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What Does It Mean for a Truck to Jackknife?

Rollover, blowout, lost load — there are many different types of truck accidents, and sometimes their names can be confusing. One of the most common truck accidents is a jackknife accident. However, not everyone knows what this means, why they happen, or how to avoid being injured in one.

No one wants to be involved in a truck accident. The good news is that many truck accidents can be avoided when other drivers know the signs of an impending highway accident.

What Is a Jackknife Accident?

Pocket knives are increasingly becoming a relic of the past. It’s not uncommon for younger generations to not even be certain of what a jackknife is. In reality, “jackknife” is simply another term for a pocket knife.

The blade of a jackknife folds out from its handle, making a 180-degree turn until fully extended. Jackknife trucking accidents take their name from the movement the knife blade makes as it unfolds.

In a jackknife accident, a semi’s trailer moves out in front of the cab, forming a 90-degree angle at the tow hitch, which serves as the point of connection for the two parts of the truck.

Common Causes of Jackknife Accidents

Jackknife accidents can occur for a few different reasons, but they are nearly always related to negligence on the part of a truck driver or the trucking company they work for.


Speeding is one of the leading causes of jackknife accidents. When a truck driver is driving too fast, gravity can cause the weight of the truck’s trailer to begin traveling faster than the cab. When the cab loses control of its cargo, the distinctive angled jackknife shape is a common outcome.

Certain road conditions can increase the likelihood of a jackknife accident occurring. Other drivers should be particularly vigilant about speeding truck drivers on certain roads. Hills and curves combined with speed increase the risk of cargo getting ahead of a semi’s cab.

Overweight Trucks

There are different types of semi trucks, and how much weight they can safely carry is closely regulated by the federal government. The size, number of axles, and number of tires all play a role in determining a safe weight load for a truck.

Despite the vast amount of regulation that goes into ensuring that overloaded trucks don’t pose a danger to other drivers, trucking companies sometimes still choose to cut corners and ignore laws and regulations out of convenience or to increase profits.

Overloaded or overweight cargo can’t safely be carried by the trailer and cab pulling it, and overload is a common reason for the trailer overtaking a semi cab.

Equipment Issues

Semi-trucks must be carefully maintained to avoid deadly accidents.

Common maintenance oversight that can lead to a jackknife accident include:

  • Brake failure
  • Hydraulic failure
  • Blown tires
  • Mechanical issues

Both truck drivers and the companies they work for have a responsibility to maintain a truck in a safe condition. When they fail to do this, one possible outcome is a jackknife truck accident.

Jackknife Accidents and Negligence

Jackknife accidents are almost always caused by negligence. A speeding driver, an overweight load, or failure to safely maintain a truck are some of the most common negligence actions that lead to jackknife accidents and the injuries that come with them.

If you’ve been involved in a truck jackknife accident, a truck accident lawyer can investigate the crash and help build an argument for compensation. Other drivers can work to protect their safety by remembering to always drive a safe distance away from a large truck on the highway.

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Contact Our Truck Accident Law Firm in Austin, TX

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Austin and need legal help, contact our Austin truck accident lawyers at FVF Law to schedule a free consultation with our team.

3101 Bee Caves Rd #301, Austin, TX 78746, United States
(512) 982-9328



Fogelman & Von Flatern is a personal injury law firm that believes it matters why we practice law: to make sure good people in unfair circumstances who want reasonable options are taken seriously, especially by their attorney. We value transparency, compassion, and justice, and we strive to embody that in our practice. At FVF, you can trust that you've got the best people on your case, for the right reasons.

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