What Does It Mean For a Truck To Jackknife?

Losing control on the road is a frightening and dangerous experience, but truck accidents involving 18-wheelers are often even more severe. Big rigs can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and measure over 53 feet long, making them massive and highly destructive against smaller vehicles. 

One common way that trucks lose control is when they “jackknife.” What exactly is a jackknife accident, and how does this situation happen?

Jackknife Truck Meaning

When you hear the term “jackknife,” images of a pocket knife probably come to mind. Think about the angle of a pocket knife blade as it opens and closes. A jackknife truck accident is named after that shape. 

A truck jackknife occurs when the front cabin — where the driver sits — folds backward toward the trailer, forming a sharp V-shape. Once the jackknifing begins, it’s unlikely that the truck driver will be able to regain control of the vehicle and prevent it from careening into nearby traffic or property. 

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), nearly 40% of all accidents involving a truck jackknife lead to fatalities, and 100% of the accidents lead to property damage of some kind. 

Why Does Jackknifing Occur?

Like any type of motor vehicle accident, jackknifing can occur for a variety of reasons. Some are the result of the truck driver’s negligence, and others could involve road conditions or unsafe driving behavior from nearby cars. Here are the most common factors that can lead to a jackknife accident.


Speeding is one of the most common causes of truck jackknifing. With how heavy big rigs are, excess speed makes it more challenging for drivers to maintain control when turning or braking. 

Braking Suddenly

A truck doesn’t need to be going over the speed limit to lose control when braking suddenly. Especially if the trailer is fully loaded and carrying extra weight, the driver needs to be cautious when braking to avoid locking the wheels and causing the trailer to swing around the cabin. 

Winding Roads

Some highways have lots of curves and turns, which are particularly difficult for truck drivers to navigate. Turning increases the risk of the trailer spinning out, especially if the driver is also going over the speed limit. 

Wet or Icy Conditions

With any type of vehicle, poor weather increases the risk of an accident significantly. Rain and snow limit visibility and reduce the amount of time that drivers have to respond, which may cause some rig drivers to brake too quickly and lose control. Slippery conditions may also cause the trailer to spin out. 

Equipment Malfunctions

If a truck driver is unable to steer or brake correctly due to equipment malfunctions, it’s possible that they may lose control and jackknife. Truck operators are responsible for maintaining the functionality and safety of their equipment, so dangerous failures could leave the driver liable. 

Who Could Be Liable For a Jackknife Accident?

Truck accident cases are rarely straightforward, and since there are so many factors that can contribute to a wreck, it’s rare for one party to be fully liable. However, truck operators have more training and a greater obligation to maintain their vehicles and drive safely, so they may be found partially responsible for the accident. 

Get Help After a Jackknife Truck Accident in Florida

If you have been in a jackknife accident, it’s important to contact the police right away to create a report. Once you are safe and have sought medical attention, contact a Florida truck accident attorney to discuss which steps you should take next. 

If you’ve been harmed due to a truck driver’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. An experienced attorney can help you seek justice and recover in peace.

Contact Our Truck Gainesville Accident Law Firm in North Central Florida

If you need legal assistance, contact the Gainesville truck accident lawyers at Allen Law Firm,P.A. at your nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.

We have two convenient locations in North Central Florida:

Allen Law Firm, P.A. – Gainesville office
2550 SW 76th St #150
Gainesville, FL 32608
(877) 255-3652

Allen Law Firm, P.A. – Ocala Office
112 S Pine Ave
Ocala, FL 34471
(352) 351-3258