What is a Jackknife Accident?

Thanks to the size and weight of commercial trucks, as well as the fact that they’re often lugging around heavy cargo in their trailers, there are some types of accidents that are unique to trucks. One of these unique accidents is called a jackknife accident. This involves the truck’s cab and trailer folding in at the point of separation, forming a 90-degree angle shape that resembles a pocketknife folding into its handle when closing—hence the name.

Because a jackknife accident requires a truck to take up considerable space on the road, they usually involve other vehicles and can cause a multi-vehicle pileup and plenty of traffic. Sometimes cars will collide with the truck as it’s jackknifing. It’s also possible for the truck to roll over as it’s jackknifing.

Common Causes of Jackknifing

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 10 percent of truck occupant fatalities are associated with jackknifing. A number of factors can contribute to jackknife accidents, including poor weather conditions, though most are caused by human error. It’s important to know that even in rain and snow, drivers are expected to drive safely on the road and keep everyone around them safe.

Some common examples of driver error that contribute to jackknife accidents with trucks include:

  • Speeding: The NHTSA reported that a speed limit of 55 mph or higher significantly increases the odds of jackknifing and rollovers for large trucks, especially when curved roads and sharp turns are involved. It’s difficult for large trucks to stop suddenly when they approach a hazard, and slamming on the brakes can easily cause the trailer to swing out.
  • Impaired driving: Alcohol and certain kinds of drugs—including prescription medications—can slow down a driver’s reflexes and judgment, which is dangerous on the road when drivers need to be alert and ready to quickly respond to sudden movements and dangers. Because trucks take a longer time to slow down and make turns, drivers need to make decisions earlier than drivers of passenger vehicles.
  • Distracted driving: Truck drivers who aren’t paying attention to the road because they’re on their phones, eating, or even simply changing the radio station can cause jackknife accidents when they try to swerve to avoid hitting a car or something else they didn’t see at the last second. Removing your eyes or attention for just a few seconds is dangerous.

Because of the weight of the truck and the force that a heavy trailer applies in a crash, jackknife accidents almost always end with serious injuries and fatalities. Some of the most common injuries associated with these accidents include internal bleeding, skull fracture, spinal cord injuries, broken bones, and traumatic brain injuries.

Holding At-Fault Parties Responsible in Indiana

There are a number of parties who can be held responsible for negligence through an injury claim. Because truck drivers are often employed by companies, it’s likely you’ll be able to hold their employer liable for damages, especially if you can prove the driver lacked proper training. However, some truck drivers are independent contractors and usually own their own trucks, meaning they’re responsible for themselves.

Other potential at-fault parties in jackknife accidents include cargo owners, mechanics, and manufacturers of vehicle parts. Even government entities can be at fault if they failed to maintain the roadway that contributed to the crash.

Regardless of who caused your injuries, our lawyers believe our clients deserve the maximum amount of compensation available to them to cover their damages, especially when they’ve suffered so much in a truck accident. Our experience recovering damages ranging from medical bills to pain and suffering gives us the edge we need to help you make a complete recovery.

Get started on your claim today by calling our Indianapolis jackknife accident lawyers at 317-488-5500. In your free case evaluation, we can discuss what’s next for you.