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Holding drivers responsible for jackknife truck accidents

The central location of our state in the middle of the nation's main highways ensures that Illinois roads are constantly filled with commercial tractor-trailers. Big rig drivers naturally go through rather rigorous training and testing to make sure that they can handle their vehicles under a variety of conditions.

A primary component of all Commercial Driver's License testing is to ensure that drivers know how to prevent trailer skids and jackknife accidents. A jackknife truck accident occurs when the wheels of a trailer component of a tractor-trailer combo loses traction with the surface of the road. The loss of traction results in the trailer component swinging around towards the front of the cab. This type of accident is called a jackknife because the result of trailer swinging forward resembles the closing action when folding a pocket knife.

A 2003 study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that commercial truck drivers can actually prevent many jackknife accidents. One of the more interesting findings in that study was that most fatal jackknife accidents occur as a result of drivers slamming on the brakes too fast and too hard. The report also found that jackknife accidents occurred more frequently when the trailer was empty or not loaded to full capacity. Drivers going into slight curves also experienced greater risk of jackknife accidents.

Jackknife accidents can prove hazardous to other motorists for several reasons. It's important to know that NHTSA says that just over half of all fatal trucking accidents occur on undivided, two-lane roadways. Essentially, that's almost every two-lane country road with traffic going in opposite directions that you can find anywhere in Illinois.

As you might imagine, a jackknife accident involving a tractor-trailer on one of those roads would likely send the trailer section into the other lane and into oncoming traffic. Additionally, many secondary "pile-up" accidents occur as a result of the jackknifed tractor-trailer clogging busy roadways.

Illinois motorists should know that state laws allow them to sue truck drivers, their employers and their insurers for negligent actions that resulted in their injuries. If you suspect that a truck driver might have prevented a jackknife accident from causing you harm, you may be entitled to sue him or her for compensation. If successful, you can recover money for your medical costs and any time you may have missed from work.

Source: Department of Transportation-National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "An Analysis of Fatal Large Truck Crashes" accessed Mar. 04, 2015

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