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Truck Jackknife Accidents

Imagine you’re driving on the interstate at 65 miles per hour, and suddenly, the tractor-trailer in front of you brakes and jackknifes. Your vehicle slams into the side of the truck, and you suffer head, neck, and face injuries. With $50,000 in medical fees and counting, and missing work to recover, how will you pay your bills and provide for your family?

You could be eligible for compensation for your losses if you were hurt in a truck jackknife accident through no fault of your own. However, facing the powerful trucking company and their insurance provider alone may result in you receiving a fraction of what you deserve. That’s when Nix Patterson’s truck accident attorneys can help by holding the trucking company accountable.

What Is a Jackknife Truck Accident?

A jackknife truck accident happens when a commercial truck with a trailer folds in on itself at a 90-degree angle. This is called a jackknife because the trailer swings toward the cab, making the vehicle resemble a jackknife.

Causes of Jackknife Truck Accidents

Many jackknife accidents are caused by faulty brakes, sometimes because of poor maintenance or improper braking by the driver. For example, if the trucker follows too closely to the vehicle in front, he may need to slam on the brakes too hard. Braking too hard and fast, especially on a slick surface, can lock the truck’s axles. The trailer will continue to move, however, and can cause it to slide from behind the cab.

Other common causes of jackknife truck accidents are:

  • Improperly secured cargo: If the cargo moves inside the trailer, it affects weight distribution.
  • Light trailer loads: If the trailer is not heavy enough, it can lack sufficient traction with the road.
  • Road surface: A wet, snowy, or icy road can cause slipping.
  • Mechanical problems: Brakes could malfunction and lock up.
  • Traffic volume: Heavy traffic can mean limited time to slow down.

In most cases, truck driver error is the ultimate cause of jackknife truck accidents. Truck drivers are more obligated than other drivers to use care on the roads. They also have to make sure that the truck’s maintained correctly and loaded. When the truck driver or company fails to act safely and responsibly, they could be found negligent in a lawsuit.

Why Do Trucks Jackknife?

Many truck jackknife accidents are caused by the trailer wheels locking up when the driver applies the brakes too firmly in an emergency, making the trailer slide from behind the cab. Most truck jackknife accidents are because of driver error. Whether braking too hard, driving too fast, or improper vehicle maintenance, truck drivers and their employers are often ultimately responsible for these incidents.

What to Do If You Were Injured in a Jackknifing Truck Accident

You should seek immediate medical attention if you were hurt in a truck jackknife accident. Most truck accidents involve injuries and property damage, so don’t assume you are fine if you don’t feel pain immediately. You should have a medical professional assess you immediately. If you have serious injuries, having them in your medical record after the accident will help with a potential claim later.

You also should contact a Nix Patterson truck jackknife attorney to determine if you have a case. The sooner you contact a qualified attorney, the better; critical case evidence could disappear as the weeks pass.

How to Avoid a Jackknifing Truck Accident

Most truck jackknife accidents are caused by truck driver error. But there are things you can do to minimize your chances of being injured if the truck loses control:

Keep a Safe Distance

Staying at a safe distance from other vehicles on the road can prevent accidents. Staying away from big rigs as much as possible can help avoid a severe truck accident. When following a tractor-trailer, stay at least four or five seconds behind so you have time to react.

Use Caution in Poor Weather

Driving in bad weather is different from doing so when it’s sunny and dry. Large trucks are harder to handle on wet and icy roads, so increase your following distances. You never know when the trucker might need to brake hard in bad weather, possibly causing a jackknife accident.

Brake Carefully

If you are in front of a tractor-trailer, try to avoid braking suddenly. Large trucks take much longer to slow down, so brake gradually when possible. Also, do not cut off tractor-trailers in traffic and then hit your brakes. This type of dangerous maneuver can force the trucker to slam on the brakes and cause a serious accident.

Watch the Truck’s Trailer

If you are behind a commercial truck on the freeway, you can sometimes recognize when a truck is about to jackknife. When the trucker hits the brakes hard, it’s likelier that the truck will jackknife because the trailer can skid from behind the cab. If the big rig in front of you brakes hard, watch if the trailer swings slightly to the left or right. It could be about to jackknife. Keep your distance.

How a Truck Jackknife Accident Attorney Can Help

There are many critical things that a personal injury attorney can do for you after a severe truck accident. They include:

  • Determining liability. There are many potential reasons the truck crashed. Was the driver speeding or distracted? Did the company fail to maintain the truck’s brakes? Were the tires bald? Did a third party own the trailer and fail to maintain it?
  • Gathering evidence. Your attorney can send a truck accident attorney to the crash scene and reconstruct what happened. They also may gather eyewitness accounts, the trucker’s driver log and maintenance record, and the truck’s safety records. If it’s suspected that the driver was on his cell phone during the accident, your attorney can subpoena those records.
  • Establishing potential compensation. A truck accident attorney can roughly estimate what your case is worth. They can talk to your doctors to determine the future medical care you may need. Also, they will talk to medical professionals about your level of pain and suffering. Your attorney also will determine the lost wages you may have in the future.
  • Negotiating with the insurance company. Few have the skill or patience to deal with a trucking firm’s insurance company, especially when dealing with a serious injury. Many insurance companies will offer the injured a low settlement to close the case. You don’t have to take the initial settlement offer. Having an attorney handle settlement negotiations can help you get more complete compensation for expenses caused by the accident.

Contact an Experienced Truck Jackknife Attorney

If you were in a truck jackknife accident and suffered severe injuries, you could be saddled with a stack of medical bills and be out of work. An experienced truck jackknife attorney can investigate your claim to determine if another person or entity was responsible for the accident. If so, you could receive compensation for your injuries, property damage, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.

Nix Patterson’s truck jackknife accident attorneys are ready to help today. Please contact us today for a free consultation. And remember, we work on a contingency basis, so you incur no legal fees unless we win.


Nix Patterson only works on a contingency fee basis. Our clients pay us nothing unless we win. Schedule a free consultation today. Call 512.328.5333 or complete the form below. 

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