What Causes Jackknife Truck Accidents?

June 22, 2022 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
What Causes Jackknife Truck Accidents?

Jackknife Truck Accidents

Since semi-trailers have a bigger size and weight than the average car, the damage they cause in collisions is substantial. Truck operators have to exercise additional caution around other vehicles. An error can lead to multiple consequences.

Trucks can get into many crashes, and one category is jackknifing. A jackknife truck accident can happen quickly, but the effects may last for months or years. A victim can pursue compensation from the liable party, but they need to establish negligence. The first step is to find the cause of the crash.

After a truck accident, you may not know what to do. Fortunately, an experienced truck accident lawyer help can protect your rights to compensation.

Contact Dolman Law Group for a free legal consultation, call 866-458-3982

What Is Jackknifing?


Truck collisions happen in many ways, and one type is a jackknife accident. 18-wheelers consist of a trailer and cab, and jackknifing is when the trailer begins to swing to one side. The backside moves inward toward the cab, and the large truck resembles a folded pocket knife. As a result, a vehicle in an adjacent lane could suffer from damage.

Hundreds of people suffer from jackknife truck crashes every year, and many incidents occur on major highways. Semi-trailers frequently travel on interstates and highways to complete their deliveries. As a result, a collision is more likely to happen.

Of course, other types of roads may have an 18-wheeler experience jackknifing. Various road conditions and other factors can lead to the trailer swinging.

The Top Causes of Jackknife Truck Accidents

Improper Braking

A common reason why a truck jackknifes is the driver does not brake properly. Semi-trailers require additional training compared to regular cars. Drivers of large commercial vehicles need to know how and when to apply the brakes safely.

A truck operator might not know the correct procedure or negligently operates the vehicle. Regardless, the momentum can cause the trailer to fold toward the cab when the driver suddenly tries to stop.


Speeding is another risk factor in reported cases of jackknife accidents. When a vehicle increases its speed, it must maintain a significant stopping distance. Additionally, trucks with heavy loads require between 20 percent and 40 percent more space than cars. In addition, unsafe road conditions contribute to the effects of speeding.

If a trucker exceeds the legal limit, they are more likely to stop quickly to avoid rear-ending another vehicle. The trailer continues to move even though the front end has slowed down. The truck could hit a nearby car because of the momentum.

A Mechanical Defect

Equipment failure is the cause of a portion of jackknife crashes every year. A malfunction can happen in any part of the commercial truck. The battery could experience a problem, or the brake system might fail to work. Around 30 percent of truck-related accidents are due to tire defects.

The reason for a mechanical failure can vary. In some cases, a truck component was defective when manufacturers installed it. Other times, inadequate inspections and maintenance can lead to a vehicle jackknifing on the road.

Failure to Account for the Weather

A semi-truck operator might travel at safe speeds, and the vehicle has no equipment issues. However, the cause of a person's injuries from a jackknife crash is hazardous weather. Heavy rain reduces visibility significantly. Therefore, a trucker might not notice stopped traffic until they are close behind. They could risk jackknifing when they brake suddenly.

Of course, weather conditions can create unsafe road conditions. Rainfall might make a street slippery, and the winter can mean ice on the road. The trailer could start to slide due to a lack of friction. Even though truck drivers cannot control the weather, they still have to practice care when they manage their vehicles.

Heavy or Imbalanced Loads

In a few instances, the cause of a jackknife accident relates to the truck's load. The trailer could have an overabundance of material, or an employee did not load the items properly. An imbalance may result in the trailer swaying while the truck is in motion.

Who Is Liable for a Jackknife Truck Collision?

When a jackknife truck injures someone, the individual can file a claim for compensatory damages. Most cases are due to negligence, and the other party could have prevented the incident. When your lawyer examines your case, they find out who is responsible for your losses.

You might hold multiple entities liable, including:

  • The truck driver. In most situations, the trucker is the negligent party. Jackknifing tends to happen because of a loss of control over the vehicle. Driver error tends to be the cause. The truck operator may have taken a sharp turn or pressed on the brakes irresponsibly.
  • The manufacturer. The creator of a truck part could be responsible for injuries if the product malfunctioned. The vehicle piece could have become defective for a variety of reasons. An unsuitable design could have been the cause, or a problem occurred during the product's assembly.
  • The trucker's employer. An individual could have the right to sue the trucking company. Employers are responsible for hiring qualified drivers. Some employers may pressure workers to make deliveries as quickly as possible to increase profits. Therefore, reckless decisions are more likely to occur.
  • A mechanic. Trucking companies and drivers need to ensure the semi-trailer remains in working order. However, a mechanic has a duty of care to spot issues and fix them. An individual could hold the mechanic liable if they missed an obvious problem.

A part of a jackknife truck accident attorney's job is to review every document related to the collision. They can determine which party owes you compensation. Furthermore, they could discover more than one entity was negligent.

Can You Sue if the Truck Driver Is From Another State?

Among the 5.6 million semi-trailers in the country, many of them travel long distances. Passenger cars have a chance of coming across a large truck from another state. If an out-of-state vehicle causes an accident, the injured party may wonder if they can sue for damages.

