The truck or cab of a tractor-trailer controls the movements of the tailor it is pulling. When the truck accelerates, the trailer is pulled along. Through careful maneuvering, tractors and their trailers can navigate turns and curves. When the truck brakes, connections between the two ensure that the brakes on the trailer are also activated. 

When the movements and inputs from the cab no longer control the trailer, a jackknife accident can follow. A jackknife accident gets its name from how the tractor-trailer involved resembles a partially-open pocket knife from above. This can happen suddenly and dramatically raise the risks of a truck crash.

Causes of Jackknife Truck Accidents

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that over 4,000 individuals were killed in trucking accidents in 2020. While the IIHS does not disclose how many of these accidents were jackknife crashes, it does recognize that trucks often require a greater distance to stop, especially when fully loaded or driving in wet and slippery conditions.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration further reports that over 1,000 of the fatal crashes it reported — about 25 percent — occurred at least in part due to weather. 

Slippery or wet weather can contribute to a jackknife accident, as can:

  • A tractor pulling an unevenly-loaded trailer
  • A trailer that is overloaded
  • A tractor-trailer with faulty brakes, tires, or other equipment
  • A truck driver who suddenly brakes or attempts a sudden maneuver

By the time a trailer begins to jackknife, there is often very little the truck driver can do to regain control. Instead, the driver must attempt to bring the vehicle to a stop as promptly but safely as possible. 

What Happens After a Truck Jackknifes?

Once the trailer becomes uncontrollable, the trailer will begin to push the cab of the truck at an angle. Or the trailer may begin to swing around to one side of the cab or the other. 

At this point, the truck is difficult, if not impossible, for the driver to control. Nearby traffic is in danger of being struck by the tractor-trailer and should promptly yet safely create distance from the truck. 

The truck may continue in a forward direction for some time, with the cab traveling at an extreme angle to the trailer. Eventually, the drag and friction of traveling in such a manner will bring the truck to a stop. The truck may also stop when it strikes another vehicle or rolls over due to the forces involved.

Jackknife Truck Accident Lawsuits in Houston, TX

Even when the weather is the primary cause of a jackknife accident, truck driver error cannot be ruled out. Truck driver negligence, such as speeding during inclement weather, being distracted by a cell phone or radio, or not inspecting the truck’s equipment regularly can compound the dangers of inclement weather and make a jackknife accident more likely.

While it is visually obvious that a truck has jackknifed, it may take an intensive investigation to uncover all of the reasons why the jackknife occurred. 

This investigation may involve the use of accident reconstructionists, as it may be necessary to examine the truck’s internal computer and recorded data as well as review the physical evidence of the crash.

Individuals injured in these dangerous and unpredictable truck accidents may have grounds to bring a lawsuit against the truck driver, the trucking company, or even others. If a person or company’s carelessness contributed in any way to the jackknife accident, that person or business may be responsible for paying your damages.

Contact the Houston Truck Accident Lawyers at Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers For Help

For more information, contact the Houston truck accident law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500-5000.

Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers
3120 Southwest Freeway, Suite 350
Houston, TX 77098
United States

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11811 East Fwy, Suite 630-06
Houston, TX 77029
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Houston, TX 77054
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