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Hazardous Materials in a Trucking Accident

Richardson Richardson Boudreaux, PLLC

The word “hazmat” is an abbreviation for “hazardous materials.” Like any other useful material, hazmat must be shipped from place to place. Often, that transport is done with trucks. Truckers who work with hazmat are specially trained for proper storage and shipping of these items. None of us is immune to a car accident, so it stands to reason that many hazmat truckers find themselves in highway crashes.

Accidents with truckers hauling hazmat are particularly dangerous. To be clear, hazmat shipping is a highly regulated practice. Hazmat containers are designed to be safe and withstand punishment. In an accident involving hazmat cargo, you are more likely to be injured by the impact of shipping containers than the hazardous materials themselves. However, breaches do occur, and contact with hazmat can lead to serious injury.

Common Hazmat Shipped by Truckers

Explosives

Explosives are used for a variety of purposes. TNT can be used to blast away rock. Fireworks are used to make colorful explosions in the sky. There are also various explosive liquids and solids used for constructing and industrial purposes. We don’t often consider the fact that these items are manufactured in one place and shipped to another. Even a truck carrying firecrackers could be extremely dangerous if exposed to fire.

Injury from an explosive is fairly obvious. Contact with a large blast of fire can cause serious burns. Severe burns can penetrate the skin completely, moving down to bone and muscle. A person can die from burn injuries alone. Explosions also create a huge amount of force. If you avoid burn injuries, you could still suffer serious impact injuries. Imagine an explosion that presses you back into your seat, compressing your chest. Your car itself could be thrown into a solid object, or you could be thrown from the car.

Corrosives

Various acids and other corrosives chemically burn and melt other materials. This has an industrial benefit, and it also has uses in scientific laboratories. Sometimes industry leaves a corrosive byproduct behind which needs to be shipped for disposal.

Corrosives do just what they say, corrode. They are highly dangerous to people and animals. Handling them requires specific gear that is impervious to their effects. If you were in an accident involving corrosives, you may have suffered serious burns. When corrosives contact the skin, they can eat or even melt through, contacting layers underneath. Some burn slowly and can be nullified before causing serious damage. Others eat through clothes and skin quickly, and they can reach internal organs in moments.

Radioactive Materials

Radioactivity had always seemed mysterious and scary. It was often used as a magical item in old sci-fi stories. It even turned Peter Parker into Spider-Man. In reality, radioactive materials are often used in everyday life. They are key components of many measuring devices. Drillers use radioactivity to determine where to locate oil. The medical industry uses radioactivity for sterilization and imaging purposes. This is not to imply that radioactive minerals are harmless. They are, in fact, quite dangerous. Hazmat truckers shipping radioactive materials require even more specialized training than other hazmat truckers.

Radioactivity is more dangerous to someone’s internal biology than their skin. A radioactive burn damages the top layer of the epidermis, but then its beta rays can be aborded into the skin, eventually entering the bloodstream. Radioactivity in the body takes time to create damage. It can create cellular mutations, leading to cancer. If radioactive material was present in your car crash, seek medical treatment immediately. You may feel fine today, but if radioactivity goes undetected or untreated, you could suffer serious consequences later.

Poisons

Poisons are often used for bug sprays and other insecticides. Sometimes, we use poisons that are beneficial to plants but harmful to us. Some materials that are used for buildings, machines, and science are poisonous.

Physical contact with poison is not always a problem. Usually, if you wash it off in time, you won’t be injured. Poisons are harmful when they enter the body. They can enter the skin after prolonged exposure, making their way into the bloodstream. You can inhale poisonous vapors from a spray, and swallowing a poison has immediate consequences. Sometimes, your body can immediately handle a poison through coughing or vomiting. Other times, poison takes a long time for harmful effects to activate. If a truck accident left you covered with any liquid, seek medical attention. You could have accidentally ingested it, or it could be entering your system through your skin.

Oxidizing Agents

Oxidization is a process where the oxidizing agent changes the chemical composition of something else using oxygen. It has several uses, including heating, burning, and bleaching. Some batteries rely on oxidization to work, and even photography can employ its benefits.

When making contact with organic matter, oxidizing agents can have a corrosive effect. If such an agent touches you in a truck accident, you could suffer serious chemical burns.

Liability in a Hazmat Trucking Accident

In any personal injury case, responsibility is heavily dependent on the details of the accident. Sometimes, a deep investigation is required to see exactly who is at fault for your injuries.

Trucker Liability

There are many ways a trucker could be responsible for an accident. First off, there is simply bad or negligent driving. Any driver can be guilty of taking risks or driving while distracted, even the professionals. If a driver is breaking traffic laws or being otherwise negligent, they can cause an accident.

Drivers also have a limited time they are allowed to work. By law, they cannot go over a certain number of hours per week. Truckers are sometimes guilty of working too much, trying to meet a due date or quota. This can cause fatigue which, studies show, impairs driving as badly as alcohol.

Truck Owner Liability

Whoever owns a commercial truck is responsible for its upkeep. When an accident is caused by a malfunction, your lawyer must investigate the ownership of the vehicle. This can sometimes be difficult. If the truck is owned by the driver’s employer, there can be long chains of ownership through rentals or borrowing from other companies. A skilled lawyer can track down the entity responsible for a truck’s maintenance and hold them accountable.

Trucking Company Liability

Sometimes truckers overwork themselves, and it isn’t their fault. If their employer is pushing them too hard, that company can be held responsible when the driver’s fatigue results in a crash. Cutting corners is never acceptable when it comes to highways safety.

Loading Company Liability

When a truck’s cargo spills, causing injury on the road, it is important to discover who last handled the cargo and the cargo doors. Sometimes, that entity is the loading company. Depending on the cargo and the chains of liability, some truckers aren’t allowed to handle the product or even the cargo doors and locks. If there was negligence when loading the truck, the party who loaded it can be responsible for accidents and injuries.

If you’ve been harmed by a truck’s toxic cargo, reach out to us today. You may be entitled to damages from the trucker or their employer. Our number is (918) 347-6456, and you can contact us online.

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