Even though the truck driver and their employer reside elsewhere, you could hold them accountable for negligence. When a company does business with another state, any accidents fall under the area's jurisdiction.

The other party cannot escape liability. However, you would still need to establish how they were negligent during the crash. A lawyer can gather the proof you need to obtain compensation.

Who Can Sue in a Fatal Jackknife Truck Accident Case?

Usually, the injured party is the one to sue the defendant. However, someone else would have to represent them if the individual died from accident-related injuries. The lawsuit would become a wrongful death claim. Some states specify who has the right to bring forth a case to court.

In general, the representative of the deceased can be an immediate family member. The victim's spouse can seek compensation for funeral expenses and loss of companionship. If the victim was a minor, parents could file a claim on their behalf. Biological and adopted children may recover damages as well.

Other potential plaintiffs may include distant relatives, life partners, and financial dependents. Distant relatives could be a sibling or a grandparent. You would need to review the laws of your state to see who can take legal action against the liable party.

The Deadline for Jackknife Truck Accident Claims

The victim of a jackknife collision can take a week or two to visit a doctor and get the treatment they need. Nevertheless, they should not delay their accident claim for long. State laws have established a statute of limitations for civil legal proceedings.

The statute sets a maximum length of time for when you can pursue reimbursement. Once time is up, you no longer have the right to compensation. Therefore, you must act quickly to prevent the court from dismissing your case. A lawyer can ensure you do not miss the deadline.

The amount of time you have depends on where you live. Several places give residents three years, and others only offer two. However, many jurisdictions allow people to pause the deadline under a few circumstances.

Additionally, the type of claim you need to file affects how long you have. To get compensation for injuries, a person would start a personal injury case. However, the deadline could be different if they need to begin a property damage case. If the victim died after the accident, loved ones must comply with the wrongful death statute of limitations.

States may have specific rules regarding their deadlines. You can ask your attorney any questions you have about your deadline.

Should You Speak to the Insurer?

When you decide to begin an accident claim, the other party's insurance company may try to contact you. The person on the other end of the line might say they want to know the facts or need a statement. However, you should limit any communication with the adjuster.

Many insurance companies try to find ways to minimize the value of a person's losses. If they can reduce their level of liability, they do not have to pay as much money. Insurers have formed multiple tactics to protect their interests.

One frequent method is to ask the claimant to give their side of the story. The adjuster uses friendly tones to get the person to agree to talk about what happened. Then, the insurance company looks for possible statements to blame the injured party.

Some adjusters ask leading questions to get the responses they want to hear. They may record the entire conversation to keep as proof. Insurers tend to call victims soon after the accident while they experience a vulnerable period.

A lawyer prevents the insurance company from diminishing your claim. They can speak to the adjuster on your behalf. If you need to communicate with the insurer, your attorney can help you prepare.

How Lawyers Calculate a Settlement

In the demand letter, the plaintiff and their lawyer write how much they request in compensation. Attorneys have multiple ways to calculate a settlement figure before negotiations begin. Usually, they add up damages to determine a number.

One part of the settlement calculation consists of the victim's economic damages. Your lawyer includes all the bills you accumulated due to the jackknife accident. The bills usually involve doctor visits, healthcare treatment, future medical costs, and property damage expenses.

If the collision left you out of work for a while, the final settlement would reflect the wages you lost. Pay stubs help show how much money you need in compensation to recuperate from missed income. Other possible damages involve pain and suffering, emotional distress, and disfigurement.

Other Factors in a Settlement

The number of economic and non-economic damages someone can claim affects their settlement value. Meanwhile, other factors can raise or lower the value of a person's claim. What someone does in the days following an accident can have an impact.

For example, immediate medical care ensures the individual can get fair compensation. If they take a while to see a doctor, the adjuster views the delay as proof they do not have severe injuries. The insurer may argue the claim is worth less than it is.

The type and extent of a person's injury contribute to a higher settlement. A traumatic brain injury or a permanent disability is worth more in compensation. Severe damages mean you have an extensive recovery period. As a result, you accrue more expenses and missed paychecks.

Of course, whether or not you have a jackknife truck accident attorney by your side can make a difference. They know what strategies may increase your claim's worth. They can face an insurance representative who refuses to negotiate.

Can You Negotiate With the Insurance Company?

The first settlement offer the insurance company gives typically is less than the amount you deserve. If you believe you can get more money, do not agree to the offer. You have the right to negotiate with the adjuster for fair compensation.

Matthew A. Dolman, Attorney

You can prepare before you meet with the insurance company to discuss reimbursement. Evidence helps prove your case and makes the adjuster more likely to agree to a larger payout. However, the insurance company may apply pressure and use other tactics when you demand more compensation.

Lawyers fight aggressively against insurance companies. They work hard to secure a better settlement offer for clients. When you plan to negotiate, always hire a truck accident law firm. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with an experienced truck accident lawyer, please call us at (727) 451-6900 or contact us online today.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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