Jackknife truck accidents are among the most dangerous types of crashes on the road. These accidents occur when a large truck, such as a semi-trailer or 18-wheeler, folds in on itself at the joint between the cab and trailer, resembling the shape of a folding jackknife or pocketknife. When this happens, the driver loses control of the vehicle, and the truck can skid across multiple lanes of traffic, hitting other cars or obstacles in its path.

Jackknife accidents can be catastrophic, often resulting in serious injuries or fatalities for the truck driver and occupants of other vehicles involved. Here, we’ll explore the common causes of jackknife truck accidents, the types of injuries they can cause, and the actions you can take if you or a loved one has experienced one of these crashes. To discuss the specifics of your case, contact a truck accident lawyer near you today.

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What Causes Jackknife Truck Accidents?

Jackknife accidents can happen for a variety of reasons, but some of the most common causes include:

Improper Braking

One of the most frequent causes of jackknife accidents is improper truck driver braking. Large trucks require much longer stopping distances than passenger vehicles, especially when fully loaded. If a truck driver brakes too hard or suddenly, the trailer can swing out to the side, causing the truck to fold in.

This can happen if the driver is following too closely behind another vehicle and doesn’t have enough time to brake safely or if they brake hard on a slippery surface such as wet or icy roads. Improper brake maintenance, like a truck’s brakes being improperly adjusted or not working correctly, can also contribute to jackknife accidents.


Speeding is another common cause of jackknife truck accidents. When a truck travels too fast, especially around curves or slippery roads, the trailer can begin to swing out to the side, making it difficult for the driver to maintain control. This is especially dangerous when a truck is entering or exiting a highway, as the change in speed and direction can cause the trailer to swing wildly.

Truck drivers are often under pressure to meet tight delivery deadlines, which can lead to speeding and other risky driving behaviors. However, it’s important for drivers to prioritize safety over speed and to always obey posted speed limits, especially in adverse weather conditions or on winding roads.

Improper Loading

The way a truck is loaded can also contribute to jackknife accidents. If the cargo is not properly secured or unevenly loaded, it may shift during transport and unbalance the trailer. This can make the truck more difficult to control, especially during sudden maneuvers or braking.

Overloading a truck can also increase the risk of a jackknife accident. When a truck carries too much weight, it takes longer to stop and is more difficult to control. This is why strict regulations govern the maximum weight and size of trucks.

Driver Error

Driver error is another leading cause of jackknife truck accidents. This can include distracted driving, such as texting or eating behind the wheel, as well as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Fatigue represents a significant issue in the trucking industry, with drivers often pressured to work long hours without adequate rest breaks.

Other examples of driver error that can lead to jackknife accidents include:

  • Failing to properly judge the speed and distance of other vehicles.
  • Making sudden lane changes or turns.
  • Not adjusting driving behaviors for adverse weather conditions.

Equipment Failure

Finally, equipment failure can also contribute to jackknife truck accidents. This can include issues with the truck’s tires, such as blowouts or tread separation, and problems with the truck’s suspension, steering, or coupling between the cab and trailer.

Regular maintenance and inspections are necessary to catch and repair these issues before they lead to accidents on the road. Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring their vehicles are in safe working condition, and drivers should also perform pre-trip inspections to identify any potential problems.

Common Injuries in Jackknife Truck Accidents

Because of the size and weight of large trucks, jackknife accidents often result in severe injuries for those involved. Some of the most common injuries in these crashes include:

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

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Traumatic brain injuries can occur when a victim’s head hits a hard surface or is jolted violently in a crash. These injuries can range from mild concussions to severe and life-altering damage to the brain. Symptoms of a TBI can include headaches, dizziness, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and changes in mood or behavior.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are another common and devastating result of jackknife truck accidents. These injuries occur when the spinal cord is damaged or severed, often leading to paralysis below the site of the injury. Victims may lose sensation and function in their limbs, as well as control over bladder and bowel functions.

Broken Bones

The force of a jackknife accident can easily cause broken bones, especially in the arms, legs, ribs, and pelvis. These injuries can be extremely painful and may require surgery and lengthy rehabilitation to heal properly.

Internal Injuries

Jackknife accidents can also cause internal injuries, such as damage to organs like the liver, spleen, or kidneys. These injuries may not be immediately apparent but can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.

Lacerations and Soft Tissue Damage

Flying debris and broken glass in a jackknife accident can cause deep cuts and lacerations, as well as soft tissue damage like sprains, strains, and contusions. These injuries can be painful and may require stitches or surgery to repair.

Psychological Trauma

In addition to physical injuries, jackknife truck accidents can also cause significant psychological trauma for survivors. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues are common in the aftermath of a severe crash.

