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Baltimore Injury Accidents Caused by Jackknifed Tractor-Trailers

Every year, the sad reality of a serious roadway accident involving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) insinuates itself into the lives of many people living and working in Maryland and the District of Columbia. As Baltimore auto and trucking injury specialists, the professional legal staff at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, understands the pain and suffering that can often accompany a tragic commercial truck crash -- and this does not even address the financial harm that can affect victims and families for years following a bad traffic crash.

A percentage of the unfortunate roadway wrecks that take place daily in and around cities such as Annapolis, Owings Mills, Bowie and the District include a wide array of commercial vehicles. While most any traffic accident that takes place between a passenger car and a much larger and heavier motor vehicle can be a life-changing event, those impacts that result from an out-of-control 18-wheeler can be some of the most terrifying. Of these kinds of crashes, one of the more unpredictable and potentially deadly is the oft-reported “jackknife” truck accident.

The aptly named Jackknifing-type of commercial truck crash describes the action between the tractor and trailer portions of a semi tractor-trailer rig. This means that the two sections of the 18-wheeler literally fold in on themselves and any unlucky passenger vehicle that happens to become involved in the collision. In the process of a jackknife event, the two parts of an articulated big rig semi go from traveling in-line to folding together -- like the closing of a pocket knife.

Generally, this kind of wreck can occur when the semi driver locks up the brakes, either because of slick road surface conditions or as a result of an emergency stop. In addition to improper braking technique, other causes may include some kind of mechanical or equipment failure or adverse road conditions, such as rain, snow or ice. However, there are instances where a driver may deliberately try to make his 18-wheeler jackknife in order to bring it to an emergency stop following a brake failure, though this would be an extreme measure.

When a tractor-trailer driver loses control of his rig, the trailer portion may begin to skid, causing the back end to possibly push from behind and essentially rotate around and ahead of the tractor portion. As trucking accident lawyers, Lebowitz & Mzhen know how dangerous such an event can be; not only to the trucker himself, but also to the occupants in surrounding passenger cars. Since big rig semis are so large, a jackknifed trailer can very often strike one or more nearby vehicles, especially on a congested Maryland beltway or on a fast-moving expressway.

Sadly, trucking accidents like this are an unfortunate result of our fast-paced mobile society. Commercial vehicles are critical to the country’s economic progress, and the likelihood of seeing a decrease in commercial truck traffic is almost nil. Every year, thousands of innocent people are hurt or killed in collisions between family sedans, minivans, sport utility vehicles and large CMVs. The large size and sheer mass of tractor-trailers, flatbed trucks, automobile haulers and box-type delivery vehicles can make any bodily injuries associated with trucking-related road accidents even more severe than those related to passenger car-only collisions.

During a jackknife event, the trailer ends up skidding to one side or another. This action sometimes begins with what is referred to as trailer swing or trailer slew. Though the movement of the trailer may stop before a full-on jackknifing event, the driver still must remain aware that his rig’s trailer could slide out far enough to strike another vehicle, either in the next lane or parked on the side of the roadway; if the slewing becomes excessive, the trailer could also hit a guard rail or the rear wheels could slide off the roadway and into a ditch. Many jackknifing events occur when the trailer is either lightly loaded or completely empty; under such conditions, a very strong gust of wind can set a deadly scenario in motion.

As with many traffic wrecks, a jackknife accident may catch the average motorist unaware. Many innocent victims of jackknife-type trucking accidents were driving correctly and simply minding their own business on the beltway when the collision took place. Because a jackknifed truck can affect multiple lanes of a freeway or interstate, such incidents have the potential to result in highly dangerous and possibly fatal multiple-vehicle accidents.

The legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen knows that typical jackknifing accidents are primarily caused by the following:

  • Trailer tires losing traction on slippery roads due to inclement weather
  • Locking-up of the trailer brakes due to improper stopping technique
  • The force of a previous collision between the big rig and another motor vehicle

In cases where a jackknife trucking accident results from poor braking technique, the initial cause may be related to excessive vehicle speed. If a driver is traveling too fast, making an emergency maneuver or using improper braking technique can result in an unsafe situation where the trailer’s brakes suddenly lock up. Depending on the load being carried and the vehicle speed at the time of the event, injuries from a collision with other motor vehicles may be expected.

The effects of a jackknifed tractor-trailer can be truly devastating to the victims in other vehicles; and hardly surprising given that some fully-loaded 18-wheelers can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Because accidents of this kind can happen almost at any time, motorists traveling near these large and heavy CMVs should be especially careful. If the worst does happen and you or someone you love find yourself with severe injuries from a jackknife-type CMV crash, we recommend that you consider meeting with a qualified commercial truck accident attorney.

The personal injury experts at Lebowitz & Mzhen are ready to assist trucking accident victims and their families. Over the years, we have helped our clients, many of whom have been the victims of a roadway-related injury accident. We can help those who have been badly hurt recover monetary damages following a serious commercial truck collision. For those individuals who have suffered an interruption in their lives due to the physical and emotional injuries resulting from a severe traffic wreck, we are prepared to offer our legal skills and courtroom expertise.

Our legal team can prepare a personal injury claim based on the costs and expenses of doctor, hospital and rehabilitation treatments, as well as financial loss resulting from lost wages and property damage. If you have been injured in a commercial trucking accident, please feel free to contact our law offices for a no-cost initial consultation. You can call us toll-free at 1-800-654-1949 to schedule a meeting to discuss your case. Or, you may email either Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen to arrange a face-to-face meeting.

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I am proud to have had Lebowitz & Mzhen represent me in an automobile personal injury case I was involved with. Not only did they come through with a settlement worth far more than I thought possible, the entire office was always friendly, knowledgeable, and ready to answer any questions I had. Should an incident like this occur again, I will not hesitate to contact Lebowitz & Mzhen for their counsel, advice and representation, and I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone seeking honest and effective attorneys. Mark B.
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