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Why Do Truckers Cause Deadly Jackknife Accidents?

A jackknife truckjackknife semi accident happens when a tractor-trailer skids, forcing the trailer to swing out to one side, making the shape of an “L”—similar to a knife that folds into its handle. If the big rig is traveling at a fast speed, there's a serious danger that the truck will also roll over.

Unsuspecting motorists don't have sufficient time to avoid a jackknifed truck, and victims can suffer horrific injuries or die when their vehicle crashes into the truck or the swinging trailer smashes into their vehicle. Sometimes a jackknife accident can escalate into a multi-car crash, which is especially dangerous on a highway.

Common Reasons Negligent Truck Drivers Cause Jackknife Wrecks

Often a jackknife truck accident occurs as the truck hits a slick spot on the road and its wheels lock. However, the trailer continues forward, which causes the driver to lose control and the trailer to swing perpendicular to the cab. Some negligent trucker driving practices that cause these accidents include:

  • Speeding. A passenger vehicle typically weighs 4,000 pounds. A loaded semi and trailer weighs about 80,000 pounds.  If a vehicle driver is running at a standard speed of 65 mph. in ideal conditions, it would take approximately 300 feet to stop. A trucker needs almost double that distance to stop under the same speed and conditions. So driving above the posted limit has the potential for a catastrophic crash.
  • Curves. Big rigs are top-heavy, so if truckers are distracted or driving too fast into a curve, the trailer could tip, swing out, and jackknife.
  • Poor weather conditions. In hazardous conditions such as snow, rain, and ice, a truck driver needs to start braking roughly two-to-three times sooner than he would in good weather. If not, he may lose braking control, and the rig's wheels could lock and cause it to skid.
  • Equipment problems. When brakes aren't maintained, repaired, or are adjusted to reduce wear or tear, risks of an accident increase significantly because of the dangers of the trucker losing control of his truck. Additionally, if a truck is driven with worn or defective tires, this makes keeping control of the cab and trailer nearly impossible.


Attorney Alan Morton has over 30 years of experience helping truck accident victims obtain the compensation they're entitled to for recovery. He understands the complexities of these claims, the federal regulations involved, and the importance of obtaining the value of your claim so that you can recover and get on with your life. Fill out our online form to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with Mr. Morton.