What to Do If You’re Involved in a Jackknife Truck Accident

If you or a loved one has experienced a jackknife truck accident, take these steps to safeguard your health and legal rights:

Here’s an expanded version of each step to take after a jackknife truck accident, with each one as its heading:

Seek Medical Attention Immediately

Your health and well-being should be your top priority after a jackknife truck accident. Even if you don’t think you’ve suffered a severe injury, get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible. Some injuries, such as whiplash, concussions, or internal bleeding, may not show symptoms right away but can have serious consequences if left untreated.

Call 911 or have someone else call for you if you’re able. If you’re unsure whether you need emergency care, err on caution and go to the nearest hospital or urgent care center. Be sure to tell the medical staff that you were involved in a truck accident and describe any symptoms you’re experiencing, no matter how minor they may seem.

In addition to seeking immediate medical attention, follow up with your primary care doctor in the days and weeks following the accident. Keep all your medical appointments and follow your doctor’s recommendations for treatment and rehabilitation. This helps ensure the best possible recovery and creates a record of your injuries, which can be important if you need to file an insurance claim or lawsuit.

Report the Accident

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After a jackknife truck accident, report the crash to the proper authorities. This typically means calling the police to the accident scene, especially if there are injuries, significant property damage, or the vehicles are blocking traffic.

When the police arrive, they will create an official accident report that documents the details of the crash, including the date, time, location, and parties involved. Be sure to give the police an honest and accurate account of what happened, but avoid admitting fault or apologizing for the accident. Even if you may have contributed to the crash, it’s best to let the police and insurance companies investigate and determine fault.

In addition to reporting the accident to the police, you should notify your insurance company immediately. Most insurance policies require you to report accidents promptly, which can jeopardize your coverage. When you call your insurance company, have your policy number and the police report ready, and be prepared to briefly describe what happened.

Gather Evidence

If you can do so safely, gathering evidence at the scene of the jackknife truck accident can be crucial for building a strong case later on. This includes:

  • Photos of the damage to the vehicles involved, as well as any skid marks, debris, or other evidence on the road
  • Contact information for any witnesses who saw the accident happen, including their names, phone numbers, and email addresses
  • The truck driver’s name, contact information, insurance details, and employer information
  • Photos of any visible injuries you or your passengers sustained in the crash

Ask a friend, family member, or bystander for help if you cannot gather evidence. The more documentation you have of the accident scene, the better equipped you and your attorney will be to prove your case and negotiate with the insurance companies.

Keep Detailed Records

In the days and weeks following a jackknife truck accident, it’s important to keep detailed records of all expenses related to the crash. This includes:

  • Medical bills for emergency room visits, hospitalizations, surgeries, and follow-up appointments
  • Receipts for prescription medications, medical devices, and other healthcare expenses
  • Documentation of lost income if you cannot work due to your injuries
  • Receipts for repairs or replacement of your vehicle and any other property damaged in the accident
  • A journal documenting your pain and suffering, and emotional distress related to the accident and your injuries

Hire an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney

The legal process after a jackknife truck accident can be challenging, especially if you’re dealing with serious injuries and mounting medical bills. An experienced truck accident attorney can be a valuable resource, offering essential guidance and support.

A skilled attorney can support you in several key ways:

  • Investigating the cause of the accident and gathering evidence to support your claim
  • Identifying all potentially liable parties, including the truck driver, trucking company, and manufacturers of defective vehicle parts
  • Calculating the full extent of your damages, including future medical expenses and lost earning capacity
  • Negotiating with the insurance companies to seek a fair settlement that covers all of your losses
  • Representing you in court if your case goes to trial and a settlement is impossible.

When choosing a truck accident attorney, look for someone with specific experience handling cases like yours. Ask about their success track record, communication style, and approach to client representation. Most importantly, choose an attorney you feel comfortable with and believe will fight tirelessly for your rights and interests.

While hiring an attorney may seem like an added expense, it can often result in a much higher settlement or verdict than you can obtain. Truck accident lawyers typically work on a contingency fee basis, which means they only get paid if they win your case. Their fees come out of the settlement or award rather than your pocket.

If you have been involved in a jackknife truck accident, don’t hesitate to seek an experienced attorney. With the right legal representation, you can focus on your recovery while your attorney handles the complex legal process and fights for the compensation you deserve.

Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer Today

Jackknife truck accidents are some of the most serious and catastrophic crashes on the road, often resulting in life-changing injuries or fatalities. Various factors, including improper braking, speeding, equipment failure, and driver error, can cause these accidents. The aftermath of such crashes can leave victims and their families facing extensive medical bills, lost income, and long-term rehabilitation needs.

If you or a loved one has experienced a jackknife truck accident, seek immediate medical attention and consult an experienced personal injury attorney. With the right support and representation, you can focus on your recovery while your attorney fights for the compensation you deserve. This legal assistance is crucial in navigating the complexities of truck accident claims, ensuring you receive just compensation for your injuries and losses.

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