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Jackknife Truck Accidents: The Causes and Dangers

By Michael Verna on January 12, 2018

Driving near a large truckLarge trucks are an essential part of California's roads. These vehicles help get products in and out of the Bay Area. Of course, their size makes them a hazard should the driver of a large truck lose control of their vehicle.

The lawyers of Bowles & Verna LLP have helped countless people in the Oakland, CA area who've been the victims of truck accidents. Jackknife truck accidents can be especially dangerous to all involved. Let's explore these kinds of crashes in more detail.

About Jackknife Truck Accidents

Large commercial trucks have two separate parts: a cab and a trailer. These sections of a large truck are kept connected but separate in order to improve maneuverability, such as when making turns. These are the basics of articulated vehicles.

A jackknife accident refers to cases in which the trailer folds into the cab. The action is such that it recalls the motion of a pocket knife being folded. When a jackknife accident occurs, a truck driver has effectively lost control of the vehicle, which can spell danger for everyone on the road.

The Causes of Jackknife Truck Accidents

The primary cause of a jackknife accident is the trailer skidding and moving in toward the cab. There are a variety of actions and conditions that can cause this:

  • The truck driver suddenly applies the brakes
  • The truck driver moves the steering wheel abruptly
  • Vehicle equipment failure
  • Poor road conditions

In some extreme circumstances, a truck driver may intentionally try to jackknife their vehicle in order to slow it down. This is only attempted in the even of brake failure and typically as a last resort.

The Hazards of Jackknife Truck Accidents

Jackknife truck accidents can lead to severe injuries and accidents if the large truck strikes any vehicle that are nearby. Cars in adjacent lanes may be struck by the jackknifing truck. In such cases, multi-car crashes are not uncommon given how many lanes a trailer may take up while skidding.

Given the size of the truck and trailer, the amount of force generated by these kinds of collisions can be devastating.

Jackknife Truck Accident Statistics

According to numbers for the year 2013 compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:

  • There were 5,000 jackknife truck accidents that caused vehicle damage only
  • There were 1,000 jackknife truck accidents that caused injuries to motorists
  • There were 183 jackknife truck accidents that resulted in fatalities

Can Jackknife Accidents Be Prevented?

Yes. In many cases, prevention is in the hands of the truck driver. With proper training and good road experience, a truck driver can prevent jackknife accidents from occurring. This training is especially important if a driver is on a wet, slippery, or difficult road.

There are also special rear brakes and electronic devices that can help slow down the trailer as the cab slows down, reducing the risk of the trailer skidding and folding.

Holding Negligent Parties Accountable

When a jackknife accident occurs, it's important that any negligent parties be held accountable for damage and injuries they cause. The truck driver may not be the person at fault in certain cases. This is why working with an attorney is so crucial. A lawyer can analyze the evidence in your case and offer counsel on how to proceed.

Contact Our Attorneys

If you or someone you know requires legal assistance following a major collision, be sure to contact our team of injury and accident attorneys today. The lawyers of Bowles & Verna LLP will help you seek justice.

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Walnut Creek Office

2121 N California Blvd
Ste 875
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

Open Today 8:30am - 6:00pm

More Info Directions (925) 935-3300