Handling a Jackknife Truck Accident: Everything You Need to Know

Truck drivers are all aware of the dangers of jackknifing and the likelihood of them occurring. However, this doesn’t mean that they know or understand what to do in the event of an accident. Proper knowledge and training for this type of accident ensure that drivers maintain maximum safety for themselves and others while handling the situation.

If you were recently involved in a jackknife accident, you may be able to collect compensation from it. Speak to a Houston truck collision attorney to see if you have a case.

What is a Jackknife Accident?

A jackknife accident occurs when a large 18-wheel truck’s wheels lock up, causing the trailer to swing out and form a 90-degree angle with the tractor. It’s called a jackknife because it replicates the angle a jackknife blade forms with its handle. A truck driver cannot undo a jackknife himself/herself; he/she needs assistance from other drivers to correct the truck.

How Does a Jackknife Occur?

Slippery roads can cause the drive wheels to lock while the front wheels and the trailer wheels continue rolling. Often the cause is due to a wet or slippery surface. Inappropriate braking and reckless driving around turns can also cause these incidents.

When truck drivers lose control, they have three options:

  • Lock the steering axle brakes which moves the rig straight ahead regardless of the wheel angle. This is a good option but inhibits the driver from steering the rig at all.
  • Lock the drive axles. This typically causes a jackknife.
  • Lock the trailer axles so the driver loses directional control, causing the trailer to swing.

Truck drivers should avoid locking the drive axles as much as possible as this leads to jackknifing. Other ways to avoid jackknifing are to keep a safe following distance from other vehicles, braking gradually, staying aware of the road, and adjusting driving to the weather conditions.

What Steps Should You Take Following a Jackknife Accident?

First, assess the situation for any injuries. The National Center for Statistics and Analysis reported jackknife accidents are responsible for 10% of all truck-related fatalities. Big rigs weigh much more than average vehicles, which means the likelihood of serious injuries is greater. After a jackknife accident, check for any injuries to yourself or other drivers involved in the situation. Call for ambulatory assistance right away to ensure all injured parties receive immediate medical help.

It’s also important for all involved parties to cooperate with the police. Drivers of involved passenger cars should report the accident to their insurance companies, while truck drivers should report to their companies. If possible, all parties should gather the contact and insurance information of the other driver, take photos of any damages on the scene, and collect witness information. After receiving medical treatment, passenger vehicle drivers should also contact an attorney to help begin the claims process.

Who is Liable in a Houston Jackknife Accident?

Many assume the truck driver is liable for the accident. However, several factors affect liability. Drivers may be at fault if they were engaging in distracted driving or violated traffic laws. Trucking companies are responsible for maintaining their vehicles and can be liable if they neglect repairs or fail to follow federal trucking regulations. In cases of defective parts, the manufacturer may be liable. Even other motorists can be at fault if their reckless actions– such as suddenly swerving into the lane in front of the truck – caused the accident.

It’s also possible for multiple parties to be liable for an accident, and who is responsible will depend on the exact circumstances of an accident. This can make pursuing compensation a complex legal matter. A Houston personal injury attorney can help investigators to determine fault.

Regardless of liability, an attorney advocates for compensation for injured parties. If you suffered injuries in a jackknife accident in the Houston area, strong legal representation will help in the process of securing fair compensation for your injuries. Contact us today to learn more.

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