The presence of hazardous materials during an auto accident can quickly turn an otherwise escapable situation into one of dire circumstances – often due to the flammability or volatility of the chemicals surrounding the collision. While Pennsylvania maintains a list of hundreds of compounds considered to be “hazardous,” the following characteristics classify a substance as a hazardous material under the law.
- The substance is toxic and/or carcinogenic.
- The substance is explosive or flammable.
- The substance contains radioactive properties.
- The substance is corrosive.
On Pennsylvania roadways, some of the most common Hazmat accidents involve tanker trucks hauling propane, gasoline, or hazardous waste. In essence, a Hazmat accident can involve a liquid, solid, or gas – and may close the roadway and surrounding areas for hours following the collision.
Dangers of Hazmat Accidents
Unlike a garden variety roadway fender-bender, a Hazmat situation presents a risk of injury or death to adjacent motorists, nearby property owners, first responders, and witnesses. In some cases, the presence of gasoline or propane on the roadway can quickly lead to a fiery, uncontrollable blaze – which could destroy everything in its path. In addition to fires and explosions, Hazmat can cause sickness and delayed medical conditions, e.g respiratory conditions.
When it comes to assigning liability and redressing damages caused by a Hazmat accident, victims are often not limited to just involved drivers – and liability may measure in the millions of dollars in the most dangerous instances.
Initiating a Lawsuit
As mentioned above, anyone injured by the effects of a Hazmat accident may be eligible to initiate a lawsuit against the likely responsible party – and compensation is not limited to those motorists or pedestrians directly involved in the incident. However, determining the root cause of the collateral damage may sometimes prove difficult, especially when the severity of injuries is not immediately apparent, e.g. This can be true in the case of chemical poisoning or delayed medical conditions.
In some cases, a Hazmat accident is caused solely by driver negligence. In these scenarios, the victims are able to point to certain acts or omissions by the Hazmat truck driver that directly led to the resulting crash and toxic chemical spill. Examples of driver negligence may include speeding, taking a turn too quickly (causing cargo to shift), driver inattentiveness, or falling asleep.
In other cases, the Hazmat accident is the fault of the driver’s employer, the manufacturer of the truck itself, or the entity responsible for loading the cargo into the tanker. If a driver’s employer forces him to haul hazardous materials in excess of federal and state trucking guidelines – and does not have an opportunity to rest – the employer may be to blame for the injuries caused by a subsequent collision, particularly if the driver is believed to have fallen asleep.
(Note: The driver’s employer is often also liable if the driver is negligent under the theory of vicarious liability.)
If, on the other hand, the hazardous materials leaked or escaped the tanker due to a defective truck component or negligent design, the company responsible for manufacturing the truck could face liability instead.
Contact a Bucks County truck accident attorney today
If you were recently involved in a harrowing hazmat truck accident, be sure to speak with a Bucks County truck accident attorney. Do not hesitate to contact Cordisco & Saile LLC today at 215-791-8911.