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What Are Jackknife Accidents?

Colburn Law

The sight of a large truck or trailer jackknifed across a roadway is a harrowing and often deadly one. Jackknife accidents are a significant hazard that can have devastating consequences for drivers, passengers, and other road users. When a truck towing a trailer or other large object loses control and the trailer swings out to the side, the result is a dangerous and potentially lethal situation.

Jackknife accidents can cause extensive damage, and the injuries sustained can be severe, including broken bones, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and even death. If you or a loved one is involved in one of these collisions, seek the help of a Washington truck accident lawyer who can help you hold the at-fault party accountable.

How Does a Jackknife Accident Happen?

A jackknife accident is a dangerous and potentially deadly situation that can occur when the front cab and rear trailer of a semi-truck become out of sync with each other. This often happens when the truck driver is forced to slam on the brakes, causing the trailer to sway to the side and potentially causing the entire truck to lose control.

In this scenario, the driver may be unable to maintain control of the trailer, particularly if it is a full one. The truck and trailer can form a sharp angle between each other, often exceeding 90 degrees. This angle makes it impossible for a driver to control the momentum, causing the truck to jackknife.

It’s important to note that a fully loaded truck can legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds and can pull one or two trailers up to 53 feet in length. Given the sheer size of these vehicles, accidents involving jackknifing can result in serious injury, death, or significant property damage.

Common Causes of Jackknife Accidents

Common Causes of Jackknife Accidents

Jackknife truck accidents can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Weather Conditions: Wet or slippery roads can cause a loss of traction, which is particularly dangerous for heavy trucks and trailers. 
  • Driver Fatigue: Truck drivers are often on tight schedules and may be required to drive even when they are tired, which can be incredibly dangerous. 
  • Improper Loading and Weight Distribution: If a truck trailer is loaded improperly or has an unbalanced weight distribution, it can be difficult for the driver to operate the vehicle safely.
  • Speeding: Trucks take longer to slow down than passenger vehicles, and a high rate of speed can make it difficult for the driver to maintain control. 
  • Difficult Terrain:  Curvy roads and uneven terrain can make it challenging for even the most skilled truck drivers to maintain control of their vehicles. 
  • Inexperienced Drivers: Novice truck drivers may lack the experience needed to handle unexpected situations on the road, causing them to slam on the brakes and lose control of their vehicles.

What to Do If You Are Involved in a Jackknife Accident

If you find yourself involved in a jackknife accident, there are several critical steps to take. First, call 911 to report the accident to law enforcement. Remain calm and document the scene by taking pictures and videos, speaking to witnesses, and exchanging information with the truck driver. Seek medical attention immediately, even if you do not feel injured.

Then, contact a Washington truck accident lawyer who can represent your case against the at-fault driver and help you recover the compensation that you deserve. As soon as possible following your collision, schedule a free case consultation to learn more about your legal options and discuss your next steps.