 there were more than 5,000 jackknife truck accidents involving large trucks in the U.S.. representing about 4% of fatal truck crashes and 1% of injury truck crashes that year.
Causes of a Jackknife Truck Accident
A jackknifed big rig accident typically involves loss of control. Driving too fast given road conditions and improper braking are common causes. Roads which are slick from ice, snow or rain are prime conditions for a jackknife truck accident. A federal study found that bad weather conditions increase the likelihood of a jackknife threefold. Traveling on a curve, and particularly oversteering or understeering in a curve, is another risk factor with the same federal study finding traveling on a curve almost doubles the risk of a jackknife.
Jackknifing can happen when the brake is suddenly applied to a tractor-trailer. A 18 wheeler’s brake system is more complex than that of cars; it consists of three braking options: the steering axle brakes, the drive axle brakes, and the trailer brakes. A true jackknife accident can occur when the driver abruptly tries to stop using the drive axle brake – it locks the drive wheels but not the ones on the trailer, causing a skid.
There are various reasons a truck driver suddenly or improperly applies a brake. It could be to avoid hitting someone or something. Or, the truck may have a mechanical issue that causes its brake system to malfunction. Going at high speed also increases the risk of the truck jackknifing when braking.
Danger of A Jackknife Truck Accident
Each type of jackknife truck accident presents the potential for obstructing traffic in one or more lanes on the road increasing the risk of other vehicles on the road crashing into it. This is particularly dangerous on high speed multiple lane highways and can cause a multi-vehicle pile- ups or chain reaction collisions, multiple injuries and, in some cases fatalities. Whatever the case, a jackknife crash has the potential to cause serious injuries – and even fatal ones – to multiple people.
In a typical true truck jackknife accident, the tractor of the semi-truck spins around and crashes into the trailer it is pulling. True jackknifes happen suddenly, with little opportunity for the truck driver to stop the truck jackknifing once it has started. In “plow out” the truck can’t be steered and “plows out” in the direction it is traveling.
In a “trailer swing” also called a “swing out” the trailer of the big rig accident swings out across the road and can end up at a 90-degree angle with the truck’s tractor. Trailer swings can start more slowly with the possibility for a skilled truck driver to recover control. Each of these types of jackknife truck accidents involve the potential of other vehicles on the road being hit by the out-of-control jackknifing truck.
Trailer swings can also be less extreme but equally dangerous. They can cause the back of the trailer to suddenly enter one or more adjacent traffic lanes with the potential of a catastrophic crash when the rear of the trailer without warning crashes into or appears immediately in front of another vehicle with no opportunity to avoid a crash.
Preventing Jackknife Truck Accidents
There are a number of very basic steps truck drivers can take to avoid a jackknife truck accident. It starts with the truck’s load. The truck driver and trucking company need to ensure that the load is properly distributed on the truck so that the truck is balanced and stable. Slow, smooth deceleration can help prevent a jackknife truck accident. Truck drivers need to brake smoothly and do so before turns and try to avoid braking during them.
Slick conditions like those from rain, snow or ice present particular challenges. Truckers are advised to check their mirrors to watch for the trailer begging to swing out. If they see this it is recommended that they release the brakes and straighten the semi before attempting to brake again. Truck drivers need to react quickly if the trailer starts to swing out because after a certain point they may not be able to stop the trailer from swinging further.
Technology like anti-lock brake systems (ABS) and electronic stability control (ECS) can be effective in preventing jackknifes. ABS is required on new trucks and as more and more old trucks are taken out of service and replaced by new ABS equipped tractors it is expected that jackknifes will become less prevalent. However, trucking companies must be careful to match brake systems on tractors and trailer. A mismatch in braking equipment where the tractor is equipped with anti-lock brakes (ABS) and the other trailer is not or the trailer has ABS and the tractor does not can also increase the risk of a jackknife truck accident due to the differences in how ABS and non-ABS brakes operate.
Considerations in Jackknifes
As seen from the tragic Kansas City area multi-vehicle crash example, described above, jackknifes in cause serious injuries like head trauma, neck or spine injury, severe fractures, catastrophic injuries and, in some cases death.
A jackknifing accident case may be complicated. If you or someone in your family has been injured in a jackknife crash in Missouri or Kansas, your best course of action is to hire a trucking accident attorney with skills and experience to win such a case. Flick Law Firm has years of experience working truck accident cases, and has been repeatedly successful in obtaining fair compensation for clients. Contact Flick Law Firm today for the legal help you need.