How To Avoid An 18-Wheeler “Jackknife” Accident

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Semi-trucks, also known as 18-wheelers, are essential for transporting goods into Texas, where they will be sold at various retail outlets. These large vehicles are unmistakable as they traverse the state’s highways. Comprised of two components—a tractor in the front and a trailer in the back—these trucks are connected by a “fifth wheel” coupling device. When the trailer pivots out at an angle, similar to a Swiss Army knife’s blade, it creates a situation known as “jackknifing.” While this movement is normal during turns, it becomes hazardous when it occurs while driving straight along the roadway.

What causes a truck to jackknife?

Jackknife accidents should not take place when a truck is moving in a straight path. Regrettably, they are quite common in Dallas and throughout Texas for a multitude of reasons. The most prevalent causes of jackknife accidents include:

  1. Incorrectly loaded cargo: If the items within the trailer are unbalanced or not properly secured, this can lead to jackknifing. Cargo that shifts during transport can alter the truck’s center of gravity, potentially causing the trailer to swing out and collide with other motorists.
  2. Abrupt braking: When truck drivers apply the brakes too suddenly, it can cause the wheels to lock up and result in the trailer swinging out to one side.
  3. Adverse road conditions: Slippery surfaces due to ice or snow may lead to loss of traction for the trailer and increase the likelihood of it swinging out dangerously. This is one reason Texas experiences numerous jackknife crashes.
  4. Excessive speed: Traveling too fast often means that trucks require more braking distance. Speeding raises the risk of sudden braking when unexpected obstacles appear in front of them.
  5. Turning on inclines or declines: Attempting to make a turn on an incline or decline can easily trigger jackknifing and even potential rollovers. Truckers must exercise extreme caution in such situations.

Moreover, jackknife accidents have the potential to result in major pile-ups on highways, leading to incredibly perilous multi-vehicle crash scenes that can cause severe injuries or fatalities.

What to do when negligence is involved.

Truck collisions are frequently due to negligence, typically involving the truck driver or another individual failing to exercise caution. This type of careless behavior contributes to the occurrence of jackknife accidents. Examples of negligent acts include:

  1. Distractions occur when truck drivers who use their cell phones, eat food, or engage in other activities while their vehicle is in motion may not be fully focused on the road. This lack of attention can force them to slam on the brakes, leading to jackknife situations. Poor attention while driving is a primary contributor to all types of truck accidents.
    Insufficient training means truck drivers may lack expertise in navigating complex driving environments or driving during winter weather conditions—especially for those hailing from warmer climates like Mexico or southern states. Furthermore, some drivers might not possess the knowledge necessary for ensuring that cargo is correctly secured prior to departure.
  2. Fatigue is a significant factor in trucking accidents. An exhausted truck driver is more prone to speeding, falling asleep at the wheel, and veering across the middle separator. When making sudden movements on slick roads, this can significantly increase the chances of a jackknife incident occurring.
  3. Substandard maintenance of trucks is another contributing element to jackknife accidents. Issues within the vehicle itself, such as defective brakes or tires not providing sufficient traction on wet or snowy roads, may lead to a jackknife situation even when the driver is operating the truck with utmost caution.
  4. Chemical impairment also plays a role in these types of accidents. A truck driver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol might unknowingly drive at excessive speeds or engage in risky behavior like sudden braking, ultimately resulting in an avoidable jackknife accident. Regrettably, some truck drivers resort to using illegal substances to endure their work weeks, causing innocent motorists to suffer the consequences.

Filing an insurance claim.

Jackknife accidents can lead to severe injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, whiplash, spinal cord injuries, and internal organ damage. Fully loaded trailers are incredibly heavy and can cause significant damage or destruction to your car upon impact.

To pursue legal compensation for such collisions, it’s essential first to determine who is liable for the incident. Potential defendants in these cases may include:

  • Negligent truck drivers who engage in speeding, dangerous maneuvers, or lose control of their vehicles
  • Trucking companies that inadequately train or supervise their employees
  • Mechanics who conduct substandard repair work on trucks that ultimately contribute to accidents
  • Loading companies that fail to properly balance and secure cargo loads
  • Municipalities responsible for road hazards that result in preventable crashes

Victims of these destructive accidents deserve substantial compensation. For instance, your vehicle was likely destroyed or severely damaged in the collision. It’s only fair that negligent parties pay for costs associated with repairing or replacing your car.

Moreover, we can pursue monetary damages for lost income due to the accident, medical treatment expenses, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Jackknife accidents can be particularly traumatic and may result in lengthy hospital stays and ongoing mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

If it’s determined that the truck driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident, we may also seek punitive damages. Operating a large vehicle while impaired demonstrates a reckless disregard for other people’s safety, highlighting the need for punitive damages as a form of punishment for such negligent behavior.

If you’ve been involved in a jackknife accident caused by an 18-wheeler, contact us today.

Named one of the Top 10 Truck Accident Lawyers in Dallas, Brian Brunson is Dallas personal injury attorney who is dedicated to helping clients who have suffered a car, truck, or motorcycle injury through the negligent or wrongful conduct of other drivers. In addition, his professionalism is unmatched and the firms’ client reviews speak for themselves.

We proudly serve the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and surrounding areas, our office supports the legal needs of a wide variety of clients. Let the Law Office of Brian Brunson be your advocate in your time of need and help you put your life back together. If we can’t win or settle your case, you don’t pay a dime! We know it can be daunting to take that first step after you’ve been hurt. Contact Brian Brunson today via email or call us toll-free at 1-844-41-WRECK. We can help, when no one else will.

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