If you were injured in a truck accident in Alabama that involved a hazardous cargo spill, you may be owed compensation if someone else’s negligence was to blame. Being severely injured in any type of accident is a terrible experience, but accidents involving hazardous cargo can be especially devastating.
There are thousands of accidents involving trucks carrying hazardous materials in the United States each year, resulting in many severe injuries and 151 fatalities in one recent year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Since many parties could be responsible, these accidents require extensive investigation to determine who was at fault.
The attorneys at Morris, King & Hodge, P.C., are experienced with this type of case and are committed to protecting the rights of innocent victims. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation about your legal rights after a crash involving hazardous cargo.
Hazardous Cargo Truck Accidents vs. Regular Truck Accident
There are many reasons why accidents involving hazardous cargo are more dangerous and more complicated than an accident involving a regular 18-wheeler truck.
Many of these accidents involve tanker trucks carrying liquids. The liquids slosh around in the tank while the truck is moving, constantly changing the center of gravity and making this type of truck more difficult to maneuver.
In any other accident, injuries are usually caused by the impact of the collision. In the case of a hazmat truck crash, this is still a factor, but many additional injuries can come from exposure to the hazardous material itself or from resulting fires or explosions.
Additionally, the occupants of other nearby vehicles, pedestrians, and people in nearby businesses and homes can suffer injuries without even being directly involved in an accident.
Since a large truck accident causes major disruptions to traffic, it is common for additional accidents to happen when traffic slows suddenly, and vehicles do not stop in time. If the hazardous material spills on the roadway, cars can also have difficulty stopping due to slippery conditions.
Requirements and Laws for Transporting Hazardous Materials
Transporting hazardous materials is heavily regulated at the state and federal levels. Drivers must follow regulations such as which highways they can drive on and the time of day hazardous materials can be transported.
The Patriot Act also requires that drivers who transport hazardous materials undergo a background check and fingerprinting.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) establishes protocol for the transport of specific chemicals and substances, required training for drivers, and packaging requirements.
The maximum civil penalty for breaking rules established by the Department of Transportation is $75,000 for knowingly violating federal hazmat transportation laws, or $175,000 for accidents resulting in injury, death, or property damage. Despite the serious penalties and implications for breaking, accidents can still happen due to careless actions by a variety of individuals or companies.
Common Reasons for Hazmat Truck Accidents
Accidents are preventable, and trucks carrying hazardous materials should be held to a high standard to prevent accidents since this type of accident can be especially catastrophic. Trucks carrying hazardous materials can also cause significant damage and injury without a collision if they spill hazardous materials on the roadway.
Some common causes of accidents involving hazardous material trucks include:
- Failure to secure cargo properly, causing it to shift while driving
- Tank valves left open, causing liquids or toxic gasses to escape the tank
- Improper maintenance of truck
- Driver error, such as speeding, insufficient following distance, changing lanes abruptly, not checking blind spot, or distracted driving
There are many people or companies that could be responsible for these issues, such as mechanics, the trucking company, cargo owners, shippers, or the driver themselves. A truck accident lawyer can independently and thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident and determine who was really at fault.
Injuries and Effects Associated with Hazardous Cargo
Accidents involving hazardous cargo can cause all the typical injuries associated with large truck crashes. This includes scrapes and bruises, brain injuries, broken bones, damage to internal organs, spine and nerve damage, and death. However, accidents involving hazardous cargo can also cause:
- Burns (from chemicals or flames/explosions)
- Poisoning from toxic gases
- Impaired brain development (especially in children)
- Respiratory problems
- Exposure to carcinogens
These injuries can affect a person’s ability to work, their social and family relationships, as well as their overall quality of life.
Potential Compensation for Victims Injured by a Truck Cargo Accident
No one should have to suffer because a truck driver, a trucking company or someone else was negligent while hauling hazardous materials. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and provide you with an idea of the type of compensation you might be owed.
In general, compensation may cover:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Long-term care and rehabilitation
- Emotional distress
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning potential
- Punitive Damages
If your family member was killed in a hazardous materials accident, you may also be able to file a wrongful death claim under Alabama law to recover punitive damages for the wrongful taking of a life.
Contact a Huntsville Hazmat Truck Accident Lawyer
After an accident, your focus is probably on recovering from your injuries, but you also must deal with insurance claims and other paperwork. To make matters worse, the trucking company most likely has a large team of lawyers to defend them and convince you to settle for the lowest amount of compensation possible.
The attorneys at Morris, King & Hodge, P.C., can take care of the negotiations with insurance companies so you can focus on your recovery.
Our attorneys are experienced with handling truck accidents. They have a deep understanding of the laws that govern transportation of hazardous materials, as well as access to outside resources to gather evidence. Our firm has been protecting the rights of injured individuals and families in North Alabama since 1966. You can count on us to go the extra mile in handling your case and fighting for you to receive full compensation for your injuries.
Contact us now to schedule a free consultation.