“Jackknifing” is one of the most dangerous things that can happen with tractor-trailers or semi-trucks. This is a situation where the truck skids and folds in on itself, often causing a serious wreck.
A report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that jackknife crashes are associated with around 10 percent of semi-truck occupant fatalities, and 4 percent of non-truck occupant fatalities. In other words, about 1 in 10 truck occupant deaths have something to do with jackknifing.
Because these crashes can be catastrophic, it’s vital for truckers and other motorists to understand jackknife accidents and how to prevent them. If you’ve been in an accident in the Columbus, Ohio region, an experienced truck accident lawyer will protect your rights and help you obtain proper compensation.
What Is a Jackknife Accident?
A jackknife crash happens when a truck skids to a stop, and either its tractor or trailer slides to the side, forming a V-shape with the rest of the vehicle. The motion is similar to a jackknife folding up. There are two types of jackknifing:
- A trailer jackknife occurs when the trailer tires lock up while the tractor keeps moving, causing the tail-end of the trailer to swing sideways.
- A tractor jackknife is when the drive tires lock up but the momentum of the back trailer keeps pushing the tractor forward. The tractor (not the trailer) then swings to the side. Once this motion begins, it’s almost impossible for the driver to correct it.
Jackknifing occurs quickly and unexpectedly. When it happens on a highway, the truck could become a sudden road blockage that could cause another vehicle to smash into it. The blockage could also trigger a multi-vehicle crash. Also, the massive size and weight of the truck could cause it to roll over, seriously injuring its occupants.
What Causes a Truck to Jackknife?
A jackknife incident is mainly about how a truck stops. Specifically, these are the most common causes of jackknife accidents:
- Improper braking: A semi-truck has several braking mechanisms: the drive axle, the steering axle, and the trailer axles. Truck drivers need to be well-trained in braking techniques for a variety of conditions, such as if the road is slick or if the vehicle needs emergency braking. An inexperienced driver might apply improper brakes and cause the vehicle to skid.
- Speeding: When a truck drives too fast, it becomes more difficult to stop it safely. According to the NHTSA, speeds of 55 mph or higher increase the odds of truck jackknifing.
- Hazardous road conditions: Rain, snow, or debris on the road can cause a truck to lose traction and slide out.
- Equipment malfunction: The truck’s brakes and other mechanical systems should be inspected and well-maintained to ensure that the driver does not lose control of the vehicle.
- Distracted driving: Even a split-second of inattentive driving could lead to a situation where a sudden stop is needed. In such an urgent scenario, a truck driver could make a poor decision in applying the brakes.
- Dangerous curve: The NHTSA found that a curve on the road significantly increases the risk of jackknifing. Truckers must avoid oversteering or understeering when navigating a curve.
How to Prevent Jackknife Truck Accidents
Since jackknifing can be caused by various factors, various parties have a role in preventing this type of disaster.
A trained and responsible truck driver is key in preventing a jackknife crash. They need to have adequate training and experience because operating a big rig requires technical proficiency — from steering and braking techniques to sound decision-making during risky situations.
A major factor to avoid jackknifes is smooth and gradual braking. This requires decelerating over a longer time and distance, which the truck driver should be able to anticipate.
In Ohio, drivers must pass knowledge exams and a road test before they can obtain the commercial driver’s license (CDL) needed to operate a semi. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also requires specific driver education such as Longer Combination Vehicle Training.
A trucking company is responsible for ensuring that the truck’s parts, especially its brakes, are in top form and functioning correctly. These companies are required by the FMCSA to regularly inspect, maintain, and repair their vehicles, and to keep a record of their inspection and maintenance jobs.
Also, commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) weighing over 10,000 pounds must pass the yearly inspections of the Department of Transportation (DOT). A standard DOT truck inspection examines brakes, coupling devices, steering mechanism, safe loading, securement of cargo, and trailer bodies, among many others.
Jackknife Safety Systems
Technologies exist to help a truck avoid jackknifing. An example is the anti-lock braking system (ABS), which prevents wheels from locking up when braking. This technology is now required starting with trucks released in 2000, as older ones are gradually phased out.
Another example is electronic stability control (ESC), a computerized system that detects vehicle control issues and automatically applies selective brakes to correct them.
Jackknife Truck Accident Claims and Lawsuits: Who is Liable?
If you have been injured in a jackknife crash and wish to be compensated, you need to establish that a certain party or parties were negligent.
