What is the Difference Between a Jackknife and a Rollover Truck Accident?

Jackknife and rollovers are two of the most common tractor-trailer accidents. They can cause very serious injuries, forcing accident victims to miss months of work and leaving some with permanent disabilities. What causes these accidents and how are they different? Our Winchester truck accident lawyer provides an overview of each.

Jackknife Accidents

Tractor-trailers have two parts: a trailer in back and a cab in front. They connect at the fifth wheel, which allows the trailer to move to either side. This movement is necessary to allow semi-trucks to make turns, for example. Imagine if the tractor and trailer were inflexible—a truck could only drive straight ahead but never turn, so the fifth wheel provides necessary movement.

Sometimes, however, the trailer swings out of control, even when the truck is moving straight ahead. This is a jackknife accident. The name comes from a pocket knife, like a Swiss Army knife, that folds in on itself. When the trailer begins to swing to the side, it can run over smaller vehicles on the road, and the entire rig is out of control. Dozens of people can get hurt when a tractor-trailer jackknifes on the highway.

Jackknife accidents should be rare. They are usually caused by:

  • Driving too fast. Large trucks need more room to come to a complete stop. When the trucker slams on the brakes, there’s a risk the entire rig won’t stop at the same speed. Instead, the trailer might go faster than the cab, and there is nowhere for it to go but to the side.
  • Poor weather. Icy or snowy conditions can impair the truck’s traction, and the trailer might swing out at an angle in poor weather.
  • Imbalanced freight. The freight in the trailer could shift or be loaded in an unbalanced manner to begin with. When the center of gravity shifts, then the trailer can jackknife.
  • Trucker inexperience. A trucker who is new to the job might not know how to handle a rig, especially when pulling on or off the highway.

Accident victims often suffer serious vehicle damage in a jackknife, especially if the big rig was going at a high speed. Passengers end up with back injuries, spinal column injuries, paralysis, concussions, and other serious injuries. The risk of fatalities is also high.

Rollover Accidents

Tractor-trailers can also roll onto their sides. A rollover is just as dangerous as a jackknife, and innocent motorists can be buried underneath a heavy truck weighing 80,000 pounds.

A rollover differs from a jackknife because the truck flips onto its side. With a jackknife, the truck usually stays upright even though it is out of control.

Rollovers have many of the same causes, including:

  • Weight distribution problems. The load in the trailer should be sufficiently fastened, and truckers should check the load before beginning their trip. However, sometimes the trucker is carrying a sealed load, or time pressures might force them to cut corners and not perform their inspection. Unsecured loads or cargo mounted too high make the trailer unstable.
  • Failure to adjust speed. Truckers often go too fast on or off highway ramps, which lead to rollovers.
  • Overcorrection. This is a steering issue. A distracted trucker might drift into an adjoining lane or be on the verge of sliding off the road. He suddenly overcorrects, which also shifts the center of gravity dramatically. Distraction, fatigue, and chemical use can all cause an overcorrection.

Injuries are sometimes even more severe with rollovers compared to other truck accidents. Victims can suffer crush injuries, especially if the weight of the rig is not lifted quickly. Consequently, victims can lose limbs with an amputation or struggle with paralysis. Crush injuries sometimes release toxins from the damaged muscle into the bloodstream, which can lead to fatal kidney complications.

Other injuries occur when a motorist sees a truck roll and takes sudden defensive action, such as driving off the road. You can roll over yourself in that situation or run into a tree or strike another vehicle. Someone who takes sudden defensive action can often still sue the trucker for the crash.

Proving Fault in a Jackknife or Rollover

The good news is that these accidents are rarely the fault of any motorist who gets injured. That’s not the case with other truck accidents, where a driver might be partially at fault for cutting off the truck. With rollovers and jackknifes, the fault almost always lies with one of the following:

  • Truckers. The trucker might have gone too fast or not properly inspected the truck before beginning the trip. Truckers who are negligent are responsible for accidents.
  • Trucking company. The company that owns the truck might have failed to repair defects, which might contribute to a crash. They also could force drivers to drive too long.
  • Loading company. The people who loaded the freight could have made a mistake, which leads to a shift in cargo and either a rollover or jackknife.
  • Mechanics. Sometimes defects on the truck contribute to accidents. For example, brake problems can prevent a truck from slowing down properly, causing a crash.

Often, the most critical evidence is in the truck. You should contact a Winchester truck accident lawyer to gain access to certain pieces of evidence. For example, many trucks have electronic logging systems which record critical pieces of information while the truck is in motion. We might also want to know who loaded the cargo or which mechanic shop worked on the truck. This evidence is in the possession of the trucking company, which might not be eager to hand it over.

Speak with a Winchester Truck Accident Lawyer Today

The largest trucking companies have rigs racing along the highways at all hours of the day and night. These powerful companies hire expensive lawyers and investigators to help them to defeat insurance claims brought by people like you. You deserve a dedicated, passionate lawyer to stand up for your rights. Call Correll Law Firm today to discuss whether you can bring a claim, 540-535-2005.