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What Steps Can I Take If I Have Been in a Truck Accident Carrying Hazardous Materials?

Wed 29 Nov, 2023 / by / Truck Accidents

Getting in an accident with a truck is a life-changing event. Typically, damage resulting from these types of accidents is severe and injuries can be life-threatening. Things can become even more complicated if the truck is carrying hazardous materials. Read on to learn why it is a good idea to retain a lawyer when you have been in a truck accident with a truck carrying hazardous materials.

Tanker Trucks Carry Various Things

The majority of U.S. shipments are transported on tanker trucks. They will haul all sorts of things, from food grade and dry bulk to gasoline and specialty chemicals. Because of how many tanker trucks are on the road, the number of accidents involving tanker trucks is on the rise.

Why is Having an Accident with a Tanker Truck a Big Deal?

Although tanker trucks can be hauling a variety of goods, they are often hauling hazardous, highly flammable materials. When there is an accident involving tanker trucks, road surfaces may deteriorate and become incredibly unsafe. Fires and explosions can arise, and the air quality can be severely compromised. As such, having a collision with these tanker trucks could result in sustaining serious burns, injuries from smoke inhalation, or even death.

What Kinds of Hazardous Materials Might I Encounter?

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), there are nine classes of hazardous materials. 

  • Class 1: Explosives
  • Class 2: Gasses
  • Class 3: Flammable liquid and combustible liquid
  • Class 4: Flammable solid, spontaneously combustible, and dangerous when wet
  • Class 5: Oxidizer and organic peroxide
  • Class 6: Poison (toxic) and poison inhalation hazard
  • Class 7: Radioactive
  • Class 8: Corrosives
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous

What is Considered a Hazardous Chemical Spill?

Hazardous spills happen when a lot of hazardous materials are released or cannot be contained in a safe manner. “HAZMAT” is an abbreviation for hazardous materials and is often used in reference to trucks and tankers that are transporting these hazardous materials. Now, depending on the type of substance that was involved, how it was released, and what environment it was released into will all impact the potential harm it can cause. Regardless of what hazardous material was involved, victims–including those involved in the accidents and bystanders–can be majorly impacted by their release.

What Should I Do If I Get In An Accident with a Truck Carrying Hazardous Materials?

  • Get out of the area as best as you can. Do not stay in the area where there are hazardous materials. Do everything in your power to stay away from hazardous spills. Remember that these chemicals can be released into the air, so just because you are not physically touching them does not mean that you are safe. Often, HAZMAT protective gear should be on the truck. If you are able to get access to this, you should get that gear on.
  • Call 911 Immediately. Even if you think that you have successfully avoided being in contact with any hazardous materials, this is not the time for guessing. Call 911 right away and explain the accident. Have the driver, if possible, tell you what they were hauling. This will give the dispatcher a better idea of what to tell first responders. 
  • Get medical attention. If you are not transported to the hospital by ambulance, it is important that you get medical attention as soon as possible. Delayed onset of injuries is possible in all sorts of accidents. The risk is only enhanced when you are involved in an accident that has hazardous materials. Even if you believe that you have not been impacted by the hazardous materials, get checked out. They do not always show their impact. The hospital can evaluate you for any injuries and exposures and create a treatment plan.
  • Document the accident. It is important to stress that you need to be as safe as possible. Your first priority is to evacuate the area so that you are not exposed to any further danger. If possible, get photos of the crash site, the area where the accident occurred, and any injuries.
  • Get the contact info from the truck driver. Make sure to get their first and last name, but also, if they are driving for a company, get that information. 
  • Contact your insurance company. Let your insurance company know about the accident. They can contact the appropriate parties and start the claims process.
  • Be careful about who you speak to. If the trucker is working for a company, they might send a representative from the company out. Do not speak to them about the accident, and do not sign anything. 

What Compensation Might I Get?

This really depends on the unique facts of your case. Courts will look at both your current and future expenses. There are two types of damages: economic and non-economic.

-Economic damages will cover financial costs that you incurred as a result of your wages. This would include things like medical costs (both past and future), lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and funeral costs, if applicable.

-Noneconomic damages will cover things that do not have a dollar amount associated with them but have harmed you in some way. These could include things like pain and suffering and mental anguish.

Contact a Seasoned Truck Accident Attorney

If your loved one or you have been in an accident with a truck that had a hazardous materials spill, it is imperative to get an attorney who has dealt with these sorts of personal injury cases. There might be multiple parties responsible for the crash. These sorts of cases also typically require extensive, in-depth investigations. Let an attorney who has been there before help get you all of the compensation that you deserve.