With carrier trucks, it’s not just the truck driver who could be responsible to pay for your damages — the freight company and even some third parties could be found liable as well. Consider these examples of negligence:
- Negligent truck driver: Speeding; distracted driving; driving while intoxicated; inadequate qualifications to operate a large truck
- The negligent trucking company or truck owner: Failure to conduct vehicle inspection or maintenance; allowing the unqualified driver to operate a large truck; improper cargo loading or securement; deploying a vehicle that has not passed state or federal standards
- Negligent product manufacturer: Producing and distributing a defective truck part or mechanism
- Negligent highway safety agencies: In a few cases, a government agency may be held responsible if they failed their duty to keep a road safe — for instance, by failing to clear up debris after a public works construction, or by failing to place a warning sign near a steep curve.
To effectively establish someone else’s negligence, it is best to get the help of a competent attorney with experience in truck accident investigation and trucking laws. Truck accidents are highly technical. Your lawyer should know what evidence to look for and where, as well as what federal and state laws apply.
Further, your Ohio truck accident lawyer must be experienced in facing trucking companies and their insurers. You’ll likely be dealing with them aside from the truck driver, and they’ll have the resources and methods to undermine your claim. Let a reliable attorney protect you and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Recent Jack Knife Truck Accidents in Ohio
Truck Driver Hurt In Jackknife Accident in Bridgeport
2021 May 13 — A truck driver sustained minor injuries when his semi-truck jackknifed on I-470 westbound near mile marker 5. According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the truck was traveling east when it attempted to switch lanes. Its trailer moved left, hit the median, and entered the westbound lane. There, the rig jackknifed before finally stopping.
No other vehicle was involved in the crash, but the truck spilled fuel on the road, prompting the temporary closure of two westbound lanes. The driver was cited for failure to control.
FedEx Ground Truck Jackknifes, Spills Fuel on US 35
2021 April 29 — A double tractor-trailer marked FedEx Ground jackknifed on US 35 at Cain Road near the Jackson and Ross County line. The accident caused the truck to spill about 50 gallons of diesel fuel on the roadway, prompting authorities to partially close US 35 westbound for the cleanup.
Initial investigation showed that the semi drove off the road, hitting two stops before smashing into a light pole. No one was injured, and the investigation continues.
1 Dead in Sideswipe Crash Between Car, Semi
2021 February 11 — Twenty-year-old Caleb Runyeon was killed in a sideswipe collision with a semi-truck on I-70 near Enon Road in Cleveland.
Ohio State Highway Patrol said that Runyeon had been driving a sedan westbound when his car and a semi-truck sideswiped each other, sending his car crashing into a guard rail off the right side of the road. The semi, meanwhile, veered into a concrete barrier on the left side, where it jackknifed and blocked all westbound lanes.
Runyeon was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the crash. Authorities found him partially ejected from the vehicle, and pronounced him dead at the scene. Meanwhile, the truck driver and his passenger were not injured. The crash remains under investigation.
Jackknifed Truck Triggers 25-Vehicle Pileup on I-90
2021 January 22 — A total of 25 vehicles were involved in a chain-reaction pileup on I-90 westbound in Lake County. Initial investigation showed that the multi-vehicle crash started when a semi-truck jackknifed and obstructed a westbound lane at around 4:20 p.m. This was followed by a series of crashes with 24 cars.
One person was seriously injured, while three others sustained minor injuries. According to the Ohio Department of Transportation, white-out conditions contributed to the crashes, with sharply reduced visibility and strong gusts of snowy wind. Crash investigation continues.
Truck Jackknife Leads to Hazmat Fire on Brent Spence Bridge
2020 November 11 — Brent Spence Bridge has been shut down following a fiery crash between two trucks, one of which was carrying potassium hydroxide.
Authorities said the first truck had jackknifed on the bridge for unknown reasons when the second truck, an Old Dominion hauler transporting potassium hydroxide, crashed into it. The Old Dominion driver called 911. He didn’t know what hazmat substance he was transporting, and the vehicle was engulfed in flames before he could grab his hazmat paperwork.
The crash caused 400 gallons of diesel fuel to leak, allowing the fire to burn for two hours with temperatures as high as 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, the surrounding motorists were able to back up to safety, and no one was hurt.
Crash investigation continues, while inspectors examine the extent of damage on the bridge.
Do You Need a Truck Accident Lawyer?
Whether you are a truck driver, a car driver, or a passenger hurt in a jackknife accident in Ohio, The Fitch Law Firm is ready to listen to you. With over 30 years of experience under our belt, we know how to navigate complex truck accident cases and we’re undaunted by big companies who may be involved in your crash.
We have achieved favorable settlements for our clients who were injured or have lost loved ones in truck wrecks. Talk to us about your accident. Call our 24/7 toll-free hotline at (614) 545-3930 or use our online contact form to set up a free consultation.