Common Causes of Jackknife Truck Accidents

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), about 5% of all commercial truck accidents are considered jackknife accidents. A jackknife accident refers to when the trailer and cab of a truck stop moving in unison with one another. These types of accidents are particularly dangerous due to the sheer weight and size of trucks, as compared to other vehicles on the road. In this article, we will explore what jackknife accidents are, what some of the most common causes are, and what to do following a jackknife accident.

Why Are They Called ‘Jackknife Accidents?’

The reason that these types of accidents are called ‘jackknifes’ is due to the positioning of the truck after the accident occurs. When a jackknife accident happens, the two parts of the truck (the cab and trailer) fold in on itself, forming a 90-degree angle or “V” shape. This shape closely resembles the shape of a jackknife, hence the name.


The first common cause of jackknife accidents is the curves in the road. When trailer trucks approach a curve, they must be particularly careful, especially at sharp angles. If a curve is not adequately accounted for, this will likely result in the end of the trailer swinging and causing it to lose control and fold in. It is important for truck drivers to remain slow, steady, and alert when approaching and maneuvering around a curve. 

High Speeds

High speeds are another main contributing factor to jackknife accidents. Due to their large weight and size, it takes much longer for an 18-wheeler truck to slow down than it does for an average vehicle. If a truck is traveling at a high speed, it can be quite easy for the driver to lose control and wind up in a jackknife accident. 

Weather Conditions

Adverse weather conditions can also result in jackknife accidents. For example, if a large truck is driving on slick and slippery roads, it can cause the truck to lose traction and crash. Therefore, truck drivers must be extremely cautious when driving in adverse weather conditions, as to avoid a catastrophic accident.

Equipment Malfunction

Equipment and mechanical malfunctions and errors are another common cause of jackknife accidents. If a truck is not regularly inspected and maintained, the truck will likely not be able to react to unexpected conditions. For example, if the brakes give out while turning a corner because they were not inspected prior to driving, a jackknife accident may occur.

Driver Error

Drivers can also be at fault for causing jackknife accidents. If a truck driver is impaired or fatigued, this will greatly impact their ability to operate their vehicle safely. Additionally, although truck drivers must go through training and become licensed in order to operate a truck, inexperience will shine through on the road.

Improper Weight Distribution

If a truck’s trailer has been improperly loaded and has an unequal weight distribution, this will likely result in a jackknife accident occurring due to the disproportionate weight that is on one side of the trailer. It is crucial that the cargo on the truck is distributed evenly before leaving. 

What To Do After a Jackknife Accident

In the event that you are in a jackknife trucking accident, the first thing you will want to do is seek medical attention. Although you may not initially think that you are injured, the injuries could appear later on. After assuring that you are medically stable, you should reach out to a San Antonio truck accident attorney who can help determine where liability falls, gather evidence, and assist you in recovering maximum compensation for the injuries that you sustained.



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