When Truck Accidents Involve Hazardous Material

trucking accident lawyerLarge commercial truck accidents are notoriously destructive. There is little reason to wonder why large commercial truck accidents tend to cause so much property damage and result in such devastating injuries. After all, the average American car weighs only a few thousand pounds, whereas a fully loaded semi-truck may weigh up to 80,000 pounds. In addition to their sheer weight and size, large commercial trucks cannot stop as quickly, maneuver as precisely, or maintain relatively insignificant blind spots in the ways that most passenger vehicles do. All of these factors add up to one simple reality: when large trucks crash, potentially catastrophic damage and harm often results.

It can, therefore, be frustrating to realize that there are factors that can make the ever-dangerous reality of commercial truck travel even more dangerous. From lax safety regulations in certain contexts to the reality that not all trucks rumbling down American roads have been properly maintained, there are factors in play that can turn a dangerous industry into a downright deadly one. One of the most concerning dangerous influences that can impact just how dangerous a truck accident can end up being is the presence of hazardous material. Oftentimes, commercial truck drivers are tasked with hauling hazardous material. Other times, the presence of this material due to alternative circumstances is what increases the level of danger that a truck accident poses exponentially.

Classes of Hazardous Material

Not all hazardous material is created equal. For example, some hazardous gases could pose a danger to humans if inhaled but are not combustible. But, generally speaking, all classes of hazardous material pose serious dangers to anyone involved in an accident who is exposed to these substances as a result of the crash in question.

The nine classes of hazardous material – as defined by U.S. trucking regulations – are as follows:

  • Class I – Explosives
  • Class 2 – Gases
  • Class 3 – Flammable liquid
  • Class 4 – Flammable solids
  • Class 5 – Oxidizing substances and peroxides
  • Class 6 – Poisonous and infectious substances
  • Class 7 – Radioactive material
  • Class 8 – Corrosives
  • Class 9 – Miscellaneous dangerous goods

Granted, a great deal of care is taken when these hazardous materials are handled, packaged, and readied for shipment via truck. However, no hazardous material is ever packaged up in such a way that it literally cannot – at least, under some circumstances – affect those involved in a serious crash. As hazardous materials are essentially defined as “substance or material that is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce,” the idea that these substances could pose an immediate exposure risk to crash victims is unsettling, to phrase this challenge very mildly.

When Crashes Involve Hazardous Material

If you have been involved in a truck accident involving a truck hauling hazardous material, it is important to understand that the trucking company that employs the operator of the hazardous material hauler involved has an increased responsibility under the law to take safety precautions when readying such material for transport. If the company in question has failed to uphold these safety obligations, you may be able to hold them responsible for a truly significant amount of compensation as a result. Why? By failing in this duty of care, the trucking company didn’t just endanger you and (if different) their driver. The company endangered everyone on the road, which is a serious offense. Additionally, this company may be held legally and/or financially responsible if they failed to properly train their driver, mishandled the hazardous material, and/or did not maintain the truck involved to the extent that it should have.

It is also important to note that trucks hauling hazardous material are generally required to be covered by increased insurance limits, which may result in a greater than average insurance settlement agreement to your benefit.

Alternatively, if you have been involved in an accident wherein the hazardous material in question was not being hauled by a truck but was somehow involved in your accident anyway, you may have any number of options when it comes to seeking legal recourse. No two hazardous materials cases ever unfold in the exact same way. As a result, our firm can advise you of your rights and options most appropriately once we’ve learned more about the unique circumstances that led to your injuries.

Finally, keep in mind that if you were driving for work-related purposes (in a truck or in any other vehicle) at the time of your collision, you may be entitled to receive significant workers’ compensation benefits as a result of your situation. Unfortunately, if you are entitled to these benefits, you may be barred from suing your employer directly for any role it may have played in the causation of your accident. However, you may still have strong grounds upon which to file a personal injury claim against others involved in your crash.

Legal Aid Is Available

If you have been injured in an accident involving a truck and hazardous material, please consult our knowledgeable team about your options. Not every personal injury law firm is prepared to handle complex trucking accident cases, as this is simply not where their teams choose to focus their time and experience. However, our team has practiced truck accident law extensively and we are equipped to provide you with comprehensive legal support at this time.

Whether you drive trucks for a living or you were struck by a large commercial truck and suffered injuries as a result of that collision, you can benefit from speaking with our experienced legal team. Once we have provided you with an objective case evaluation in a free, risk-free consultation setting, you’ll be empowered to make informed decisions about your rights, about pursuing legal action, about filing workers’ compensation and/or insurance claims, and about your options generally. Should you choose to exercise your rights under the law, we will build the strongest possible case on your behalf. We look forward to speaking with you.