Attorneys know that they have to handle a commercial vehicle injury claim differently than a passenger car crash. The rules that apply to truck drivers and trucking companies are distinctive from the laws of the road for everyday drivers.
Likewise, when a big rig gets into an accident while carrying hazardous material, the case must be handled slightly differently than a regular tractor-trailer crash.
What is “hazardous material”?
Under the trucking regulations, hazardous material is a substance or material that is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce. This definition includes wastes, marine pollutants, temperature elevated materials, and other materials designated under the federal regulations.
There are nine classes of hazardous material for truck regulation purposes.
Class I – explosives
Class 2 – gases
Class 3 – flammable liquid
Class 4 – flammable solids
Class 5 – oxidizing substances and peroxides
Class 6 – poisonous and infectious substances
Class 7 – radioactive material
Class 8 – corrosives
Class 9 – miscellaneous dangerous goods
Each of these classes and substances is defined under Federal Regulations. Generally, the more dangerous the material, the higher the safety precautions are taken in packaging and transporting.
Trucking company responsibility
Trucking companies who engage in the transportation of hazardous materials have a responsibility under the safety regulations that relate to such material. They must have proper information regarding the material, have it appropriately packaged with appropriate reporting and safety information.
The motor carrier must also ensure that the employees get specific training in hazardous materials. The training must be performed before the employee working with such material. Stringent rules apply to the training and certification of employees. Also, appropriate safety training must be provided as well as protective equipment and proper handling methods.
After an accident, police officers are not aware of the additional requirements that apply to hazardous material transport when investigating a crash. Local law enforcement mainly may not be aware of the other rules and requirements for hazardous material shipping.
It is vital that the attorney handling the injury case involving hazardous material to know the hazardous material regulations. Often, rules violations can be uncovered once discovery in the personal injury case has commenced.
Increased insurance limits with hazardous material
Liability insurance requirements under federal regulations are increased for carriers who transport hazardous materials. The liability minimums are increased to between 1,000,000 to 5 million dollars in liability coverage will be required—section 387.9. Frequently our truck accident lawyers have also found excess coverage for motor carriers that haul hazardous material.
The exact amount of minimum liability coverage required under regulations depends upon the carrier and the cargo.
Dangers of hazardous material truck accidents
Transportation of hazardous materials adds an extra element of danger to a tractor-trailer crash. Not only can the material spill in an accident and cause other accidents, but exposure to the chemical can lead to injury as well. Frequently in Houston, hazardous material cleanup crews are required after a truck crash. The accidents tend to shut down the highway for many hours while cleanup commences with qualified teams. Leaving local municipalities, the cleanup responsibility.
Rollover truck accidents often occur with carriers hauling liquids. This can lead to additional accidents when the substance is spilled on the roadway. Either from exposure or causing other innocent motorists to lose control.
Who may be responsible?
One of the first things that a qualified truck accident lawyer does after being retained for a trucking accident of any sort is to identify potential defendants. With hazardous materials, in addition to the truck driver and trucking company, in some situations, one must also consider the shipping entity.
A careful investigation of the crash and the actions on the part of the trucking company, tribe driver, and shipper can be fruitful in discovering violations of the safety regulations, which may be considered negligence per se.
It is often only after the intense discovery in a personal injury or wrongful death case that some of the rule violations are discovered.