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Jackknife Truck Accidents: Why They Happen and How to Stay Safe

September 30, 2014

Eighteen-wheeler crashes are some of the scariest, most deadly accidents on our roads – and 10% of all fatal truck wrecks involve a jackknife. While you may have seen a jackknifed truck on the highway, most drivers don’t understand their causes and unique dangers.

At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we are committed to making Alabama and Mississippi’s roads safer and holding negligent truck drivers and trucking companies accountable for their actions. In this blog, our respected truck accident lawyers outline the basics of jackknife 18-wheeler accidents, what you can do to protect yourself on the road, and what to do if you’re involved in a wreck.

What Is a Jackknife Truck Crash?

A jackknife crash occurs when an 18-wheeler skids, and its trailer swings out at a 90-degree angle to the truck, resembling a folding pocket knife. Jackknife accidents are extremely dangerous and can often lead to the truck rolling or tipping over. They can also lead to multi-car pileups, especially when the jackknifed semi-truck blocks traffic.

What Causes Jackknife Accidents?

Jackknife crashes happen when the semi truck’s trailer does not slow down at the same rate as the cab, causing the trailer to swing out. Braking too hard, incorrect loading, driving on icy or wet roads, and even having a partially filled trailer can all lead to it jackknifing.

All too often, these accidents are caused by driver error. At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we’ve seen jackknife accidents caused by many factors.

  • High speeds: When a truck driver goes just 10 miles over the posted speed limit, their chances of jackknifing increase by a remarkable 49%.
  • Light loads: When tractor-trailers are lightly or partially loaded, they’re more likely to jackknife. (On the other hand, overly loaded trailers are more likely to cause a rollover.)
  • Curving roads: Alabama and Mississippi’s winding rural roads increase the risk of jackknifes. According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), trucks are 86% more likely to jackknife on curving roads than straight ones.
  • Bad weather conditions: Trucks are more likely to slip and slide when it’s raining or the roads are slick. Drivers have a 3.22 times higher jackknife risk when the weather is bad.
  • Inexperience and lack of training: When truck drivers lack the tools and knowledge to keep themselves and others safe, jackknife truck accidents are more common. Employers must train their employees and keep dangerous drivers off the road.
  • Poor truck maintenance: Worn out tires and brake failure can increase the risk of a jackknife. While trucking companies must routinely inspect and repair their big rigs, some of them cut corners and prioritize profits over highway safety.
  • Driver fatigue: Drowsy driving reduces your decision-making skills and reaction times. (It’s comparable to driving drunk!) Many truck drivers push their limits and go farther and longer than they should – increasing the risk of a truck accident.

RELATED: What Caused Your Truck Wreck? Find Out From the Black Box

A Truck Wreck Attorney Can Help You Uncover the True Cause of an Accident

If you were hurt in a jackknife accident, chances are that multiple factors caused the wreck. A combination of distracted driving, improper loading, poor maintenance, and driver fatigue can turn a normal situation deadly in a flash. However, to truly get the justice you deserve after a wreck, you need to identify the true cause of your crash.

If you were hurt in a jackknife accident, chances are that multiple factors caused the wreck. A combination of distracted driving, improper loading, poor maintenance, and driver fatigue can turn a normal situation deadly in a flash. However, to truly get the justice you deserve after a wreck, you need to identify the true cause of your crash.

Modern 18-wheelers are complex, sophisticated machines. They often have electronic systems that monitor their every move, identify mechanical issues in advance, and even record video inside and outside the cab. These systems can provide powerful evidence in your personal injury claim – as long as you get to them before the trucking company destroys the data. To determine what factors caused the 18-wheeler to jackknife, you need to work with an experienced truck wreck attorney who can preserve the evidence in the truck’s “black box,” examine the physical evidence, and get you the answers you deserve.

The personal injury lawyers at Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys have earned their reputation as the Gulf Coast’s big truck firm. We’ve handled hundreds of cases against negligent trucking companies and recovered hundreds of millions for accident victims and their loved ones.

How Much Is My Jackknife Accident Claim Worth?

Our lawyers carefully calculate their clients’ settlement values, taking into consideration their unique circumstances and needs. Your truck wreck claim’s worth will depend on:

  • The number of negligent parties involved and their insurance coverage
  • The severity of your injuries and your likelihood of making a full recovery
  • The amount of your medical expenses and your future medical needs
  • How much income and wage-earning capacity you’ve lost
  • The extent of your pain and suffering
  • Whether punitive damages are available
  • The strength of the trucking company’s defenses

If you’d like to learn more about your truck wreck claim’s settlement value, it’s time to schedule a free case evaluation with the Andy Citrin team. We’ll give you honest advice and help you understand your legal options.

Hurt in a Jackknife Truck Crash? Don’t Wait to Call Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys

Truck crash victims deserve justice, answers, and support after a wreck. Unfortunately, the kind of answers and financial support that victims and their families need to recover is often tough to come by, especially when you’re fighting for yourself. That’s where the Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys team enters the picture. For decades, we’ve helped victims and their families take on the insurance company after a terrible crash. We’ve helped clients recover hundreds of millions, and are ready to meet with you and hear your story. We can meet with you in a free consultation to get to know you, offer some advice, and help you make the best decision for your circumstances.

To get started, simply contact us online or by calling 251-888-8888. We look forward to hearing from you!


An analysis of fatal large truck crashes. (2003, June). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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