When the cab of a tractor-trailer slows down, skids, or stops suddenly, especially when turning or negotiating a curve, the momentum of the rig might cause the trailer to swing out to the left or right, forming an angle that resembles an open pocketknife. For this reason, such mishaps involving semis or 18-wheelers are referred to as a jackknife truck accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports just 5% of 18-wheeler accidents are jackknife crashes. That relatively small number of truck wrecks, however, accounts for 10% of all truck wreck fatalities, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Thus, a jackknife truck accident is twice as deadly as they are frequent.
Causes of a Jackknife Accident
- Cargo issues. A light load or no load makes the trailer of a semi-truck more likely to swing out when the cab slows down or stops. Improperly loaded/secured cargo can also shift in transit and cause the trailer to jackknife.
- Weather. Because slippery roads interfere with tire traction, a jackknife accident is three times more likely to occur in bad weather than in good.
- Insufficient lighting. Poor lighting on the road makes a wreck 49% more likely because drivers can’t see far ahead or gauge road conditions.
- Steering mistakes. When a driver navigates turns/curves or changes lanes to pass another vehicle, an abrupt turn of the steering wheel or overcorrection can make the trailer swing out. A jackknife wreck is 86% more likely to occur on a curvy road than on a straight one.
- Braking suddenly or too hard. Sudden decreases or stops can cause the trailer to swing out and jackknife.
- Speeding. According to the NHTSA, driving just 10 miles per hour over the speed limit in a fully loaded truck can increase the likelihood of a jackknife crash by almost 50%.
- Mechanical issues. Defective brakes or steering malfunctions can also cause jackknife accidents.
- A fatigued or distracted driver. Because truckers are often under pressure to meet delivery deadlines, they might drive more consecutive hours than is permitted by law and find themselves drowsy and unalert, with slowed reaction times. To stay awake, a driver might talk or text on the phone, adjust the radio, eat, drink, or smoke. All these activities take attention away from the road and make a jackknife crash more likely.
Although a truck driver in Minnesota is required to hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL), trucking companies are well-advised to require extensive and ongoing driver training that focuses on preventing jackknife wrecks by:
- Keeping the trailer straight when slowing down or stopping
- Steering in the direction of a skid
- Getting off the road safely before other vehicles are struck
Trucking companies are also required to perform regular maintenance on trucks to keep them safe. Brake and steering systems should be kept in top condition to reduce the chances of a jackknife wreck.
Injuries Resulting From Jackknife Crashes
Any accident involving a passenger car (approximately 4,000 pounds) and a fully loaded tractor-trailer (up to 80,000 pounds) can result in catastrophic injuries for the driver/passengers in the car. A jackknife collision often does even more damage than other truck wrecks do because the trailer can swing into and across adjacent lanes, colliding with multiple vehicles, causing highway pileups, and even striking pedestrians on the side of the road. A jackknifed truck is also likely to turn over, lose cargo, or spill toxic/flammable fluids, and cause a variety of severe injuries:
- Concussions/traumatic brain injury
- Broken, fractured, or crushed bones
- Whiplash and other neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries/paralysis
- Organ damage/internal bleeding
Our Free Accident Referral Service Can Help if You've Been in a Minnesota Truck Accident
Your first step toward recovery and justice is to seek medical treatment immediately and document your injuries. Remember that some may not be immediately noticeable. You might have injuries that only a medical exam or X-rays will reveal. The second step is to consult an attorney to help you recover compensation for your damages:
- Medical bills
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Our free referral service will find you a local doctor to treat your specific injuries and an experienced truck accident lawyer to help you seek fair compensation. Fill out the contact form on this page or call 763-251-PAIN for a free consultation. Just one call puts you two steps closer to justice!