Truck Jackknife Accident Lawyer
Personal Injury Lawyers - Representing People Nationwide
Jackknifing occurs when the trailer of a tractor-trailer truck loses control, swings out, and forms an acute angle relative to the cab. It is usually caused by adverse road conditions, improper breaking, or equipment failure and should not be confused with “trailer swing” or “trailer slew”, which is when the trailer skids to one side but moves back in line as the vehicle continues moving forward.
Observers sometimes incorrectly attribute jackknifing to the cause of a truck accident when, in actuality, a collision may have caused a truck to jackknife. This makes it seem as if jackknifing is more common than it actually is. Jackknifing, in fact, is a rare occurrence most skillful truck drivers are able to prevent quite easily.
That makes it all the more tragic when jackknifing does occur and results in injury, death or property damage. Jackknifing is likelier to occur when the trailer is empty or is carrying a light load. In some cases, jackknifing can cause the vehicle to roll over.
The driver may not necessarily be negligent if the truck jackknifes due to an abrupt turn a he or she takes to avoid a motorist or stalled vehicle, or if it was due to unforeseeable slipperiness of the road. But when encountering an emergency situation, the driver can make choices that can lead to different outcomes.
By locking the steering axle brakes, the entire vehicle will continue to move forward but will lose the ability to be steered. Locking the trailer brakes may cause the trailer to swing, also resulting in the loss of directional control. Locking the drive axle brakes is likeliest to result in a jackknife.
The best option is to apply the brakes evenly without locking them. Locking the brakes limits traction and allows lateral forces to take over. But even the best training may be overcome by panic when confronted with an emergency situation. And many big rigs are not equipped with anti-lock braking systems (ABS). The problem is further exacerbated by unbalanced bakes or by an uneven distribution of the truck's load.
Anti-lock breaking systems have significantly reduced the number of heavy vehicle accidents among those that have been fitted with them. Another important advancement that has prevented jackknifing is the load-sensing regulator. This simple device reduces the brake pressure to the rear wheels of empty vehicles or those hauling light loads.
A newer device known as the “Atlas AJSS” engages at speeds of over 45 mph, preventing the trailer from becoming more than 15° out of alignment with the cab. At slower speeds, the system disengages, allowing for hairpin turns on winding mountain roads.
But until all articulated vehicles are equipped with ABS and anti-jackknifing devices, the way truck drivers can avoid jackknifing is to:
- Maintain their distance, especially on a slippery road
- Brake evenly over the longest distance possible
- Not decelerate on a turn, especially on a downhill turn. Enter the turn slower than necessary – you can then increase your speed while turning
- If evasive action needs to be taken and the driver can avoid breaking and swerving simultaneously, the driver should brake first and not swerve until the last moment. If the situation allows, the driver should release the brakes in order to swerve and then re-apply them
- If the trailer begins to skid, the driver should release the brakes and steer into the skid
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in a jackknifing accident involving a tractor-trailer, you should be aware that trucking companies have teams of accident attorneys, investigators and insurance representatives on their side. To improve your chances of collecting compensation for your loss, you should contact one of our experienced trucking accident attorneys. We’ll work with you to help you get the settlement you deserve and, if your claim doesn’t settle, one of our truck accident lawyers will try your case to a jury.