truck in traffic

Understanding Jackknife Accidents

The last thing you want to see in your rearview mirror when on the highway is a tractor-trailer out of control behind you. Sometimes these big rigs go into uncontrolled skids, flip over, blow tires, or jackknife. This article will help you in understanding jackknife accidents.

Collisions involving 18-wheelers often cause severe or fatal injuries. A California truck accident attorney could help if you got injured or a close relative died because of a jackknife accident. 

What is a Jackknife Accident?

A jackknife accident is one in which the tractor-trailer is out of control, and the cab or rig is at a sharp angle with the trailer, similar to the letter L or V or a jackknife. Usually, the truck driver cannot regain control of the tractor-trailer. The trailer will swing violently back and forth, similar to a giant windshield wiper. As such, a jackknife accident wreaks a wide path of destruction for anything and everything within its range.

Jackknife Accidents Involving Vehicles that Are Not Tractor-Trailers

Although most jackknife accidents involve 18-wheelers, some other types of vehicles can also experience these dangerous incidents. Whenever a vehicle is pulling something else, a jackknife can happen. Here are a few examples of situations that could lead to jackknife accidents:

  • A car or truck pulling a camper 
  • A vehicle pulling a cargo trailer when moving into a college dormitory
  • A pick-up truck pulling an open utility trailer hauling trash, building supplies, or landscaping equipment

If the car or truck pulling the item in the back has to suddenly swerve or slam on the brakes, the item they are pulling could head off in a different direction or start to “fishtail,” and then you have a jackknife. 

How Do Jackknife Accidents Happen?

Driving a tractor-trailer is different than operating a passenger car, pick-up truck, or sport utility vehicle (SUV). These passenger vehicles are highly maneuverable and can accelerate or slow down and stop relatively quickly. When a tractor-trailer has to suddenly swerve or slam on the brakes trying to avoid a dangerous situation, like an unexpected sharp decrease in the speed of the traffic or an object in the truck’s driving lane, the tractor-trailer could go into a jackknife.

Slick roads caused by snow or ice can cause the 18-wheeler to go into a skid, swinging the trailer portion side-to-side and creating a jackknife. Sometimes, the truck has a mechanical defect that could cause a jackknife accident.

What Should You Do if a Tractor-Trailer Jackknifed Near You on the Road?

If you can safely do so, try to get out of the path of the jackknifing vehicle. The movement of the out-of-control vehicle can be difficult or impossible to predict, so that advice might be easier said than done. If the vehicle is in front of you, you might want to slow down and pull off of the road and let the truck get far enough ahead of you not to be a threat to your vehicle. If you are in front of the jackknifing vehicle, you will want to exercise your best defensive driving skills. California does not give you much time to take legal action if you got hurt or your close relative died because of a jackknife accident, so you will want to talk to a California personal injury attorney right away. For legal assistance contact our office today, we gladly offer a free consultation.