Because of the vast difference in size and mass, collisions between big trucks and automobiles often have devastating consequences for the occupants of the automobile. Injuries can be severe, even fatal. The situation can be made a whole lot worse if the truck was transporting hazardous materials when the accident occurred.
What Is a Hazardous Material?
A hazardous material refers to a substance or chemical that poses a health hazard, a physical hazard, or harm to the environment. In the U.S., the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) create the regulations for the handling and transporting of hazardous materials on America’s roads.
To assign proper shipping names, class and division, and guidance for packaging and handling requirements for hazardous materials, the FMCSA has created nine categories of hazardous material for truck regulation purposes:
- Gasses (this includes flammable, non-flammable, poisonous or toxic, and liquified gasses)
- Flammable and combustible liquids
- Flammable solids that are spontaneously combustible and dangerous when exposed to moisture
- Oxidizing substances and organic peroxides
- Poisonous (toxic) and poison inhalation hazards (this includes infectious substances)
- Radioactive materials
- Miscellaneous (examples include dry ice, lithium batteries, magnetized materials, marine pollutants, and asbestos)
Special Regulations for the Commercial Transport of Hazardous Materials
Under FMCSA regulations, no person can offer or accept a hazardous material for commercial transportation unless they are properly registered and the hazardous material is properly classed, described, packaged, marked, labeled and in condition for shipment as required or authorized.
Before transporting any hazardous materials, the driver and truck company must first ensure:
- The cargo space of the vehicle is suitable for the material being shipped.
- The vehicle is in sound mechanical condition.
- The material being transported is properly described and packaged.
The FMCSA also requires truckers to obtain a Hazardous Materials Safety Permit (HMSP) before transporting certain highly hazardous materials. These materials include Class 7 radioactive materials, certain explosive materials, materials poisonous by inhalation, and compressed or refrigerated liquefied methane or liquefied natural gas.
In addition to reporting the accident to local authorities, the carrier is also required to report a hazardous trucking accident to the DOT when one or more of the following occurs:
- A person is killed.
- A person receives an injury requiring admittance to a hospital.
- The general public is evacuated for one hour or more.
- A major transportation artery or facility is closed or shut down for one hour or more.
- There is a fire, breakage, spillage or suspected contamination involving radioactive material.
- A fire, breakage, spillage, or suspected contamination occurs involving an infectious substance (other than a diagnostic specimen or regulated medical waste).
- A marine pollutant is released in a quantity exceeding 450L (119 gallons) for a liquid or 400 kg (882 pounds) for a solid.
- Any situation of such a nature that it should be reported to the National Response Center even though it does not meet the other criteria.
Violating FMCSA regulations can result in criminal charges (including fines of up to $500,000) as well as civil actions.
Potential Injuries from Hazardous Material Truck Accidents
In accidents involving any type of commercial truck, the injuries can include:
- Bone fractures
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Internal injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
Hazardous materials truck accidents can also result in:
- Thermal and chemical burns
- Radiation sickness
- Complications from exposure to bio-hazardous materials and/or cancer-causing chemicals
- Damage to the respiratory and nervous systems
If you’ve been injured in a hazardous material trucking accident in Louisiana, you may be entitled to compensation for the damages caused by those injuries. Damages can include:
- Current and ongoing medical expenses
- Disfigurement and disability
- Lost wages and employment
- Pain, suffering, and mental anguish
However, obtaining this compensation could be a challenge. Because hazardous materials truck accidents can be more complex than other truck accidents, it’s important to have help from a personal injury attorney with experience in handling these cases.
Trucking companies are often reluctant to turn over their records. Both state and federal laws can apply in these cases. In a lot of instances, other parties besides the truck driver and truck owners may share fault for your accident. An experienced New Orleans truck accident attorney knows how to navigate these issues to help you recover maximum compensation for your damages.
Lambert Zainey Smith & Soso is Here to Help After Hazardous Materials Truck Accidents
Lambert Zainey Smith & Soso have represented accident victims for more than 40 years. Our attorneys understand the complicated rules and regulations that govern the trucking industry and how they apply in your case. We know how to obtain the documents and records the trucking companies don’t want you to see. We’re here to protect your rights and interests to insure you get the total compensation you are due for your injuries.
Don’t wait too long to take action — the state of Louisiana has strict statutes of limitation for filing a personal injury claim after a hazardous materials trucking accident. You can contact the law office of Lambert Zainey Smith & Soso or call us at (800) 521-1750 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.