While truck accidents are much more complex than an accident between two passenger vehicles, when the truck is carrying hazardous materials, the accident has the potential to be even more complicated. According to the Department of Transportation, large commercial trucks transport nearly three billion tons of hazardous materials each year, and these hazardous materials can cause serious, even fatal injuries to those involved in the accident, and those who were close to the scene of the accident.
While tanker trucks can carry something as innocuous as milk, tankers are the type of trailer which also carries hazardous cargo. A tractor trailer’s cargo is considered fairly stable so long as it is loaded and secured properly. Tractor trailers typically carry such things as furniture, groceries, packages and building materials—tangible items.
A tanker truck, on the other hand, transports fluids which could be in the form of oil, gas, or corrosive chemicals. The liquid contents of a tanker truck may “slosh” from side to side, causing a dangerous shift in the center of gravity of the truck, and making it difficult for the driver to maintain control. If hazardous materials are spilled during an accident, there could be toxic fumes or dangerous, corrosive chemicals to deal with.
Toxic chemicals, gasoline or oil can be ignited during a tanker truck accident, or noxious fumes can escape when the tanker is compromised. While injuries from any 18-wheeler accident can be catastrophic, having toxic chemicals involved in the accident adds another layer of potential injury. The victims of the hazardous materials truck accident could sustain permanent injuries which prevent them returning to the career, or to the life they had prior to the accident.
When a victim of a truck accident comes into contact with hazardous chemicals, serious skin burns, organ damage, blindness and even death, if the chemicals are ingested can occur. These are the types of injuries from which the victim may never recover. Severe chemical burns can cause disfigurement as well as many other many other health problems.
The chemicals which are being transported are often oil-based. This means they are slippery and when spilled out onto a roadway, can cause a loss of traction for other vehicles in the area, leading to additional accidents. Other vehicles may crash into the disabled tanker, or into other vehicles because their ability to brake has been severely compromised.
Companies who transport hazardous materials in tanker trucks in the United States must comply with both state and federal laws. There are restrictions on which highways hazardous materials can be transported through, and some materials may not be transported through specific areas due to the density of the population. There are also restrictions on the time of day certain hazardous materials can be transported, and drivers who transport hazardous materials must have extra training and certifications as well as a fully up-to-date commercial driver’s license. Some states have even stricter regulations regarding hazardous cargo than others. As an example, the state of Texas does not allow truck drivers to obtain a hazardous materials endorsement until the driver has completed a security assessment and obtained TSA clearance.
Because there is significant risk involved in transporting hazardous cargo, trucking companies who transport this cargo must have additional insurance—sometimes as much as $5 million as a minimum insurance coverage amount. While hazardous cargo tankers are heavily insured, they are usually also heavily defended, meaning while there should be plenty of insurance to cover your claim, there is also unlimited resources to defend against claimants receiving that money.
It is a sure bet that a trucking company has a fleet of attorneys on their side to limit their liability for your claim. Because of this, it is imperative that you have an aggressive, experienced Lake Charles, Louisiana truck accident attorney from Hoffoss Devall to hold the negligent party accountable. These companies take a risk in transporting hazardous materials, however you should not suffer for their mistakes or negligence. The Hoffoss Devall attorneys have successfully dealt with recalcitrant trucking industry insurance companies and will work hard to ensure your medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering are fully compensated.