What causes jackknife accidents in the United States? Who is liable when these types of accidents cause injuries or fatalities? Jackknife accidents can occur as the result of poor brake maintenance, speeding, or improper handling of the vehicle. When a jackknife occurs, the truck driver, fleet operator, or mechanics responsible for maintaining the vehicle can be liable for the injuries and wrongful deaths that occur.
Frequency of Jackknife Accidents in the United States
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records an average of 1,000 jackknife accidents involving large trucks in the United States each year. In 2015, these caused 8 fatalities. This was the same number of fatalities recorded in 2016, but the number rose by 50% to 12 fatalities in 2017. Approximately .5% of all jackknife crashes result in personal injuries. Surprisingly, most jackknife accidents result in property damage only.
Causes of Jackknife Accidents
Improperly adjusted brakes are a common cause of jackknife accidents. When brakes are improperly adjusted or poorly maintained, this can cause the axles to lock up when the brakes are applied which in turn causes the trailer to swing to the side.
Speeding is another common cause of jackknife accidents. When brakes are applied suddenly at high speed, the inertia build up within a fully loaded trailer can continue moving the trailer forward as the truck slows.
Rapid turning and evasive maneuvers can also cause a jackknife. As the vehicle turns, changes lanes quickly, or moves at a steep angle, the trailer can swing out and the driver can lose control over the vehicle.
Liability for a jackknife accident can be assigned to the driver, the fleet operator, or a mechanic. It is possible for multiple parties to share liability for an accident involving a large truck. For example, a truck driver can be liable for speeding or engaging in illegal maneuvers that result in a jackknife.
A fleet operator can be held liable for delaying maintenance on braking systems, axles, and other steering components that then fail and cause a jackknife. A mechanic can be liable for improperly repairing or failing to replace damaged brakes. Finally, a brake manufacturer can be liable for defective components that cause a brake failure.
Call in the Bull to speak with our attorneys following a jackknife accident. Our legal team can help you pursue large-truck accident claims in Wichita, Liberal, or anywhere in Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri, or Texas. You can call us at 1-800-241-BRAD, or call us on our local line at 316-684-4400 to speak with an attorney. You can reach Brad Pistotnik on his cell at 316-706-5020. You can call Tony Atterbury on his cell at 316-617-9237. You can call from Western Kansas at 620-THE-BULL.