What Causes a Semi-Truck to Jackknife?

One of the most common semi-truck accidents is jackknifing. This happens when a semi-truck trailer swings to the side at an angle, pushing the cab off its course and making the truck resemble a jackknife. When a truck jackknifes, the sheer size of the semi-truck puts other vehicles in the area at risk.

This type of accident can happen for many reasons. Identifying the causes of a jackknifed semi-truck can determine who was at fault for the accident and if you are eligible for compensation if you were injured in the crash.

Improperly Maintained Brakes

If the brakes on a semi-truck are not properly maintained, they can cause the axles to lock. This means that the trailer wheels freeze up, causing it to act like a dead weight dragging on the road. The semi’s trailer swings to one side or the other in an unpredictable way that the driver cannot control, making the semi-truck jackknife.

Inexperienced Driver

The more experience a driver has, the better they can deal with challenging or unexpected circumstances. Truckers with experience may sense an issue building up and pull over to check it out.

An inexperienced driver may power through, thinking nothing of a warning signal that points to a potential jackknifing or other dangerous crash. They may not know what to do in different traffic situations and unintentionally cause their truck to jackknife.

Improperly Loaded Cargo

A semi-truck’s cargo is loaded in a purposeful way to guarantee proper weight distribution. The items in the trailer need to be secured in a specific way to stop them from moving around and disrupting the truck’s balance. If cargo is hastily loaded and the boxes, crates, or pallets are not secured, they could cause the semi-truck to jackknife on an onramp, an offramp, or while turning.


A speeding semi-truck requires extra distance to decelerate gradually. If the driver has to brake suddenly, the truck may stop at a different speed than the trailer, causing the trailer to swing out to one side.

Road Conditions

Icy and snowy weather cause slippery roads, resulting in the truck losing traction or sliding on the roadway, leading to a jackknife accident. Rain and fog can lower visibility, leaving truck drivers with less reaction time. Imperfections in the road, such as potholes or cracks, can also affect the truck’s balance, potentially throwing the trailer off the truck’s path.

Who is at Fault?

When a jackknife accident occurs, the parties responsible have to be identified so victims can recover compensation for their injuries or property damage. A number of parties may be fully or partially at fault, including:


The workers in charge of loading the semi-truck can be held liable for the accident and the damages it caused if they did not secure or distribute the cargo properly. A lawyer can interview workers and use their statements to strengthen your case.

Truck Owner

The truck owner is responsible for the maintenance of the vehicle. If the brakes or other systems were past their service date, the owner could be liable. An attorney can investigate the maintenance record of the truck and use the information as evidence.

Driver’s Employer

The trucking company may be liable if you can prove that the driver received inadequate training. The employer may also have forced the driver to work more hours than they could handle or were legally permitted, causing fatigue. Hiring an attorney to look into employee training information and the truck driver’s mileage log is essential.


There are several things the driver can do that result in a jackknife accident. If the driver was speeding, under the influence, or distracted, a sudden move or a lapse in concentration can lead to a jackknifing truck. Your lawyer will help you claim by getting a copy of the police report of the accident.

Hiring Experienced Legal Counsel

Negligence can play a big part in jackknifing accidents. If you or someone close to you has been involved in a truck accident, the consequences can be dire. The size of a semi-truck and the speeds it can travel on the highway make jackknifing accidents dangerous and can result in serious injury and even death when the truck collides with other, smaller vehicles.

Depending on the severity of your injuries at the time of the accident, you may not remember much about the incident. Police need to be called to the scene to gather evidence and witness accounts that will be useful in determining liability.

Avoid speaking to any adjusters from the trucking company after a crash. Instead, call an experienced attorney who can help protect your rights and get the compensation you deserve from the parties at fault.

Jackknifing truck accidents have serious consequences to health, property, and even life. If you or a loved one has been in a jackknifing truck accident and need a St. Louis truck crash lawyer, contact Cofman Townsley for a free consultation. We can help you fight for the maximum recovery you deserve.