What Do I Do if I Was in an Accident With a Truck Carrying Hazardous Materials?
Some of the worst traffic accidents that occur are accidents that involve tractor-trailers. Due to their size, tractor-trailers are much more damaging to both property and people when they are involved in a wreck. Making things even more concerning, sometimes these huge trucks are also transporting hazardous materials, which can make an extremely bad situation even worse.
When a truck carrying hazardous materials is involved in a crash, there are many scenarios to consider. Depending on the specific material the truck is hauling, the crash may cause fire or an explosion. The materials may also cause significant injuries to the parties involved in addition to the injuries sustained from the crash alone. Also, there can be environmental impacts if the material in the truck is spilled on the ground.
What Is a Hazardous Material Truck?
Trucks that carry hazardous materials are sometimes called Haz-Mat trucks. These trucks can be many different shapes and sizes, and they are specifically designed to carry dangerous or toxic materials such as acid, fuel, or other dangerous liquids.
Since there is more risk involved with driving dangerous chemicals, there are greater restrictions on the truck drivers who travel with them. These drivers are required to have a special endorsement that shows the driver has been trained in the correct precautions and procedures in order to minimize the risk of transporting these dangerous chemicals. Often, these drivers are also required to pass a background check specifically aimed at ensuring as much safety as possible for both the truck driver and other travelers on the road. Additionally, due to the increased risk of driving these hazardous materials, these truck drivers are required to have higher amounts of liability insurance compared to other commercial hauling vehicles.
In addition to having highly qualified drivers, there are also additional restrictions placed on these types of trucks. For instance, they may only have certain windows of time they are permitted to drive. They also may be given restrictions on driving on congested roads or through highly populated areas.
Hazardous Material Classifications
There are nine different classifications for hazardous materials, as defined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Each designation will be shown on a hazardous material labeling placard that should be clearly displayed upon the trailer transporting the material.
- Class One – Explosives
- These are materials that have the potential to combust.
- Class Two – Gasses
- Includes flammable gas, non-flammable compressed gas, and toxic gas
- Class Three – Flammable Liquids
- Most commonly transported hazardous material – includes motor oil, gasoline, diesel, and other fuel types
- Class Four – Flammable Solids and Spontaneously Combustible Materials
- Includes items like matches, sulfur, activated charcoal.
- Class Five – Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides
- Chemical compounds that cause or enhance other materials to burn
- Class Six – Toxic Materials and Infectious Substances
- Includes items like poisons in non-gas form (such as rat poison) and infectious biological materials
- Class Seven – Radioactive Materials
- Requires special handling since the danger can last for years if spilled into the environment
- Class Eight – Corrosive Materials
- Strong acids and bases
- Class Nine – Miscellaneous Dangerous Materials
- Materials that can still be dangerous but don’t fit well into other categories, such as lithium or dry ice.
Exposure to these hazardous materials can cause a variety of issues, such as thermal burn injuries, explosions that cause burn injuries, hearing issues, or amputation injuries. Additionally, they may cause chemical burns, poisoning, or exposure to chemicals that could potentially cause cancer.
When possible, determine the type of material being transported so that you can inform your doctor of any chemicals, toxins, or other contaminants that could complicate your care.
Dangers of Hazardous Material Carrying Trucks
Transporting dangerous materials is a necessity, and the companies who do so are required to comply with numerous safety standards in order to reduce the risk of accidents. In order to monitor compliance with these safety standards, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducts roadside safety inspections. Despite knowing the risks of transporting dangerous materials, about 4% of trucks failed these inspections and were pulled from service.
Some of the most common safety violations (according to the FMCSA) are:
- Improperly Securing Hazardous Materials
- If the materials are not secured properly, they can shift in transport, which puts them at great risk of an accident or explosion.
- Driver Error
- Drivers may take a turn at an unsafe speed, follow another vehicle too closely, speeding, driving while distracted, driving while impaired, etc. All of these actions increase the chance of a crash that could lead to hazardous materials spilling.
- Improper Labeling
- Vehicles transporting hazardous material are required to post both the type and amount of material they are transporting
If you are involved in a truck accident that causes a hazardous material spill, an investigation should be done to determine liability. The manufacturer of the material, the manufacturer of the cargo tank, the loader of the material, or the trucking company may potentially be liable. If you or a loved one has been injured, an experienced truck accident attorney can advocate and investigate on your behalf.
What if I Was Involved in a Truck Accident Carrying Hazardous Materials in Florida?
Companies that choose to transport hazardous materials have a legal responsibility to do so safely. If these materials are not handled properly, they can cause major issues.
If you have been involved in an accident with a truck carrying hazardous materials, you should seek medical care immediately. When possible, determine the materials that were being transported so that your physician can provide appropriate care. After your medical needs have been addressed, contact an experienced truck accident attorney who can fight for your right to be compensated fully.
If you or someone you love was involved in a truck accident involving hazardous materials, call Darrigo & Diaz to speak to a truck accident lawyer in Tampa during a free, no-risk, no-obligation case evaluation. Call (813) 774-3341 or contact us online to schedule your free, confidential appointment now!