Why Semi Truck Accident Jackknife Dolman Law Group

Why Semi Trucks Jackknife


The Increasing Phenomenon of Jackknife Truck Accidents

One of the most distinct road accidents are those involving trucks. Because of their daunting presence, trucks do not only look dangerous, driving past them is a definite scare because of the severe accidents that happen in the blink of an eye. Seeing a jackknifed semi truck on the highway has become commonplace these days because of a number of reasons, all of which can be fatal for the cars and people around the semi-truck.

Situations in which a semi truck Jackknifes

Jackknifing of a semi-truck is when a trailer folds on its hinge and comes on an acute angle with the semi or the engine cab. Jackknifing is a result of a number of reasons; all revolving around the way a truck is handled. Semi-trucks are designed to carry huge loads on a frequent basis. These trucks have a unique balance of weight and structure that makes them prone to stability even during week-long commutes with thousands of tons of weight loaded on the trailers behind them.

Severe braking and skidding of a semi-truck are the two most common scenarios under which jackknifing occurs. Some of the common causes for a trailer to skid are:

  • Curvy Roads: a semi truck on a road that has a sharp curve is dangerous to be near to. While the truck makes the turn, the trailer behind it has to be kept in sync or it loses balance, going in the opposite and folding inwards.
  • Weight of the truck vs. its size: because of the unique structure of a semi-truck, a general rule of thumb is that the more the weight of it, the lesser the chance of it jackknifing. Consequently, when a semi-truck travels with less weight at a high speed, it jackknifes easily compared to a truck that is loaded to capacity (however not beyond it!)
  • Bad weather conditions: hazardous weather conditions make for a very dangerous drive, especially for a semi-truck. During heavy rain or snow, trucking companies usually force truck drivers to cover long distances despite decreased visibility and slippery roads. Such a situation is not only dangerous for the truck driver but is also a hazard for the society in general.
  • Collision: Commercial trucks may be quite large and heavy which gives them the illusion of stability and solidarity. Ironically despite all their weight, commercial trucks actually are surprisingly unstable vehicles. A variety of outside forces can cause a truck’s shifting of weight to go the wrong way and possibly lead to a jackknife accident. Such forces can range from some of the aforementioned conditions to a physical collision into another vehicle or some other sufficiently large object.

Negligent Factors Contribute to Semi-Truck Jackknife Accidents

A variety of negligent parties can all be found liable in the case of a Semi-truck jackknife accident. These parties can all contribute to an instance of a semi-truck jackknife accident through several acts of negligence unique to each of them.

Improper Maintenance Can Cause Jackknife Truck Accidents

When maintenance providers for semi-trucks do not repair and maintain trucks to proper standards then the risk of a jackknife accident occurring increases dramatically. One of the most important parts of a truck to maintain, not just to prevent jackknife accidents, is the brake system.

A truck’s brake system has the responsibility of slowing down and halting the travel of around 80,000 pounds of truck. Sometimes these brakes have to stop all this weight as soon as possible which leads to incredible strain on the system’s components.

If the brake system is not regularly checked and maintained then it runs the risk of malfunctioning. This malfunction can go several ways. A brake could simply not activate at all and the truck is stuck hurtling at full speed towards whatever it was trying to stop for. The brakes could function but incorrectly by locking up the drive axles or braking harder than intended which can cause a semi-truck to jackknife.

Jackknife Accident Risk is High Among Inexperienced and Poorly Trained Semi-Truck Drivers

There is currently a very large shortage of semi-truck drivers available to haul goods back and forth across the country. In order to compensate for this massive shortage of available drivers, trucking companies have taken steps to recruit and train more new drivers. Some trucking companies have unfortunately resorted to streamlining the training process for these new truck drivers so that they can get behind the wheel to haul cargo as soon as possible.  

Even when a new driver does go through all the proper training and education, they are still at risk of causing not just jackknifing, but all manner of semi-truck accidents. Experience is just one of those things that cannot be earned in a classroom or in a training truck. There are simply too many situations out there that can result in a jackknife accident for a new driver to train for.

Impaired Driving Causes Semi-Truck Jackknife Accidents

It is no secret that a major cause of all accidents across the board is intoxicated driving. This is especially true of semi-truck accidents. Intoxicated driving goes beyond just driving drunk but can include the impairment of a driver via any form of substance abuse which has become a problem within the trucking community.

When a semi-truck driver drives under the influence of alcohol, their decision making as well as their motor skills are severely impaired. Naturally this is extremely dangerous since they are tasked with the operation of an extremely heavy machine that requires deft handling skills and nerves of steel.

Impaired driving can also mean fatigued driving. It has been found that driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence since motor skills and reflexes are decreased or worse yet; a driver could fall asleep at the wheel.

Driving Errors that Lead to Jackknife Accidents

  • Improper Braking: When a commercial truck driver fails to follow the correct braking procedures, then a truck can jackknife and cause an accident. What can happen is a driver can lock up the drive axles which causes the truck’s trailer to continue forward and fold into the eponymous jackknife shape that causes horrific damage to cars sharing the road.
  • Speeding: Research has shown that for a speed of more than 55mph, semi-trucks have a higher chance of skidding. Such a speed is hard to decrease, therefore making the driver lose control and the truck folding up as a result.
  • Steering Errors: When a semi-truck driver makes the mistake of turning to abruptly or far then they run the risk of their truck trailer jackknifing. Steering mistakes most often occur during lane changes, when driving on curves, or in reaction to aggressive driving of other vehicles.
  • Improperly Secured Cargo: When the cargo of a truck is not secured correctly then it runs the risk of shifting in a way that can cause a trailer to jackknife. Much like with an empty trailer, the sway at the back of a trailer can magnify depending on the maneuvering and weight distribution of its contents.

Liable Parties in a Jackknife Truck Accident

Sometimes a truck accident could have been prevented if certain parties had not neglected their duties. It is because of this neglect that sometimes a truck can jackknife and lead to destruction on an unprecedented scale. These neglectful parties can be liable in a jackknife truck accident claim

Trucking Company Neglect Can Cause Truck Jackknife Accidents

In a jackknife truck accident, a trucking company can be found neglectful in a number of ways that would have contributed to the accident. The driver could have been poorly prepared to drive their truck because a trucking company streamlined their training or the driver could have had a history of issues like repeated accidents or problems with overwork.

Jackknife Truck Accidents can be Caused by Liable Drivers

Drivers can be found liable in the event they demonstrate neglect through something like driving under the influence or falsifying records so that they can drive more and avoid rest at the cost of driving drowsy. There is also comparative negligence where each liable party can be seen by the jury as having a certain percentage of liability towards the accident. 

Maintenance Providers can Be Liable in a Jackknife Truck Accident Claim

When a truck’s malfunction leads to a truck jackknife accident then a maintenance provider can be shown to be neglectful in repairing and maintaining the truck up to standard. They are also responsible for ensuring that any recalled truck parts and components are replaced in order to maintain the truck up to federal standards.

Increase In Overall Truck Accidents

Trucking accidents have increased over the last two decades by 20%. Out of all these accidents, 10% are a result of jackknifing of semi-trucks, which overshadows and topples every small vehicle behind or beside it because of its sheer size. Drivers of small vehicles who are sidelined because of a jackknifed truck are liable to receive compensation so that their moral and physical loss can be made up for. The parties responsible, the kind of compensation due and the entire procedure to follow in such a case are important questions to ask. And a truck accident lawyer will be able to give you the right answers.

Jonathan Rosenfeld is a Chicago truck accident lawyer and sponsor of the website www.chicagotruckinjurylawyers.com dedicated to truck safety and motorists rights.

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