Tractor trailers are made up of two parts: the truck, which has an engine and a driver’s cab; and the trailer, which is basically a large box on wheels. Because the trailer, the heaviest part of most large trucks, has no steering, these trucks can cause dangerous accidents. One of the most famous problems these trucks can suffer is a “jackknife.”
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident caused by a jackknife or another danger of big rig trucks, talk to an attorney. The lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team fight for truck accident victims to get them the compensation they need for their injuries. You might be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Talk to an attorney today to see what your case is worth.
How Truck “Jackknifes” Occur
The combination of a tractor and a trailer is known as an “articulated vehicle.” The “articulated” element refers to the joint between the cab and the trailer. At this joint, the cab pulls the trailer. The joint allows the two sections to pivot, making it easier to go around corners and into tight areas.
Because the cab is the only part of the vehicle the driver controls, maneuvering can be difficult. The only wheels that are powered by the truck’s motor are the cab’s wheels. Further, the only wheels that turn are the frontmost set of wheels. This means that the only way to maneuver the trailer’s 48 to 53 feet of length is by turning the front wheels.
These trailers often haul thousands of pounds of cargo, making them dangerous to control. If the vehicle is improperly loaded, its wheels slip on the road surface, or wind blows the large trailer, the rear end of the 18-wheeler can become impossible to control.
The first problem is usually the swaying of the trailer. This “fishtailing” motion, also known as “trailer swing” or “trailer slew” can be difficult to get back under control. If the driver is unable to control the trailer swing, it can continue to move out of alignment.
A “jackknife” accident is completed when the trailer sways so far that it folds against the cab. This is called jackknifing because the folded cab and trailer look like a folding pocket knife. It becomes nearly impossible to control the vehicle at this point, and the entire truck usually crashes. It may not even crash into something else, but simply collapse into a V-shape under the force of its own movements.
When a truck jackknifes, it can cause serious accidents. While swaying or fishtailing, the tractor trailer may swerve into other vehicles on the road. This kind of accident can cross multiple lanes of travel in either direction, causing potentially disastrous pileups. The accidents may be severe if other vehicles are struck from the side, are unable to stop or avoid the truck, or if the truck moves into opposing lanes of traffic.
In 2015, there were 267 large truck accidents involving a jackknife. This accounts for just over 12% of all tractor-trailer crashes. Because these accidents can involve many vehicles at once, these accounted for death or injury to approximately 341 individuals.
In the vast majority of fatal truck accidents, the drivers and passengers of the other vehicles usually suffer. The truck driver often survives, and may not even suffer severe injuries. It is usually the occupants in the other vehicles who lose their lives.
Jackknife accidents can occur based solely on the nature of the truck’s design, but there are ways to avoid them. Trucking companies and their drivers need to be on high alert and take the proper care to avoid causing jackknife accidents. This means making sure that the vehicles are properly maintained. The following can all contribute to the increased risk of a jackknife accident:
- Over-worn or unevenly worn tires
- Improperly inflated tires
- Unevenly loaded cargo
- Overweight vehicles
- Improperly maintained trucks
- Damaged tractors or trailers
- Tired driving
- Distracted driving
- Poor driver training
- Driving in dangerous weather
Many of these elements are regulated by state governments or the federal government. If the trucking company or its drivers fail to follow these regulations, they may be liable for injuries their failures cause. That means that if your accident was caused by the truck’s overloaded weight, tired driver, or improper maintenance, you could be entitled to substantial compensation.
National Truck Accident Lawyers
The truck accident attorneys at the Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team fight Big Trucking on behalf of injured drivers. Dangerous trucking companies and truck drivers cause thousands of injuries every year. Our attorneys fight for the victims of these accidents to get them compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call (215) 246-9000 today for a free consultation on your case.