If you or someone you love has been harmed in an accident that involved a cargo spill or hazardous materials, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Burg Simpson for a free case evaluation to see what your options may be.

Accidents involving semi trucks are almost always disastrous. With their massive size and weight, they tend to create massive destruction and catastrophic injuries, even when hazardous materials are not involved. Adding a cargo spill to the mix only further complicates the situation, creating even more likelihood that those involved in the wreck will be harmed in some way, if they manage to survive at all. Because these wrecks are typically so severe, there could be long-term injuries for survivors, requiring ongoing care, therapy, and more. It is often necessary to hire a truck accident attorney to help you get compensated for the costs associated with the aftermath of a cargo spill or hazardous materials accident.

What is a Hazardous Materials Cargo Spill?

A cargo spill happens when material being transported by a truck or tanker falls or spills from the cargo hold while on the roadway. This can happen for a number of reasons, but is usually due to poor loading. Spills can happen after a truck has been in an accident, or they can be the cause of the accident when the materials spilled obstruct the roadway.

Types of Hazardous Materials Transported

It may be difficult to understand exactly how dangerous a cargo spill involving hazardous materials can be without knowing more about what is actually being transported by these vehicles. Here is a list we have comprised of the materials that just might be in the vehicle next to you on your next trip:

  • Explosives: This can be a chemical compound, mixture, or device that is designed to explode or requires an explosion to function, including detonating devices, combustibles, ammunition, and fireworks.
  • Gasses: This includes anything that is in gaseous form or that can easily be mixed to become a gas such as nonflammable gasses, compressed gasses, and liquefied or flammable gasses.
  • Flammable liquids: These include liquids that can ignite in warm, dry, or moist air, often gasoline and diesel fuel.
  • Combustible liquids: Any liquid having a flashpoint above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Flammable solids: A solid material that could potentially ignite under normal transportation conditions.
  • Organic peroxides: These are organic compounds that are derived from hydrogen peroxide and may be considered toxic.
  • Oxidizers: Materials that produce oxygen or poisonous gasses, such as chlorates, permanganates, inorganic peroxides, and nitrates.
  • Poisons: This includes materials that are considered toxic if inhaled, ingested or touched.
  • Etiologic agents: Any material containing living microorganisms or toxins that may cause human diseases, such as viruses or bacteria
  • Radioactive materials: Anything that might give off radiation.
  • Corrosive materials: Any material that might cause visible or irreversible damage to metals or human tissue on contact.

Most trucks will have a placard on their vehicle depicting the hazardous material that is being transported. This is a requirement, so failing to have a placard or permit can result in civil or criminal charges.

Federal Rules for HAZMAT Transportation

The federal Department of Transportation regulates the transportation of hazardous materials using laws drafted by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Carriers of hazardous materials must follow set guidelines, including carrying a Hazardous Materials Safety Permit and placing a visible placard on the vehicle used for transport. A permit is required to transport certain quantities of any of the following:

  • Radioactive materials
  • Explosives
  • Material deemed poisonous by inhalation
  • Methane
  • Liquefied natural gas

Additionally, different materials are put into numbered classes depending on how dangerous the substance is to humans.

Carriers are also required to report any incident that occurs during the transportation of hazardous materials if any of the following happens:

  • A person is killed
  • A person's injuries result in admittance to the hospital
  • The public is evacuated for more than an hour
  • A transportation artery or facility is shut down for more than an hour
  • The incident involves radioactive materials, especially if contamination is suspected
  • Suspected contamination occurs involving an infectious substance
  • A large quantity of marine pollutant is released
  • The carrier believes a danger could exist even if it does not meet the above criteria

Regulations are enforced, and those transporting hazardous materials without following the guidelines will face civil and criminal charges.

Is There a Training Requirement for HAZMAT Truck Drivers?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires training for any driver that transports hazardous materials. This training must be completed within 90 days of hire, and the more dangerous a material is, the more in-depth the training will be. Instruction for HAZMAT truck drivers includes:

  • Training on general awareness and familiarization of carrying hazardous materials
  • Function-specific training depending on the driver's job
  • General safety training that includes preventing and dealing with incidents
  • Security awareness and in-depth security training if needed
  • Modal specific training

Additionally, drivers must be retrained every 3 years or anytime regulations or job function changes.

What to Do if You Have Been in a Truck Crash with Chemical Spills or Hazardous Materials

A truck accident of any kind can be detrimental to everyone involved. But an accident involving hazardous materials adds new vulnerability to the driver and all other parties at the scene. Here are a few elements that complicate a cargo spill accident more than a regular motor vehicle accident:

  • Road surfaces may be littered with debris or hazardous cargo, making them unsafe for any vehicle to travel
  • The air may be contaminated due to toxic fumes
  • Chemicals may ignite, causing fires or explosions which can result in serious injury or death

Because of these added risks, the best course of action to take if you've been involved in a hazardous materials truck accident is:

  • Evacuate the area. If you have no serious injuries, do your best to remove yourself from the area, if you can do so safely. If you are unable to leave, take advantage of any protective gear, such as gas masks or suits, that may be available to you.
  • Call 911 to report the accident immediately. Disclose any helpful information, such as where the accident occurred and if anyone was injured. Do not admit any fault, and get the name and badge number of the officer for follow-up.
  • Seek medical help. Even if you do not believe you have sustained any injuries, one of the many dangers of a chemical spill is that you may not be aware of its damage to your body until it is too late. You should visit an EMT, hospital, or doctor as soon as possible after the cargo spill accident occurs.
  • Document and obtain evidence. If you can, take photos and videos of the scene of the accident and any injuries. You should also get contact information from other involved parties and any eyewitnesses.
  • Contact your insurance company. Your auto insurance provider should be notified of the accident as soon as possible.
  • Do not talk to the trucking company or their representatives. Avoid talking to anyone involved with the trucking company and the driver. Do not sign anything, even if they pressure you to do so. You can protect yourself by only speaking with police, emergency personnel, and your insurance company initially. You should then also speak with a truck accident attorney from Burg Simpson before discussing any details of the accident with anyone else. Do not admit fault to any responding personnel nor the insurance company, as it could impact any compensation you might receive.
  • Remain at the scene of the accident until police tell you that you may leave. You will need to complete your accident statement with the police, and depending on what kind of exposure you had to the chemicals, you may need medical treatment or to quarantine away from others.

Understanding Liability in a Hazardous Cargo Accident

Given the training and regulations drivers must follow when carrying hazardous materials, a driver that violates these regulations may be liable for damages caused in an accident. If the accident was caused by a defective truck or cargo component, the designer or manufacturer might be liable. Sometimes the negligent actions of several parties cause an accident, so it is crucial to contact a truck accident lawyer from Burg Simpson to initiate an investigation and ensure that all responsible parties are named in your claim.

Common Injuries in Chemical Spill Truck Accidents

On top of the obvious catastrophic damages a large truck can cause in a collision, all parties involved may find themselves sustaining injuries from the chemicals themselves. Some of the more common injuries we see in chemical spill truck accidents include:

  • Burns due to the impact of the accident
  • Chemical burns from spilled hazardous cargo exposure
  • Lung damage, usually caused by breathing in hazardous chemicals
  • Organ failure from ingesting chemicals
  • Blindness due to chemicals coming in contact with a victim's eyes
  • Fractures or brain injuries sustained due to the force of impact as with any truck accident

Many of these injuries have lasting effects, and may even result in death. If you've been involved in a truck accident involving a chemical spill, it is imperative to seek medical help as soon as possible, and then contact a personal injury attorney to represent your claim for compensation.

Compensation for Victims of Chemical Spill Truck Accidents

You must consider your current and future expenses when calculating compensation for a truck accident involving hazardous materials. Damages available to truck accident victims include both economic and non-economic expenses.

Economic Damages

Economic damages refer to the financial costs incurred after an accident. This can include things like medical bills, lost wages, lost earning potential, and funeral costs. You might also receive damages for any injury to your personal property, such as your car.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are meant to compensate you for things that may not include a clear-cut price tag. Things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, and emotional damage are considered non-economic damages. Obviously, these are a little more difficult to calculate since no specific monetary value is placed on someone's pain and suffering. This is where our attorneys come in. We at Burg Simpson know how to calculate these costs for your greatest benefit.

Information on Insurance Claims

Insurance companies are not overly eager to offer a fair settlement, and often attempt to settle for much less than what you will need to cover your expenses. Additionally, trucking and hauling companies may try to dispute your insurance claim to shirk their responsibility after an accident.

The attorneys at Burg Simpson are familiar with the tactics used by insurance companies and know how to negotiate on your behalf to make sure you receive the settlement you deserve. If all else fails, we will escalate your claim to a civil trial to ensure fair compensation for your injuries and other damages.

How Can a Truck Accident Attorney Help?

Our attorneys specialize in truck accident personal injury claims. We can help by:

  • Initiating an investigation on who was at fault. Since there isn't always a clear cause to the accident, we can begin the process of finding out who was liable.
  • Gathering evidence in the form of photographs, videos, and eyewitness accounts. This will be important when speaking with insurance companies to negotiate an appropriate and fair settlement.
  • Obtaining documentation. We can help you obtain police reports, medical bills, pay stubs, therapy expenses, and any other documents you might need for your claim.
  • Negotiating with insurance companies. We know that insurance companies try to settle for as little as possible. We will make sure these companies don't get away with lowball offers.
  • Calculating a fair settlement based on your injuries and how they might affect you in the future. It's easy to look at medical bills and think you know what you will need to cover the costs. But there are many injuries that will need ongoing care. We know how to properly calculate what the accident has actually cost you and what it will continue to cost you in the future so that you don't accept less than what you will need.
  • Representing you in the event your claim moves to a civil lawsuit. If a fair settlement cannot be reached with insurance companies, we will not hesitate to fight for you in court.

Contact a Hazardous Materials Truck Accident Lawyer

Truck accidents can be devastating to anyone involved, but an accident involving a vehicle carrying hazardous materials raises additional concerns. Property damage, environmental damage, and physical injuries from the impact of a collision and contact with the cargo are just a few of the outcomes associated with HAZMAT trucking accidents.

If you or someone you love has been involved in a truck accident involving hazardous materials, contact the hazardous materials truck accident attorneys at Burg Simpson for your free and confidential consultation. We have the skills and experience you need to receive the justice and compensation you deserve.
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