Hazardous materials (HAZMAT) can be anything from ordinary household products to highly flammable materials or specialized substances that need prominent warning labels. What makes a material hazardous focus primarily on the product’s flammability and the potential to cause harm. When HAZMAT trucks are involved in an accident, the results can be disastrous. If you suffered injuries in an accident, you can file a HAZMAT truck accident claim for compensation.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) divides HAZMAT materials into nine classes.
- Explosives, e.g., mercury fulminate
- Gases, e.g., petroleum
- Flammable or combustible liquids, e.g., ethyl ether
- “Flammable Solid, Spontaneously Combustible, and Dangerous When Wet”, e.g., matches
- Oxidizer/Organic Peroxide, e.g., benzoyl peroxide
- Poison/Poison Inhalation Hazard
- Radioactive, e.g., uranium
- Corrosive, e.g., battery acid
- Miscellaneous, e.g., dry ice, asbestos, life-saving appliances
What are the legal responsibilities of a HAZMAT truck driver?
Like any other truck driver, insurance companies can find a driver of HAZMAT materials liable if someone suffers injuries or dies in an accident caused by the actions of the driver. Unlike an ordinary truck driver, however, there are certain specific requirements for HAZMAT truck drivers.
- The driver must properly package all hazardous materials for transportation.
- There must be a clear warning or caution levels present.
- The driver must monitor the cargo at all times.
- Like any other drivers, a HAZMAT truck driver must obey all traffic laws, such as those regarding speed, stopping, and other driving requirements; however, in addition, the FMCSA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) forbid truck drivers from texting or using handheld devices while driving. The FMCSA also forbids truck drivers from driving with a blood alcohol content of over .04.
- In some states, HAZMAT truck drivers are required to carry significantly more insurance than ordinary truck drivers.
If a truck driver violates any of these and causes an accident, a court may find him liable for any damages victims suffered.
How do I prove liability?
As in any other accident case, you must prove that the other driver was responsible for your injuries. To do so, you must establish that:
- The driver owed you a duty of care (every driver on the road must drive responsibly).
- The driver breached his duty and caused the accident, e.g., the driver was texting, hit your car.
- The accident caused injury, e.g., the truck was full of corrosive materials; you suffered severe burns.
- The injury caused damages, e.g., lost wages.
Who can be liable?
In a HAZMAT truck accident case, there can be multiple liable parties, including the driver, the trucking company (through vicarious liability), whoever packed the truck, or the manufacturer of the hazardous material. You can hold a manufacturer liable if the product was defective or if it came without adequate warnings. You can hold responsible parties liable for damages such as medical expenses, pain, and suffering, lost wages, or future medical expenses.
How can a Texas truck accident attorney help me?
If you or someone you care about suffered injuries in a truck accident involving HAZMAT materials, you can file a claim for damages. As HAZMAT truck accidents can be very complex, speaking with a truck accident attorney. An attorney can gather and preserve evidence (trucking companies can destroy records after a certain time, an attorney can send a letter of spoliation which will stop a trucking company from destroying evidence), help you prove liability, and ensure you file your claim correctly and on time.
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