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Trucking Terror: Jackknife Trucking Accidents in Ontario 

By Matt Lalande in Trucking Accidents on February 07, 2021

Trucking Terror: Jackknife Trucking Accidents in Ontario 

Jackknife accidents are not only among the most common types of trucking accidents in Canada, but they are also often the most severe. These types of accidents can be extremely terrifying, and in many cases the consequences can be catastrophic or fatal.

Many have seen the horrifying images of jackknifed trucks sprawled across major 400-series highways on the news, especially during the winter when roads are more hazardous. Since these accidents are less common than typical motor vehicle collisions, it is common for drivers to be unsuspecting that they will ever be involved in one. However, when they do occur, the unexpected life-changing results can wreak havoc on your physical and mental wellbeing, financial stability, and long-term future.

As Ontario truck accident lawyers, we know how important it is to understand how these accidents occur in order to take the best precautions on Ontario’s roads. If drivers are better able to understand the risks and dangers, they will be more likely to ensure the safety of themselves and others.

The Dangers of Trucking Accidents in Ontario 

Semi-trucks and other commercial rigs are a common sight on Ontario’s highways. Approximately 7 million commercial trucks cross the United States-Ontario border every year, and 75% of Ontario’s exports are transported by truck. Every day, thousands of trucks travel through the province. 

While commercial trucks are a vital part of Ontario’s economy and trade industries, trucking accidents remain an increasing area of concern for traffic related incidents. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, 23% of accident fatalities in 2019 were caused by large truck collisions. That year, there were 8,432 trucking accidents, which was a record high number of commercial vehicle collisions within the last 20 years. 

Trucks represent a smaller population of the types of vehicles that travel on Ontario’s roads each day, but the results from accidents can be significantly more dangerous for all of the drivers involved.

What is a Jackknife Accident?

A jackknife accident occurs when the truck’s trailer ends up sliding or skidding and swinging out to a 90-degree angle from the cab. It is called a jackknife accident because the truck ends up forming a “V” shape, similar to the way a jackknife unfolds. 

Semi-trucks can weigh anywhere from 35,000 to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded with cargo. When a truck needs to stop suddenly, the weight of the trailer being pulled behind the truck prevents it from stopping as quickly, and since it cannot move forward, it swings out to the side. 

In some cases, a jackknife accident may cause the truck to roll over onto its side, presenting further risk of serious injury or death to the driver or occupants of the cab. The weight of the trailer swinging out toward the cab can present enough pressure and force to move the entire truck either on its side or completely upside down.

Skilled and experienced drivers, as well as fair weather conditions, are usually able to understand how to avoid jackknife accidents. Factors such as proper maintenance, steady control of the vehicle, and experienced navigation can help truck drivers avoid dangerous situations. However, as is the case with many types of car accidents, driver negligence is unpredictable and accidents can happen at any time.

What Causes a Jackknife Accident?

The most common cause of a jackknife accident is sudden braking. There are a variety of reasons that a truck driver may be required to brake suddenly: being cut off by a vehicle, losing traction on a patch of ice, or unexpected objects in the lane ahead. 

Due to their large size and weight, trucks need much more room to stop than the average motor vehicle. When a motor vehicle cuts off a truck, the truck may not be able to stop in time to allow the vehicle adequate space. In the winter, ice and snow conditions can further increase the amount of time a truck needs to stop. Motor vehicle drivers must take precautions when driving alongside semi-trucks and 18-wheelers. These precautions could save lives.

Other factors that may cause a jackknife accident include: 

  • Improper or sudden lane changes 
  • Maintenance issues such as equipment malfunction, locked brakes, or skipped inspections
  • Blown or popped tires 
  • Inadequate load securement or oversized loads 
  • Improper handling of sharp turns and curves (driver inexperience or inattention)
  • Driver negligence, including driving while distracted, fatigued, or under the influence

Jackknife Accidents and Multi-Vehicle Collisions 

When a truck jackknifes, it often leads to multi-vehicle collisions or pile-ups as the cars behind the truck cannot stop in time to get around the vehicle. Additionally, the trailer may end up blocking all lanes of traffic. This is particularly common when trucking accidents occur on highways and high-speed freeways. 

Multi-vehicle pile-ups often occur in serious winter weather conditions, as the slippery conditions present a higher risk of sudden jackknifing, sliding, and loss of control. Due to the low visibility during a blizzard or snow squall, vehicles may not see an accident or jackknifed truck on the road ahead until it’s too late to stop in time. This pattern repeats, adding more vehicles to the pile.

Additionally, depending on how many lanes there are on the road, the jackknifed trailer may sometimes extend out into oncoming traffic from the opposite direction. This could lead to pedestrian accidents as well if the incident occurs on a city road or laneway.

Jackknife Accident Injuries Can be Catastrophic 

Due to the nature of a jackknife accident, which involves sudden braking of a vehicle that weighs tens of thousands of pounds, the impact is often deadly or severely devastating. During this type of accident, the truck driver is at an increased risk of being crushed by the weight of the trailer sliding into the cab. Motor vehicles involved in the collision are also at risk of being crushed by the massive weight of the trailer, as well as facing head-on impacts when forcefully colliding with the truck. 

As Hamilton personal injury lawyers, we have seen many severe and devastating injuries result from truck accidents. Some of the most severe injuries that can arise from jackknife accidents include: 

There are also a variety of psychological injuries and long-term emotional consequences for victims who have survived or suffered severe injuries from terrifying truck accidents. This includes post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and extreme stress.

Contact a Hamilton Truck Accident Lawyer if You Have Been Seriously Injured in a Trucking Accident 

Our trucking accident lawyers are aware that the process of seeking proper compensation in a trucking accident can be increasingly complicated and frustrating. 

Finding the right Hamilton trucking accident lawyer is essential in filing a successful claim for your injuries. Booking a free consultation will allow you to meet with a potential law firm and determine if they would be a good fit for your case without paying any out-of-pocket expenses ahead of time. 

We never charge up front for consultations and will not pressure you to retain our firm, so talking to us is risk-free. Our team is also available to travel to you or meet with you virtually if you cannot get to our office. Call us province-wide at 1-844-LALANDE (525-2633) or locally at 905-333-8888 to book your free consultation and meet with us. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule a call back within 24 hours. 



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